Diana's Homeschool Blog

Welcome to my homeschool blog, which offers insights into loving learning, loving your family, loving history, loving homeschooling, and enjoying your life! With your cup of coffee in hand, take a break to laugh with me, to have your heart refreshed, to be reminded of how cool your kids really are, and to consider the amazing adventure of being a homeschool mom. AND, if you are interested in the History Revealed curriculum, be sure to check out my Teaching Tips!

My Sound of Music Experience

Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Bill AndersonIn the spring of 2000, my family (Bill & I, plus our three teenagers) went to the FPEA convention in Orlando, Florida. FPEA has always been one of our favorites, but this time we were particularly excited as Bill Anderson, the author of Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, was going to be at the convention promoting his newest book. I had not yet had the privilege of meeting Bill, but we had been working together on the Musical Memories project for several months via phone and email.

As we discovered him amongst opened boxes in his booth, I was delighted to finally meet the author with whom it been such a joy to work. With great enthusiasm, my kids and I asked, "Bill, do you want to come over to our hotel room for dinner one evening? We would love to have a chance to chat!" He seemed pleased with the invitation, but hesitantly asked for one provision: "Would it be all right if I brought a guest with me?"

There is ALWAYS room around the Waring table for an extra guest, so we enthusiastically said, "YES!"

I was curious, however.

"Who is your guest?"

Bill motioned to a lovely older woman, standing off to the side, and invited her to come into the midst of our jollity.

"This is Rosemarie Trapp, the first child born to Captain and Maria von Trapp."


As it turned out, Bill's latest book was on the Von Trapp Family Singers, and, during his interviews, the adult children of this famous family took him to their hearts. When he had the opportunity to come to the FPEA convention, he invited Rosemarie to come along. She actually did a workshop (I sat on the FRONT ROW!) and shared a bit of her life. She even invited us to join her in singing Edel Weiss, one of of the most poignant songs from The Sound of Music.

The Waring family with Rosemary TrappThus is was that, one evening during the convention, Rosemarie Trapp came to our room. We spent hours with Rosemarie and Bill, talking, laughing, eating, swapping stories and even SINGING! She thought it was delightful that we sang together as a family, because she knew personally the dynamics of performing family concerts. And, when she learned that we had just returned from a life-changing seven months in New Zealand, we discovered yet another wonderful connection—her family had also loved traveling in the Pacific region!

I have to say that it was a magical night. And it remains one of the most amazing memories in my life.

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The Idea That Started It All

Diana Waring

Have you ever wondered where speakers come from?  I mean, how do THEY get to stand up and speak THEIR minds? What motivates someone to do what most consider the scariest activity on the planet—speaking to an audience?

Well, I can't answer for most speakers, but I can share a bit of the back story of what propelled me, as a young homeschool mom, onto the platform. . . and how that led me to write my first book, America (one of the Experience History Through Music books).

In 1988, after I had been struggling for about three years with homeschooling (my kids and I were ALL bored!!!), a good friend suggested that it might help if I could attend the state homeschool convention near Seattle. . .\

In those days, the main way to learn more about homeschooling was to attend a convention—oh, how times have changed!!

The problem was I couldn't afford it. My husband was a public school band teacher, we were single income, and there simply wasn't anything extra in the budget. When I voiced that practical concern, my friend said, "Oh, you should teach a workshop! If they accept a proposed workshop, they will pay you $50 for speaking, mileage to get up to the convention, and, best of all, you get in FREE!!" Looking at her in amazement, I asked, "What on earth would I teach????"

Did I mention that I had been struggling with homeschooling ever since I started?  Wasn't it ludicrous to think of me teaching a workshop on homeschooling so I could afford a convention where I could be taught how to homeschool?  A proverbial chicken/ egg situation if ever there was one!

Not recognizing my mental struggle with this dilemma, Joan pulled out the previous year's convention schedule, with its varied workshops, and handed it to me. Quickly glancing down the list, I noted that the ONLY music workshop was using classical music in the home and that there were NO history workshops. At that moment, an idea was born:

Why not teach American history through American folk music?

girl playing guitarThis combined two of my passions: history and music. As one who loved the stories of history, I had seen how the subject had often been rendered as dry as dust and as forgettable as leftover oatmeal.  And, as an instructor of folk guitar, I had noticed that many of my elementary age students had no familiarity with the common songs of my childhood—like Yankee Doodle, Erie Canal, and She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain.  When I suggested playing one of these tunes, my students would often look at me with blank faces, because they did not know the songs that had previously been taught as a normal part of school. It had become something of a soapbox issue for me—I wanted to do something to restore folk songs to the curriculum of American children. After all, folk songs are part of our heritage, they give us a sense of who we are and where we came from. . . And, they happen to be a lot of FUN!!

