Musical Seasons

Here in Western New York, we are finally putting the 2013-2014 school year to rest.   To say we have a lot to look forward to in the coming seasons would be a bit of an understatement, but  before we move on, I wanted to share some of the musical highlights from this past year.




In October, Jack gave his Suzuki Cello Book One recital.




At Christmastime, the boys provided the pre-service music for the Sunday School Program at Immanuel Lutheran Church.  Then in February, we recorded Jack playing “Long, Long Ago.”  This was his audition piece for the Buffalo Suzuki Strings Lucinda Yang Memorial Scholarship.  He was selected as one of the recipients, and the scholarship will help fund his BSS Summer Workshop experience this summer.




The boys brought their instruments back to Immanuel for Easter.  Thomas played his Boccherini “Minuet” for pre-service music, and they both accompanied two hymns.  (I love their rendition of “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.”  It is included at the end of Tom’s recital video.)  At the end of Easter week, Thomas played his Suzuki Violin Book Two recital.




I’m kind of cheating for this season, as mid-June in Buffalo is really still spring.  (Note the jackets and long pants!)  Never-the-less, the boys had two musical performances this month.  First, they played for the Twin Cities Community Outreach 25th Anniversary Dinner.  Then they also brought their instruments to play at the KidBiz Market.  Both times, the boys played before relative strangers, and both times they were well-received.  The guests at the TCCO dinner gave them a standing ovation, and the KidBiz crowd dropped quite a few dollars in the violin case.  I am glad that their musical efforts are being appreciated by the outside world.

We have only a few lessons left this summer.  In addition to lessons, Thomas just joined the BSS Fiddle Club, and he will continue to practice with them through the month of July.  Then Jack will be attending the BSS Summer Workshop for a week in August.  Before we know it, fall will be here, and what an exciting season that will be.  Perhaps the boys can learn some lullabies….

Now, if the “Duke Four Seasons” have whetted your musical appetite, here’s a link to the real deal:


Fourteen Days: 6/6-6/20



  • Took the lead in getting ready for KidBiz.  (See photo, above.)  On the day of the market, he did a great job playing his violin and talking with customers.
  • Played solo and with Jack for the Twin Cities Community Outreach 25th Anniversary Dinner.  He took charge of the performance, and exuded a lot of confidence, both for this event and for KidBiz.
  • Had a great hockey game with two assists and one shot on goal.
  • Continued to work on electronics projects.  In fact, this seemed to be a higher priority for him than computer time.



  • Partnered with Thomas for a successful day at KidBiz.  He helped with crayon production and selling, and he played his cello.
  • Acquired a new-to-him stuffed animal at KidBiz.  We think it is an Alaskan husky.  He named it Pouncer (because it pounces on people), and dramatic play ensued.
  • Played solo and with Thomas for the TCCO Anniversary Dinner.  It’s not everyday they get to play in front of the mayor of North Tonawanda.
  • Had three hockey games and scored his first goal of the season.
  • Stood in front of the computer listening to the music when Pandora brought up a song played by Yo-Yo Ma.  He also told the librarian, that yes, he would recommend that her nephew learn to play the cello.  (This from a boy who claims that cello is one of his least favorite things.)
  • Decided that “Mr. Aker” would be the good name for a character in a story.  We are encouraging him to pursue his writing ideas.

Nachmu Crayons

KidBiz 2013

KidBiz 2013

KidBiz is back!  The following is a re-post by Thomas:

My brother and I are starting a business called Nachmu Crayons.  Nachmu crayonsNachmu Crayons will be part of the KidBiz program.  KidBiz is a program where kids can sell things such as artwork, crafts, old toys, and stuff like that.  It is sponsored by Buffalo State College.  KidBiz will be on Saturday, June 14, from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the corner of Elmwood and Bidwell by the farmers’ market in Buffalo, New York.  Other kids will be selling things there too.

We will be selling recycled crayons shaped to be butterflies, ladybugs, frogs, hearts, and stars.  The prices are 3 for $2 or 75¢ each.  We will not only be selling crayons of different shapes, but we will also bring our musical instruments.  My brother, Jack, will play the cello, and I will play the violin.

a portion of our inventory

a portion of our inventory

We call the business Nachmu Crayons because my dad uses Nachmu (Nock-Moo) as a family nickname.  Nachmu means comfort in Hebrew.  You can read more about that here.

We would like to recycle more crayons!  If you have unwanted crayons, please think of recycling them with us.  Any crayons are fine even if they are broken.  We will melt the crayons and pour them into candy molds to give them their new shape.  We will give you a Nachmu Crayons coupon for your donation.  Future dates for Kidbiz are July 5 and August 2.  We hope to be selling crayons on those dates too!

melting the crayons

melting the crayons

Please send our mom an email if you would like to recycle crayons with us.  Her email address is deborah@nachmu.com.  Write “recycled crayons” in the subject header, and we will get back to you.  Thank you!


