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Excerpted from A Child’s Geography: Explore the Classical World (publication date 6/30/13):

Sardinia is home to a unique style of singing and music, called cantu a tenore [KAN-too ah ten-OR-eh]. It is one of the oldest forms of vocal polyphony [pol-IF-an-ee], which means to sing more than one melody at a time. As you know, we have mentioned many UNESCO World Heritage sites in this book. Well, a song cannot be a site, but UNESCO has classified this beautiful and unique singing style a world heritage intangible. Intangible means that you cannot see it or touch it, but it is still there. Thanks to UNESCO, this style of music will be protected and preserved for future generations.

Several groups of musicians are resurrecting this irresistible musical sound. The most well known is the music group known as Tenores di Bitti, because they hail from the small town of Bitti in the central mountainous region of Sardinia. You can listen to them at the following link. Listen, in particular to the low guttural sounds that are produced deep in the throat.

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Excerpted from A Child’s Geography: Explore the Classical World (publication date 6/30/13):

Perhaps what Sicily is best known for is its rich and unique culture, especially with regard to music and food. Sicily has been nicknamed God’s Kitchen because of the wonderfully delicious foods made and served on the island. Every region of Sicily has its own culinary specialties, such as biscotti cookies, cannoli pastry, pecorino cheese and of course, Sicilian pizza.

Let’s see how Sicilian pizza differs from the pies made in Naples:

The Sicilian pizza is quite different from the Neapolitan pizza. It is typically square instead of round and has more dough, sauce, and cheese. Sometimes it is topped with little fish called anchovies, which are caught in the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north. It seems to have more of everything, but it also feeds more people.

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Excerpted from A Child’s Geography: Explore the Classical World (publication date 6/30/13):

Sardinia is world famous for its special cheeses. The two favorite local cheeses are the Pecorino Sardo and the Pecorino Romano. The name pecorino comes from the Italian word pecora, which means sheep. Yes, pecorino is made from sheep’s milk. While Pecorino Sardo, a firm but mild cheese, is made exclusively on the island of Sardinia (Sardo is the root word for Sardinia) and from a local Sardinian breed of sheep, Pecorino Romano is made in Rome and other parts of Italy as well. In truth, Pecorino Romano, a hard, salty cheese, is an old cheese variety with a long history. It was a staple in the diet of legionaries, or soldiers, of ancient Rome. Italians proudly keep their cheese-making traditions alive and are passionate about their old-world artisan craft.

Would you like to watch how Pecorino cheese is made?

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Excerpted from A Child’s Geography: Explore the Classical World (publication date 6/30/13)

Our gondolier tells us that his name is Giancarlo and that he will give us the best tour of the back canals of his city. He tells us that he has been a gondolier since he was a strapping young man, as was his father before him, and his grandfather before him. In fact, his family has been in the trade for more than 400 years. This is true of most gondoliers in Venice. It is a family trade, passed from generation to generation. But, the tradition is strong that gondoliers must be native Venetian men. It is nearly impossible for a woman or an outsider to open a gondola business in Venice. See a gondolier in action here:

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Excerpted from A Child’s Geography: Explore the Classical World (publication date 6/30/13)

Speaking of traditions, the people of Montenegro have another interesting tradition—a folk dance called Oro. As the dance commences, a group of young men and women form a large circle and they begin to sing. Then, one of the young men enters the circle and dances, trying to look like an eagle. Why an eagle? Just like in Albania, the eagle is honored by the people of Montenegro and is represented on the country’s flag.

If the singers in the circle like the young man’s interpretation of the eagle, they will sing a song that tells him they approve. But if they don’t like his dance, they will sing a different song.

Sometimes the young man’s girlfriend will join him inside the circle. She also dances like an eagle, and the other singers tell her by the songs they sing whether or not she has represented the eagle well. When she and her boyfriend have completed their dance, they kiss each other on the cheek and rejoin the circle.

At the end of the Oro dance, the young men form a second smaller circle inside the larger circle. This smaller circle is a two-story circle. How do they do this? They stand on each other’s shoulders!

