Otto Schwarz and “Roller Coaster”

Otto_M._Schwarz

Otto M. Schwarz (b. October 15, 1967) is an Austrian film composer.   Born on October 15, 1967, Neunkirchen, in Lower Austria, Schwarz received his first music education at the Wimpassing School of Music and later at the Music Academy in Vienna. He was admitted there in 1978 as the youngest student in Professor Franz Weiss’ preparatory class. Studies followed on trumpet with Professor Josef Pomberger of the Vienna Philharmonic and in music theory with Professor Heinz Kratochwil. At the age of 15, alongside his studies his talent for composition began to emerge. His first successes came in the field of pop music. Three of Schwarz’ early compositions were released as singles and placed in the Austro charts of the Ö3 pop music station. Der Weg zur Freiheit (The Road to Freedom) won the prize for best composition in the preliminary round of the 1989 Eurovision Song Contest. This prize was not a public vote, but was determined by the Austrian Composers’ Association from over 600 submissions. Inspired by this success, barely three years later he had set up his own recording studio, in which he has produced thousands of titles.

Since 1995, Otto M. Schwarz’ compositions in the symphonic sphere have been published by the Dutch music publisher De Haske, by the Swiss publisher Mitropa-Verlag and in America by their parent company Hal Leonard. Works such as Nostrodamus, Around the World In 80 Days, Dragon Fight, Man in the Ice, Bonaparte and many others are performed successful the world over.  As a composer, Schwarz is these days more active in advertising, film scores, and jingles for major television networks such as ARD, ZDF, ORF, RTL and many others.  In collaboration with renowned international publishers his CD are played and sold in over 80 countries around the world. He has sold an estimated two million CDs or official downloads. Since 2001 Otto M. Schwarz has almost exclusively produced film scores for international film productions, one of the best known being 1805 A Town’s Tale. The first full-length project in which he was involved was Hooper from the series Police 110, reaching six million viewers. Since autumn 2001 he has worked together with LISA and MONA Film, producing work for the German broadcasters ARD and ZDF, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) and the Italian broadcaster RAI.

In March 2002, the film adaptation of the novel Die Wasserfälle von Slunj (The Waterfalls of Slunj), which Schwar set to music, won a prize at the Venice TV Festival. Films with Horst Tappert—Herz ohne Krone (Heart without Crown) and Franco Nero—Die achte Todsünde (The Eight Deadly Sins) and Das Todeskarussell (The Carousel of Death) followed. Annas zweite Chance (Anna’s Second Chance) was awarded the 2009 Diva award for the most-watched German film production (02/01/2009, ARD, 7.44 million viewers).  He later took over the film music production for such well-known series as Alpenklinik, Lilly Schönau, The Country Doctor, SOKO Kitzbühel and Agathe kann’s nichts lassen. Other collaborations in films directed by Josef Vilsmaier, Holger Barthel, Karsten Wichniarz, Peter Patzak, Michael Zens, Helmut Metzger und many others followed.  Under the programmatic name ‘Symphonic Dimensions,’ in 2013 Otto M. Schwarz delivered his first produced for large symphony orchestra. Some of his most popular compositions have been rearranged for this instrumentation and since December 2013 have been available on CD or to download. Further works in this direction are already in the pipeline.

The following work by Otto Schwarz is contained in my collection:

Roller Coaster.

Advertisements

Stephen Schwartz and “Day by Day” from Godspell

Stephen-Schwartz-681x1024

Stephen Lawrence Schwartz (b. March 6, 1948) is an American musical theatre lyricist and composer, whose career has spanned over four decades, and who has written such hit musicals as Godspell (1971), Pippin (1972) and Wicked (2003).   Schwartz was born on March 6, 1948, in New York City, NY, the son of Stanley Leonard Schwartz, who worked in business, and Sheila Lorna (née Siegel), a teacher. He grew up in the Williston Park area of Nassau County, New York, where he graduated from Mineola High School in 1964. He studied piano and composition at the Juilliard School while attending high school. While attending Carnegie Mellon University, Schwartz composed and directed an early version of Pippin (entitled Pippin, Pippin) with the student-run theatre group, Scotch’n’Soda. Schwartz graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1968 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drama.  Schwartz married Carole Piasecki on June 6, 1969. They have two children, Jessica and Scott.