Fourteen Days: 5/23-6/5



  • Got his braces off.
  • Joined the Fiddle Club at BSS.  He said his first rehearsal was fun.
  • Declared that the baby “ought to learn about electronics.”
  • Worked with Dad to move the said electronics down to a table in the basement and spent many hours there.  Now all the lights, beeps, and buzzes are out of the office!




  • Was excited about my ultrasound.  When I arrived home, he met me at the door and said, “Well?”
  • Played catch with Dad out back.  He has a good left-handed throwing arm.  Dad called him “Pepper.”  (He’s pretty good at catching too.)
  • Told me that reading is his fourth favorite thing  - after hockey, Minecraft, and riding his bike.
  • Helped me gather flowers in the Pokey Woods meadow.




  • Had his first pictures taken at nineteen weeks gestation, and we found out that they were indeed HIS pictures.
  • Did not hold very still for his portrait session.  No wonder I’m already feeling kicks!



Fourteen Days: 5/9-5/22

tomplatform Thomas:

  • Cleaned out the backyard pond and got his pump up and running.
  • Voluntarily learned to cut the grass and has been doing a good job.
  • Played well in the first games of the spring hockey league, including two assists.
  • Programmed his Arduino board to play “Lightly Row.”
  • Began reading Getting Started in Electronics with Dad.  Then he and Dad worked on some projects together.
  • Spent a lot of time working on electronics independently.  This involved many lights, beeps, and buzzes.
  • Nailed down the platform for the tree house in the Pokey Woods.




  • Voluntarily gave Thomas one of his gluten free cookies.
  • Hummed “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” while illustrating his Easter story.
  • Was a sweetheart on Mother’s Day and gave the baby (and Mom) a hug.
  • Played “Minuet I” by Bach beautifully at the BSS spring recital.
  • Picked up some books on tsunamis at the library.  He started reading I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011, in the car and finished it by the end of the night.
  • Passed his breathing test at the allergist with flying colors.  He also found out that he is officially 48 inches tall.  No more booster / car seats for him!
  • Went through a bit of PS3 Hockey withdrawal.  (Nicer weather means less screen time.)
  • Played well in the first games of the spring hockey league, including one assist.  He is a bit dismayed about the Memorial Day break.  He prayed for patience to wait until his next game on June 4th!

jackeasterillustration 001






Seven Days: 5/3-5/8



  • Did more work in the Pokey Woods.
  • Played with Miss Klansee’s orchestra in the last rep class concert of the year.
  • Had a good conversation with Miss Klansee about the different sections of “Gavotte” by Martini.
  • Was his regular helpful self.



  • Helped clear sticks in the Pokey Woods.
  • Played “Minuet III” by Bach with all the correct bowings and shifts.  (It’s a tricky piece!)
  • Had two hockey practices in one day and worked hard for both of them.
  • Probably watched too many hockey videos.
  • Had a discussion about natural disasters and was relieved to learn that a tsunami cannot reach western New York.


Seven Days: 4/25-5/1

Now that the malaise of the first trimester is past, I’m trying to get back to my blogging.  One thing I’ve been wanting to add is a weekly review of what my kids have been doing.  I got this idea from Erin at Bluebirdbaby, but I can hardly call my series “Project 52″ since I’m starting at the end of April!



  • Celebrated his eleventh birthday.
  • Received an Arduino board, and started learning how to program it.
  • Started the first piece in Suzuki Violin Book III.
  • Cut down saplings in the Pokey Woods.
  • Impressed us all with his Minecraft hockey arena.




  • Enjoyed spending time with Grandma and Grandpa G.
  • Climbed a tree in the Pokey Woods.
  • Had his first spring hockey practice.
  • Spent most of his free time playing, drawing, or talking about hockey!




An Announcement

I went to the doctor’s office and heard a little heartbeat today.


My blog has been dormant for the past few months, but God has been busy creating.  And so in this season of new life, it seems fitting to tell you all that we are expecting a baby!  We are eagerly anticipating Baby’s arrival in late October.

We are feeling blessed by God and loved by family and friends.  Thanks to those of you who have already lavished us with your support, prayers, and well-wishes!


Yeast Project

Welcoming Thomas for a guest post this weekend.

bread picture small - Copy

We decided to do this yeast project after I forgot to put the yeast in bread.  First we looked at the directions from sciencebob.com.  The website said to get a bottle and fill it with about one inch of warm water.  Then it said to add one packet of yeast and swirl it.  After that we needed to add a teaspoon of sugar and swirl that.  Finally we put the balloon on the bottle and put in in a warm spot.  Here is a cool timelapse of the twenty minutes that we left the bottle in a warm place:

How does this work?