You can watch it here (the two-story circle is about 2/3 of the way through the video, so sit tight!):

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(An espresso enjoyed along the shores of Lake Bled, Slovenia)

I have learned that ordering a large (venti) coffee “to go” from a drive-through window is a uniquely American concept. I did not realize this until I stepped outside of my own culture and entered another. Three things make this activity uniquely American and they are:

  1. 1. Driving to a coffee shop to buy your coffee.
  2. 2. Ordering coffee to take with you “on the go.”
  3. 3. Drinking more than 8oz of coffee at a time.

Since visiting Italy and Slovenia, I have come to understand that “going for coffee” is not just about the coffee. It includes three elements and they are… Continue reading Lessons from Coffee…

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(Excerpted from Homeschooling ABCs –

So, you’ve decided that you will take a stab at homeschooling this year.  Or maybe you even pulled your child out of school part way through the previous school year.  If you are anything like me, once you have made the decision to homeschool, the excitement begins to build and you might be anxious to get started right away.  Well, there is no reason why you can’t!

The beauty of teaching our children at home is that it will look slightly different for each of us.  This is not a cookie-cutter process!  Each family functions differently and so each homeschool will function differently, BUT it helps tremendously if we can start with the best tools and know-how to get this thing off the ground and running in a happy and successful way.

A note about authorship – you will see “I” and “we” used in reference to the author(s) of these lessons.  I, Terri, am the writer of this team.  But we, Todd and Terri, are in fact a team and both teach school in our home and decide together how these lessons should be organized and written.  So you will see both pronouns used regularly throughout.

Here are 10 steps to a great start in homeschooling…

Continue reading 10 Steps to a Great Start in Homeschooling

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I Might Kill My Kids!

This is the #1 reason I hear why moms don’t want to homeschool their kids. Really? I get that this is an exaggeration, but the very excuse indicates that the excuse-maker’s kids drive her crazy. Well, guess what? My kids have exasperated me on occasion too. I have even threatened them with the big yellow bus tomorrow morning, if they didn’t shape up. I can report, however, that each one of my children are still alive (smile).

What is it about our kids that makes us want to scream in frustration and throw in the homeschooling towel, or never begin in the first place? Anger and frustration can come from anywhere, but I’m going to boil it down to 3 problem areas:

1. The parent hasn’t properly trained her children to respect her authority and obey. Just as we are imperfect people, so are our children. But, our kids are teachable and trainable. We can raise them up to be respectful and obedient kids who are a pleasure to be around. Yes, it takes hard work, diligence and consistency, but it is worth it. There are lots of great books on this topic. If you struggle with children who do not obey or who disrespect you, read up on child-training, whether you homeschool or not. Parenting is the hardest job we’ll ever do, but also the most worthwhile. Teaching your child anything is just an extension of parenting.

2. The parent/teacher is being erratic or inconsistent. Kids need to know what to expect. Schedules are great tools for both teacher and student. They get everyone on the same page so they can know what to expect. Some adults really despise schedules and routines; they want to be spontaneous and free. Most kids, however, crave structure. They want to know what’s coming next. If every day is different, kids will become frustrated and more difficult to work with. Keep a consistent schedule and routine for your school days. That doesn’t mean that you can’t change things up on occasion or take an unscheduled field trip. It does mean that regular days should follow a regular order with predictable tasks and school work, if you want easy-going students.

3. The parent/teacher is stubborn and so is the child. Maybe “determined” is a better word. However, the meaning is the same. As the teacher, I might decide that something must be done and I am determined that it get done. I can have all kinds of reasons why I want the task done, such as: 1.) because I want to finish the book on time (i.e. the end of the school year); 2.) because I think the child needs extra practice in this area (i.e. math, handwriting, etc.); 3.) because I SAID SO. However, there may be more going on that might cause a clash of wills. Perhaps the child doesn’t understand a foundational principle or is sad about something or is hungry or… In any case, a clash of wills causes an eruption of emotions, usually anger and tears.