Upon returning to New York City, Schwartz went to work as a producer for RCA Records, but shortly thereafter began to work in Broadway theatre. He was asked to be the musical director of the first American rock opera, The Survival of St. Joan. He was credited as the producer of the double album of the soundtrack with the progressive rock group Smoke Rise on Paramount Records. His first major credit was the title song for the play Butterflies Are Free; the song was eventually used in the movie version as well.  In 1971, he wrote music and lyrics for Godspell, for which he won several awards, including two Grammys. For this musical’s Toronto production in 1972, he asked Paul Shaffer to be the musical director, thus starting Shaffer’s career. Godspell was followed by the English-language texts, in collaboration with Leonard Bernstein, for Bernstein’s Mass, which opened the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. In 1972, the long-running Pippin premiered on Broadway. Schwartz had begun writing songs for Pippin while in college, although none of the songs from the college version ended up in the Broadway production. Both Pippin and Godspell continue to be frequently produced.

Two years after Pippin debuted, Schwartz wrote music and lyrics of The Magic Show, which ran for just under 2,000 performances. By mid-1974, at age 26, Schwartz had three smash hit musicals playing in New York simultaneously. Next were the music and lyrics of The Baker’s Wife, which closed before reaching Broadway after an out-of-town tryout tour in 1976. However, the cast album went on to attain cult status, which led to several subsequent productions, including a London production directed by Trevor Nunn in 1990 and, in 2005, a highly–acclaimed production at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey.  In 1978, Schwartz’s next Broadway project was a musical version of Studs Terkel’s Working, which he adapted and directed, winning the Drama Desk Award as best director, and for which he contributed four songs. He also co-directed the television production, which was presented as part of the PBS American Playhouse series. In 1977, Schwartz wrote a children’s book called The Perfect Peach. In the 1980s, Schwartz wrote songs for a one-act musical for children, The Trip, which 20 years later was revised, expanded and produced as Captain Louie. He then wrote music for three of the songs of the Off-Broadway revue Personals, and lyrics to Charles Strouse’s music for the musical Rags.

In 1991, Schwartz wrote the music and lyrics for the musical Children of Eden. He then began working in film, collaborating with composer Alan Menken on the scores for the Disney animated features Pocahontas (1995), for which he received two Academy Awards, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). He provided songs for DreamWorks’ first animated feature, The Prince of Egypt (1998), winning another Academy Award for the song “When You Believe.”  He wrote music and lyrics for the original television musical, Geppetto (2000), seen on The Wonderful World of Disney. In 2003, Schwartz returned to Broadway, as composer and lyricist for Wicked, a musical based on the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which tells the story of the Oz characters from the point of view of the witches. Schwartz won a Grammy Award for his work as composer and lyricist and producer of Wicked’s cast recording. After Wicked, Schwartz was tapped to contribute music and lyrics for a new musical that was commissioned to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen. The production, entitled Mit Eventyr or “My Fairytale,” opened at the Gladsaxe Theatre in Copenhagen in the fall of 2005.   On March 23, 2006, the Broadway production of Wicked passed the 1,000 performance mark, making Schwartz one of four composers (the other three being Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jerry Herman, and Richard Rodgers) to have three shows last that long on Broadway (the other two were Pippin and The Magic Show).

A stage adaptation of Geppetto premiered in June 2006 at The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, and was entitled Geppetto and Son, and is now known as Disney’s My Son Pinocchio: Geppetto’s Musical Tale. Schwartz returned to Hollywood in 2007 and wrote lyrics for the hit Disney film Enchanted, again collaborating with Menken. Three songs from the film, “Happy Working Song,” “That’s How You Know,” and “So Close,” were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. He has written the theme song for the Playhouse Disney show Johnny and the Sprites, starring John Tartaglia. A recent project is incidental music for his son Scott Schwartz’s adaptation of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia.  In 2007, Schwartz joined Jerry Herman as being one of only two composer/lyricists to have three shows run longer than 1,500 performances on Broadway. In 2008, Applause Theatre and Cinema Books published the first ever Schwartz biography entitled Defying Gravity, by Carol de Giere. The book is a comprehensive look at his career and life, and includes sections on how to write for the musical theatre.  In 2009 Schwartz was elected president of the Dramatists Guild of America, succeeding John Weidman.