Speaking on your own passion is a good rule of thumb for wannabe speakers.  If you love it, others may catch your enthusiasm for the subject.

To my surprise, when I sent a proposed workshop, "History Alive! Through Music," the convention organizers accepted it for the 1989 WHO convention.

That was the start of twenty-five years as a homeschool speaker and, as I'll share in a later post, the start of twenty-five years as a homeschool writer/ curriculum producer.

Never saw it coming, but, oh, what a ride this has been!!

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A Story of Restoration

America Cover page

For the past few weeks, I have been sharing back stories for the 62 bloggers on our Experience History Through Music launch team.  By request, I would like to share it with you:

So, more back story. . .this one brings us up to the present—with a bit of a miracle thrown in!

Sometime in the mid 1990s, the partnership that had originally produced "America," "Westward Ho!" and "Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder," decided that it was time to let a "real" publisher take over. So, we signed contracts with a company that was quite large in the homeschooling movement at the time. We were excited to have others doing the day-to-day details, as I had moved from the Portland area to South Dakota, and this was going to make things so much easier for us all.

However, when this business went bankrupt in the late 1990s, something happened that was past my comprehension. I still don't know why, but when they declared bankruptcy they simply threw everything in the dumpster—including our masters. When I heard this, it utterly devastated me. These wonderful projects were gone, and to reproduce this again seemed too hard without the audio masters. Between having to start over from scratch with all of the images and graphic design and having no audio masters, I thought the entire project was gone forever.

People would ask us about them from time to time, as they had read about them, or heard of them, or had owned the original cassette tapes, but we always told them sadly, "I don't think they will ever come back into print."

Then, several years ago, Gena Suarez of The Old Schoolhouse contacted me to see if we might have any remaining stock of this product. She had heard of a family who had gone through a fire and lost everything, and her company was trying to help them rebuild their lives. I guess that the mom specifically talked about these American folk music in history books/audios, and this prompted Gena's call to me.

Westward Ho Cover pageI contacted the former partner who owned the recording studio to see if he, perchance, had somehow saved the audio files to digital. At the time, Tad was quite busy with other things, but he told me that he thought he might have saved a FEW songs. Since it didn't sound promising, I thought it was probably a dead end. And I was sad all over again. It seemed like such a waste of a really fun product, that families had thoroughly enjoyed for years! And, of course, these were the first books I had ever written. . .

Why I tried again two years ago is a mystery to me. I just took the notion to contact Tad once more and ask if he had discovered whether or not he had saved any of the songs. This time, as we talked, Tad realized that there were possibly some ways he could "pull out" the recordings from the antiquated DAT machines. However, he was in the midst of some medical issues, and was not sure how much time he would have to devote to the project.

It took two years. And then, suddenly, I had an email in my inbox. The songs had ALL been digitally restored, remastered for CD, and were ready to go!! I could hardly believe my eyes. After fifteen years, these products were going to have a new life.

I can hardly describe what this means to me, personally. But, maybe I can share with you what happened a few months ago to illustrate. Our business phone rang one day, and a woman began excitedly talking to my husband. As he heard what she was saying, he suggested that I would like to hear her story directly. When I took the phone, this is what she said:

Musical Memories Cover"Diana, I met you fourteen years ago at a convention. When I told you that our family absolutely LOVED 'Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder,' you told me what had happened when the publisher threw your masters away. You asked me to pray that somehow it would all be restored. . . And, I have been praying!! Each time I walked by the cassette tape, I was reminded to pray. . . for FOURTEEN years!!"

She went on to say that she had just read on social media that the products were coming back into print, and she was so excited to see that her prayers were finally being answered. Together, we shared a few tears and a few amazed words of joy at what was taking place before our very eyes.

And, now, YOU are all a part of this restoration!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!

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Reenvisioning Me

Diana  Last month, I came to the realization that I had no idea what I looked like.  No, I am not talking about my nose or eyes or height. . .the mystery of my mien (def: person's look or manner) went a little higher.  The root of the matter, frankly, was my hair.  I knew the length, the texture, the style, but the original color had disappeared years ago.  My current color was the outcome of an advanced hair designer at an uptown salon, and though it was close to 30-year old Diana's haircolor—safe and predictable—it was definitely not the NOW color.

So, when I went to see Jacob a few weeks ago, I dropped the bomb.