So, how can we all get along peacefully so that our school days flow smoothly and without frustration?

These are a few of the principles that we live and work by in the Johnson household:

1. We start with devotions and prayer. If one of our children has a prayer request, we can pray for it before we even begin our school day. Sometimes, a child will ask prayer for a better attitude or to get along better with a sibling. Sometimes, as the teacher, I ask my kids to pray for me… that I would be patient and kind. Prayer is a powerful force and God is an ever-present helper in times of need.

2. If someone begins to develop a bad attitude, they take that attitude to their room rather than disrupting everyone else with it. Sometimes the person with the bad attitude is me. We all need time outs sometimes, even us parents. I don’t see time-outs so much as a punishment as a time to cool down and regroup. It’s a good time to pray and catch up on Bible reading too. (Everyone in our family reads the Bible for 5+ minutes a day).

3. If a certain subject is troublesome for a child over and over again, we’ll take a step back and make some changes. Maybe we need to try a new curriculum. Or maybe a foundational skill has been glossed over and needs to be learned again. As an example, my 7yo dd was struggling in math for a month or two when she wasn’t before. It was beginning to feel like we were banging our heads against the wall. I pulled out a hundred chart and we went over the numbers up through 100 and looked at the logical nature of our numbering system that is based on 10. A lightbulb went on in her head. She kept the hundred chart tucked in her math book and referred to it as needed. Within a couple weeks, she didn’t need it anymore.

Similarly, we switched to a spelling app on the ipad for one of our kids, as the regular spelling book that we use – Spelling Power – just wasn’t working for her. Creativity and looking at a subject from a new angle goes a long way.

I’ve been homeschooling for 15 years. I am not more patient than you. I can get just as angry as anyone else. But I love homeschooling because we have systems in place that work for us. We step away from each other when we get angry; we pray and seek forgiveness; we follow a daily routine and schedule; we use the curricula that works best for each of our children. And I haven’t killed any of my kids yet!

Anything worthwhile takes effort. Homeschooling takes effort, but it is one of the most worthwhile endeavors that I have pursued in my life. My kids like it too.

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This is a guest post by Kathleen, a friend of mine in real life. Thanks for sharing, Kathleen! 🙂


I had the most brilliant idea recently. No, really, it was. Well, is, I should say. You’ll think so too. Honest. It had to do with getting help with cleaning the house.


I don’t know about you, but I stress out a bit before a big event happens in our home. For one reason, hospitality is NOT a spiritual gift or talent of which I possess. My poor mom, of whom is Martha Stewart incarnate, must be saddened that she did not pass on to me her love for pretty things in the home. I plum missed out on that fabulous gene. Sorry, Mom.


The other reason is I’m not a detail-girl. Mostly, I just don’t see the dust and cobwebs…that is until there are guests in our home. Then, the veil seems to lift mysteriously and it practically stabs me in the eyes. ‘How did I never see it before?’ Oh, and then I am thoroughly embarrassed. I’m sure you’ve never experienced such a phenomenon yourself.


All that to say, cleaning house is a major event for me. I want to make sure the details are addressed. And since I don’t SEE them, I have to really stop and look for them. It’s a strain on the brain, folks.


Continue reading Cleaning For Company

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I have become a morning person. I didn’t think that was possible after 45 years of NOT being a morning person. And you know what I have discovered? I actually like it.

Rising with the sun allows me to…

  • Write and review my goals for the day.
  • Read my Bible passage for the day while it is quiet.
  • Meditate on my priorities and my plan of attack.
  • Write a blog post, journal entry or a few pages in my next book.
  • Have a full conversation with my husband without interruptions.
  • Make breakfast for the family (okay, I still don’t do this very often).

Early morning is also a great time to exercise, but I don’t. I’m a walker and I prefer my 30 minutes outdoors when the sun is up and the air has warmed a bit. You can take the girl out of California, but you can’t take California out of the girl.

Here is how I became a morning person: Continue reading Becoming a Morning Person, Part 2

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