A version of Geppetto created for young performers, entitled Geppetto & Son, Jr. had its world premiere on July 17, 2009, at the Lyric Theatre in Stuart, Florida. It was presented by the StarStruck Performing Arts Center.  Turning to the pop world in 2009, Schwartz collaborated with John Ondrasik in writing two songs on the Five for Fighting album Slice, the title track as well as “Above the Timberline.” Ondrasik became familiar with Schwartz based on his daughter’s affection for, and repeated attendance at performances of, the musical Wicked.  The American premiere of My Fairytale took place in the summer of 2011 at the PCPA Theatrefest of California and was directed by the composer’s son Scott Schwartz.  In September 2011, the Northlight Theatre in Chicago premiered Schwartz’s new musical, Snapshots, which featured music and lyrics by Schwartz, book by David Stern, and was directed by Ken Sawyer. It blended together “some of the best-loved music with some of the genuinely wonderful lesser known gems of (the) renowned Broadway composer.”  On March 22, 2012, “Testimony” composed by Schwartz was released.

Schwartz stepped down in 2014 as president of the Dramatists Guild of America, succeeded by Doug Wright.  In March 2015, Princess Cruises announced a partnership with Schwartz for the development of four shows over three years. The first was a magic themed review of Schwartz’s music, entitled Magic To Do, including one new song written for the show. Gabriel Barre directed, with choreography by Jennifer Paulson-Lee, magic design by James Steinmeyer, scenic design by Jeremy Railton, costume design by Dominique Lemieux, lighting design by Ken Billington, media design by George Johnsen, art direction by Alex Calle, and arrangements by Mark Hartman. The show opened on Crown Princess on October 10, 2015 and on Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess later in 2015.  Schwartz has won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics, three Grammy Awards, three Academy Awards and has been nominated for six Tony Awards. He received the 2015 Isabelle Stevenson Award, a special Tony Award, for his commitment to serving artists and fostering new talent.

My collection includes the following work by Stephen Schwartz:

Godspell (1971): Day by Day.

Filippo Schreier and Tango Delle Rose

schreier

Filippo Schreier (n.d.) was a composer about whom almost no information seems to be available.  In 1928 he composed the music for a song “Tango Delle Rose,” also known as “The Song Of The Rose,” with original lyrics in Italian written by Gigliola Cinquetti.  With English lyrics written by Aldo Bottero, it was performed uncredited by Corinna Mura in the 1942 movie called Casablanca.

The following work by Filippo Schreier is contained in my collection:

Tango Delle Rose.

Lalo Schifrin and the “Dirty Harry” Theme

laloschifrinphotoag335

Boris Claudio “Lalo” Schifrin (b. June 21, 1932) is an Argentine pianist, composer, arranger and conductor, who is best known for his large body of film and TV scores since the 1950s, including the Dirty Harry films, the “Theme from Mission: Impossible,” and Enter the Dragon.  Schifrin was born on June 21, 1932, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  His father, Luis Schifrin, led the second violin section of the orchestra at the Teatro Colón for three decades.  At the age of six, Schifrin began a six-year course of study on piano with Enrique Barenboim, the father of pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim. At age 16, Schifrin began studying piano with the Greek-Russian expatriate Andreas Karalis, former head of the Kiev Conservatory, and harmony with Argentine composer Juan Carlos Paz. During this time, Schifrin also became interested in jazz.