The yeast eats the sugar and releases a gas called carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide is the same gas that we release when we exhale.  Yeast does not have to eat sugar. It will also eat flour or sugar-related things.  The carbon dioxide makes holes in whatever the yeast is in, as seen below.

This bread has yeast in it.



This bread does not.


No holes (well one or two not from yeast)

After the twenty minutes were up, we took a drop of the yeast solution out of the bottle. We looked at the solution under a microscope.  Here is a picture of the solution taken by focusing the camera lens in the microscope view:


This was a fun project, but I hope I don’t forget to put yeast in bread again!


An Interest-Led Learning Expedition

Our sailing sloop, Infinity

Our sailing sloop, Infinity

History credits Christopher Columbus with opening the “Age of Exploration.”  We studied Columbus in the fall, and while the results were not as epic as the beginning of an age, our study did open the way for more exploration.  Our learning expedition kept us engaged up until the holidays, and now it seems that we have moved on to other areas of study.

The decision to study Columbus was mine.  I admire those teachers and homeschool parents who provide stimulating environments and provocations and then gently guide their students to take the initiative in project-based learning.  I have never become one of those teachers or parents.  My students, and now my children, have always seemed to need just a little bit more direction to keep them on track.  As I homeschool my boys, I always try to have areas of study waiting in the wings, but I also have plenty of flexibility to follow that study wherever it may lead.

Such was the case with Columbus.  I had planned to start some reading in early American history.  It just happened to be October, near Columbus Day, and I just happened to have some good children’s books on Columbus.  I did not merely set these books out.  I sat down and read Meet Christopher Columbus by James T. deKay with Jack, and I gave Thomas reading assignments, complete with a study guide for Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz.  Of the two books, I like Where Do You Think You’re Going? better because it gives a more balanced view of Christopher Columbus.  In his final writing assignment, Thomas was able to conclude that, “although he was a good sailor, Christopher Columbus was not a good leader.”  Jack’s book focuses only on the first voyage to the Americas, but that was enough for him.  Indeed, it was Jack whose interest was really piqued by our Columbus study.

Studying the Santa Maria

Assimilating what we’ve learned

Soon Jack was busy drawing pictures of ships.  We read about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower, and even more ideas started percolating.  (It is so fun to watch Jack think because he is quite transparent.  Thomas is a little harder to figure out.)  After he had finished writing his assigned report about the Pilgrims, Jack wrote his “Yellow Pod and Green Pod” story.  It’s rather a compilation of things he learned from Columbus and the Pilgrims, and I have included it here.

Jack's ship pictures

Jack’s ship pictures

Of course, it was only a matter of time before we had to start making boats.  We used a You-Tube tutorial to make origami boats, but Jack was a little disappointed that they were not seaworthy for very long before becoming waterlogged.  We also used a large box from a friend to make our own sailing sloop.  It is pictured above, and though also not seaworthy, it was fun to make.  We even learned some sailing terms in the process.

Jack tried reinforcing our origami boat with duct tape.

Jack tried reinforcing our origami boat with duct tape.

Thomas engineered a rudder for a small cardboard ship model.

Thomas engineered a rudder for a small cardboard ship model.

I tried to find more library books about sailors and ships from the same era, but I had trouble finding very much at Jack’s second grade reading level.  I did find a book about Ferdinand Magellan.  I also checked out Pirates Past Noonwhich is part of the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne.  This became Jack’s first independent chapter book.  He read it in a matter of days, and he has been hooked on the series ever since.  To date, he’s read about ten more Magic Tree House books.  They are a perfect fit for him.  He is building reading fluency and confidence, he his learning a lot of facts, and he is fostering an enjoyment of reading.  In my estimation, these are all good things.  Jack has also spent quite a bit of his allotted computer time on the Magic Tree House website, and he’s taken to carrying a notebook in his backpack just like the “Jack” in the series.

I was looking for Jack to do his chores, but I ended up unloading the dishwasher myself!

I was looking for Jack to do his chores, but I ended up unloading the dishwasher myself!

It is actually a Magic Tree House book that may determine our next area of study.  Shortly after reading Pirates Past Noon, Jack read Eve of the Emperor Penguin.    Much dramatic play ensued, with Jack in the lead role as “the Little Blue Penguin.”  I can’t be sure, but I think a polar expedition may be in our near future.  I’ll keep you posted . . . .

"Captain Jack" in the Infinity.*  I'll share some of our boat-making process next week.

“Captain Jack” in the Infinity.*  I’ll share some of our boat-making process next week.

*The idea for Jack’s pirate/Halloween costume came from his reading as well, but not from Pirates Past Noon.  This past summer he was immersed in the Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant.  In one of the books, Henry dresses up as a pirate.  Thus, our Halloween costume, which also works very well in a cardboard boat!