"I've decided to let my hair go gray!"

Jacob is very cool, very professional.  His eyebrows stayed fairly close to his head, though I could tell he was shaken by this announcement.  Having vigorously perused the internet for "going-gray," I had some ideas of how others had accomplished this feat, and had ruled out a few.

"No pixie cut, no cold turkey, no hats. . . And I want about three inches cut off, so there's not quite as much to grow out!"

After a bit of discussion, his expert opinion was to do an ash blonde partial highlight. This would provide a bit of camouflage for those gray roots.

I have to say that I was definitely skeptical.  I have never been a blonde—though it had once been the secret desire of a certain freckle-faced junior-high brunette living in Miami. My comfort zone tends towards dark brown, so heading the opposite direction required a sort of J'en sais quoi attitude, a throwing caution to the wind approach.  If I was going to go gray, I figured I might as well dive in the pool.

As Jacob expertly turned me into a radio receiver (have you ever felt that way, with all of those foils hanging on your head?), he told me about one other client who had once tried to go gray.  I asked him how that had gone, and, with an amused glance, he said, "Well, after one month, she came back and told me she had changed her mind.  She has been dying her hair ever since."

Not encouraging.

However, once my hair was dried and cut and blown and styled, I was cautiously optimistic.  Not too obvious, not too blonde, not too much of a change.  Yet, the subtle weavings of silvery ash blonde and gray brought a new range of colors to my palette. 

Now that the die has been cast, so to speak, I am looking forward to the journey. And I'm sharing it with you as a personal incentive for staying-this-course, and, perhaps, helping someone out there to reenvision herself.



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At Monticello with Jim and Randy Weiss

Life happens.

I'm sure you know what I mean. There you are, with good intentions and great ideas, and suddenly, POOF! All your time, energy, brain-power, and effort evaporate into nothingness.

Happens to me every year during the homeschool convention season!! But, now, it is August and the 2013 conventions are over ...

Time to get back to work, back to the joys of blogging, Facebooking, weeding, and cleaning the house.  Well, at least the first few sound like fun. smiley

Before I launch back into the "How God Made You Smart" thread, I wanted to share one of the most delightful experiences of this convention season. Through the years, my husband and I have come to know and appreciate Jim and Randy Weiss, of Greathall Productions. But getting to know other speakers at conventions is incredibly limited, so, at the Great Homeschool Conference in Cincinnati this year, when Randy said to me, "Diana, why don't you come stay with us for a few days before going to the HEAV convention in Richmond?" I was thrilled. It sounded like such fun, and, believe me, it was even more delightful than I had imagined it might be. They are wonderful hosts and fascinating people, generously warm and compassionate friends that we are privileged to know. And, Randy is a fabulous cook—a woman after my own heart!!


In the planning of our time together, Randy suggested a trip to Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. I had never been to this historic site, and, you know me, when a place is dripping with history, I am as thrilled as a robin with a worm, a fox with a henhouse, a climber with a mountain, etc. However, I had not realized that Jim had actually done research at Monticello for one of his story-telling CDs, Thomas Jefferson's America. What amazing anecdotes he whispered as the guide took us through the house! He pointed out fascinating items, told us stories of Jefferson's life that I had never heard, and made it an absolutely riveting walk-through. As we all strolled through the gardens, Jim described the unusual setting for Monticello, as most plantations of the time were in the valleys, not on the hilltops—where obtaining water would be far more difficult. As Jim talked, the reality and challenges of day-to-day living became increasingly visible, even as the wisps of Jefferson's great accomplishments continued to float across my mind. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.

History, it seems to me, is so often something "out there"—something unattainable, done by those few IMPORTANT people—and it has no real impact or bearing on our lives.  And, yet, when history comes to life, with brilliant color AND drab mundaneness, it has a power to challenge us, to change us. Tom Jefferson's curiosity was one of the take-aways for me. He nurtured his curiosity, asking questions, investigating possibilities, spending time to discover, writing down his observations. Instead of seeing him solely as President of the United States (a job I will never hold), if I disover that he was a person who remained curious his entire life, I can allow it to challenge my life, to change my life. Rather than being content to just make it through each day, I just might give myself permission to follow the rabbit trail when it looks interesting!

I would love to hear your thoughts about learning history.  And, in fact, if you want to share how Jim Weiss and Diana Waring have made learning history memorable, challenging, even life-changing, we will enter you into a contest to win one of Jim's Thomas Jefferson's America CDs.  On August 21, we will randomly choose five winners from those who have left comments on this blog.

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