Although Schifrin studied sociology and law at the University of Buenos Aires, music captured his attention.  At age 20, he successfully applied for a scholarship to the Paris Conservatoire. At night, he played jazz in the Paris clubs. In 1955, Schifrin played piano with Argentinian bandoneon giant Ástor Piazzolla, and represented his country at the International Jazz Festival in Paris.  After returning home to Argentina in his twenties, Schifrin formed a jazz orchestra, a 16-piece band that became part of a popular weekly variety show on Buenos Aires TV. Schifrin also began accepting other film, television, and radio assignments. In 1956, Schifrin met Dizzy Gillespie and offered to write an extended work for Gillespie’s big band. Schifrin completed the work, Gillespiana, in 1958, andit was recorded in 1960. Later that year, Schifrin began working as an arranger for Xavier Cugat’s popular Latin dance orchestra.

While in New York in 1960, Schifrin again met Gillespie, who had by this time disbanded his big band for financial reasons. Gillespie invited Schifrin to fill the vacant piano chair in his quintet. Schifrin immediately accepted and moved to New York City. Schifrin wrote a second extended composition for Gillespie, The New Continent, which was recorded in 1962.  On May 26, 1963, he recorded an album, Buenos Aires Blues, with Duke Ellington’s alto saxophonist, Johnny Hodges. Schifrin wrote two compositions for the album; Dreary Blues and the title track B. A. Blues. In the same year MGM, which had Schifrin under contract, offered the composer his first Hollywood film assignment with the African adventure Rhino!  Schifrin moved to Hollywood late that year.

One of Schifrin’s most recognizable and enduring compositions is the theme music for the long-running TV series Mission: Impossible. It is a distinctive tune written in the uncommon 5/4 time signature. Similarly, Schifrin’s theme for the hugely successful Mannix private eye TV show was composed a year later in a 3/4 waltz time; Schifrin composed several other jazzy and bluesy numbers over the years as additional incidental music for the show.  Schifrin’s “Tar Sequence” from his Cool Hand Luke score (also written in 5/4) was the longtime theme for the Eyewitness News broadcasts on New York station WABC-TV and other ABC affiliates, as well as National Nine News in Australia. CBS Television used part of the theme of his St. Ives soundtrack for its golf broadcasts in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Schifrin’s score for the 1968 film Coogan’s Bluff was the beginning of a long association with Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel. Schifrin’s strong jazz blues riffs were evident in Dirty Harry.  Schifrin’s working score for 1973’s The Exorcist was rejected by the film’s director, William Friedkin. Schifrin had written six minutes of difficult and heavy music for the initial film trailer, but audiences were reportedly frightened by the combination of sights and sounds. As reported by Schifrin in an interview, Warner Bros. executives told Friedkin to instruct Schifrin to tone it down with softer music, but Friedkin did not relay the message. Schifrin also said that working on the film was one of the most unpleasant experiences in his life.

In 1976 Schifrin released a single called “Jaws” on CTI (Creed Taylor Incorporated) records. This was the theme from the Universal Picture “Jaws” and reached number 14 in the UK chart and ran for nine weeks.  In the 1990s, he wrote many of the arrangements for the Three Tenors concerts.  In the 1998 film Tango, Schifrin returned to the tango music, with which he had grown familiar while working as Ástor Piazzolla’s pianist in the mid-1950s. He brought traditional tango songs to the film, as well as introducing compositions of his own, in which tango is fused with jazz elements.  In 1997, the composer founded Aleph Records.  He also wrote the main theme for Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow.  Schifrin made a cameo appearance in Red Dragon (2002) as an orchestra conductor.  He is also widely sampled in hip-hop and trip-hop songs, such as Heltah Skeltah’s “Prowl” or Portishead’s “Sour Times.”   Both songs sample Schifrin’s “Danube Incident,” one of many themes he composed for specific episodes of the Mission: Impossible TV series.

On April 23, 2007, Lalo Schifrin presented a concert of film music for the Festival du Film Jules Verne Aventures (Festival Jules Verne), at Le Grand Rex theatre in Paris, France – Europe’s biggest movie theater. This was recorded by festival leaders for a 73-and-a-half-minute CD named Lalo Schifrin: Le Concert à Paris.  In 2010, a fictionalised account of Lalo Schifrin’s creation of the “Theme from Mission: Impossible” tune was featured in a Lipton TV commercial aired in a number of countries around the world.  Alternative hip hop group Blue Scholars recorded a track entitled “Lalo Schifrin” on their third album Cinemetropolis.  Schifrin has won five Grammy Awards (four Grammy Awards and one Latin Grammy), with twenty-two nominations, one Cable ACE Award, one Emmy Award, and received six Academy Award nominations. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2016 it was announced that his Mission: Impossible theme will be inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.

My collection includes the following works by Lalo Schifrin:

Bullitt (1968): Main Theme.

Dirty Harry (1971): Main Title.

Peter Schickele and “A Zoo Called Earth”

schickele1

Peter Schickele (b. July 17, 1935) is an American composer, musical educator, and parodist, best known for comedy albums featuring music written by Schickele but presented as being composed by the fictional P. D. Q. Bach. Schickele was born on July 17, 1935, in Ames, Iowa, to Alsatian immigrant parents. His father, Rainer Schickele (1905–1989), son of the writer René Schickele, was an agricultural economist teaching at Iowa State University.   In 1945, Rainer Schickele took a position at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Peter’s next childhood home; then, in 1946, Rainer became Chairman of the Agricultural Sciences Department at North Dakota Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University) in Fargo, North Dakota. In Fargo, Peter studied composition with Sigvald Thompson. He attended Fargo Central High School, graduating in 1952. He then attended Swarthmore College, graduating in 1957 with a degree in music; he was the first student at Swarthmore, and the only student in his class, with a music degree. He was a contemporary of Ted Nelson at Swarthmore, and he scored Nelson’s experimental film, The Epiphany of Slocum Furlow. It was his first film score. He graduated from the Juilliard School with an M.S. in musical composition; in the ensuing years he has frequently cited Roy Harris as the most influential of his teachers.

The humorous aspect of Schickele’s musical career came from his early interest in the music of Spike Jones, whose musical ensemble lampooned popular music in the 1940s and 1950s. While at Juilliard (1959) Schickele teamed with conductor Jorge Mester to present a humorous concert, which became an annual event at the college. In 1965, Schickele moved the concept to The Town Hall (New York City) and invited the public to attend; Vanguard Records released an album of that concert, and P. D. Q. Bach’s career was launched.  Schickele wrote music for a number of folk musicians, most notably Joan Baez, for whom he also orchestrated and arranged three albums during the mid-1960s, Noël (1966), Joan (1967), and Baptism (1968). Schickele, an accomplished bassoonist, was also a member of the chamber rock trio Open Window, which wrote and performed music for the 1969 revue Oh! Calcutta!   By 1972, the P. D. Q. Bach concerts had become so popular that they were moved to Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.

Schickele has developed an elaborate parodic persona built around his studies of the fictional “youngest and the oddest of the twenty-odd children” of Johann Sebastian Bach, P.D.Q. Bach. Among the fictional composer’s “forgotten” repertory supposedly “uncovered” by Schickele are such farcical works as The Abduction of Figaro, Canine Cantata: “Wachet Arf!” (S. K9), Good King Kong Looked Out, the Trite Quintet (S. 6 of 1), “O Little Town of Hackensack,” A Little Nightmare Music, the cantata Iphigenia in Brooklyn, the Concerto for Horn and Hardart, The Art of The Ground Round (S. $1.19/lb.), Blaues Grasse (The Bluegrass Cantata), and perhaps best known of all, the dramatic oratorio, Oedipus Tex, featuring the “O.K. Chorale.”  Though P.D.Q. Bach is ostensibly a Baroque composer, Schickele extends his repertoire to parody much more modern works such as Einstein on the Fritz, a parody of his Juilliard classmate Philip Glass.

To some degree, Schickele’s music written as P.D.Q. Bach has overshadowed his work as a “serious” composer.  He has composed more than 100 original works for symphony orchestra, choral groups, chamber ensemble, voice, television and an animated adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are (which he also narrated). He made a brief foray into cinema with the Bruce Dern film Silent Running (1972), for which he composed the musical score and co-wrote the original songs “Silent Running” and “Rejoice in the Sun” with Diane Lampert. He has also written music for school bands, as well as a number of musicals, and has organized numerous concert performances as both musical director and performer. Schickele was active on the international and North American concert circuit.  Schickele’s musical creations have won him multiple awards. His extensive body of work is marked by a distinctive style which integrates the European classical tradition with an unmistakable American idiom.  For a period of time in the 1970s and early 1980s, performances by Schickele of the works of P.D.Q. Bach often involved guest appearances by the Swarthmore College Choir, often advertised as “fresh from their recent tour of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.”

From 1990 to 1993, Schickele’s P.D.Q. Bach recordings earned him four consecutive wins for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy.  As a musical educator he also hosted the longrunning weekly classical music educational radio program Schickele Mix, which aired on many public radio stations in the United States (and internationally on Public Radio International). The program began in 1992; lack of funding ended the production of new programs by 1999, and rebroadcasts of the existing programs finally ceased in June 2007.  Schickele began to curtail his live performances of P.D.Q. Bach due to health reasons but performed two concerts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his first concert at The Town Hall in New York on December 28 and 29, 2015. He continues to have live concert performances scheduled through May 2017.  In recent years, Schickele has created such not-quite-P.D.Q. Bach albums as Hornsmoke, Sneaky Pete and the Wolf, and The Emperor’s New Clothes.  Schickele’s music is published by the Theodore Presser Company.

The following works by Peter Schickele are contained in my collection:

The Emperor’s New Clothes.

A Zoo Called Earth.

A Fresh Start in the Middle of the Year by Bethany LeBedz 

A Fresh Start in the Middle of the Year

by Bethany LeBedz

For those who homeschool on a more traditional schedule, January is the middle of the school year. And no matter what the calendar says, I’m convinced that February is the longest month of the year. Nevertheless, we can take steps toward a fresh start even at this juncture. Now is a great time to refocus on our objectives, while our minds are already focused on losing the same ten pounds we lose every January and we’re in the starting-over mindset.

Let’s take a look at three areas in which we can reestablish our beginning-of-the-school-year goals: curricula, clutter, and character.

Let’s tackle curricula first. Yes, I mean the new math program we were sure would turn our little darlings into Albert Einstein miniatures. Is that new math program really working, or would it be better to pull out the good old standby that has a proven track record? While it may not be the easiest time of year to try to sell used curricula, this is the right time of year to start a to-sell bin. If it didn’t work this year, chances are it won’t work next year.

What about all those cool extras we were sure we would be able to squeeze into our already overcrowded academic days? If it’s still collecting dust on the top shelf, put it in that to-sell bin. Don’t think of it as wasting money, think of it as seed money (after you sell it, anyway) for next year’s curricula list.

Next we’re ready for my favorite category to organize: clutter.Some people have every stray Christmas hand towel and ornament tucked away in matching red Rubbermaid bins by New Year’s Day. Others of us are still finding turkey fridge magnets and glittery bows as we get out the Valentine’s Day decorations—not to mention must-have toys that turned out not to be all that.

The perfect time to declutter our seasonal decorations is when we’re boxing them up. Trash the broken ornaments, the ugly centerpieces, and the faded wreaths. This time of year is the most cost-effective time to invest in new storage if necessary. Mass retailers currently have season-specific storage solutions on, which is the only reason that my Christmas decorations are all stored in red and/or green plastic containers.

As a side note, color coding makes it easier to figure out which bins need to come down from the attic for each season. When you’re shopping for storage, though, don’t give in to the urge to purchase all new decorations just because they’re on sale. That defeats the purpose of decluttering!

“Out with the old, in with the new,” goes the old saying. If your kids’ grandparents are anything like mine (my in-laws, at least), then you know that Christmases and birthdays bring in a plethora of new toys, games, and DVDs. While some of the new items lose their appeal the day after the wrapping paper has been ripped off, some of them really do earn a spot in the limelight. Now, while our kids’ attention is on their new stuff, is the time to weed through their old toys and games. Start a yard-sale bin for things in good condition, a giveaway box for items that can go to the less fortunate, and a big trash bag for toys that are broken, games with missing pieces, and videos that got eaten by the VCR.

While we’re in the decluttering mode, let’s go through our papers too. First the obvious: trash old invitations, expired coupons, and finished magazines. Next, the less obvious: academic papers that multiply like dust bunnies. Remember those portfolios we were going to set up in September for samples of our children’s schoolwork? Now’s the time to start them for real. Can’t remember the details? Review my column in the July/August 2011 issue of Home SchoolEnrichment. The basics are just to keep a few of each subject, sort them by child and by topic, and file them in a binder every few weeks.

Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about making a fresh start with our character development. Like Paul in Philippians 3, I do not count myself as having arrived. I start each new school year with good intentions of being more patient, more flexible, and more godly as a homeschool mom. About this time every year, though, I find myself exhausted and ready for June. The problem is that June is still six months away. Instead of letting this area slide—again—let’s regroup and start over. Now is the perfect time of year to take a deep breath, say yes to an unscheduled field trip, and start each school day with devotions—again.

Let’s say with Paul, “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12). We need to practice what we preach to our kids in this department. I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty of holding my kids to a higher standard than I want to impose on myself. We just need to remember that good character traits are caught more than they are taught.

Let’s all work on that fresh start. 

Bethany LeBedz has been married for 17 years, homeschooling for 10 years, and organizing forever. She homeschools her two girls in North Carolina. She blogs atConfessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom: www.bethanylebedz.blogspot.com.

New Year Joy By Kari Lewis

New Year Joy
By Kari Lewis

As one year is winding down and a new year about to dawn, I love to sit in the quiet dark of a winter evening, cozy and warm under my favorite fuzzy blanket, with a cup of steaming cocoa warming my hands and Christmas decorations glowing around me, and spend a bit of time reflecting on the past and looking ahead to the future.

I have to be careful, though, because sometimes when I look back, my failures loom depressingly large and ugly. And as I try to peer into the misty future, it seems to hold fears and problems, as yet unseen, but somehow almost able to be felt.

This world is not a perfect place, and I’m certainly not a perfect person—not by a long shot! I have failures aplenty, both in my distant and not-so-distant past. And the future can look pretty scary: the political situation, the economy, health issues, relationships, and more. Much more!

But God is always good, faithful, and true. I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and He has redeemed my past; He is with me now; and He is already in the future! Therefore, there is no need for me to beat myself up over my past failures (though I should try to learn from them), and there is no need at all to fear the future!

So as I sit thinking this year, comfy and cozy, I want to focus on some praiseworthy thoughts about homeschooling. Tell you what: grab your favorite fuzzy blanket and a steaming mug of cocoa and reflect with me about some of the wonderful blessings we as homeschoolers can enjoy at the beginning of 2012 and beyond!

Because we homeschool, we have the blessing of being able to give our kids a truly Christ-centered education utilizing all of life! Through the curriculums we use, the discussions we have, and the things we do, God and His Word can permeate our days, giving our kids a strong foundation on which to build their entire lives.

We have the blessing of instant prayer. At the very first inkling of a problem, whether big or little, we can seek the Lord—with our children or on their behalf. We don’t have to wait till the evening or weekend hours to try to delve into everything that may have happened while we were apart and try to deal with it after the fact.

Children are constantly learning, and their thoughts and attitudes about life, relationships, politics, education, and even God are being shaped all the time by what goes on around them. But children frequently don’t recognize when they are being shaped, and therefore, they don’t even realize they should share with us about what has happened in their lives.

As homeschoolers, we’re with our kids all the time, and we can protect them from many bad influences. When we come across something sinful (and that will happen), we can pray together and address it right away, while it’s fresh—before it becomes ingrained, before it shapes our kids’ lives for now and eternity. That’s a huge blessing.

We also get the blessing of building strong family relationships and enjoying true quality time! The homeschooling lifestyle affords the most excellent opportunity I know of to build relationships and impact our kids for the Lord.

When we spend massive quantities of time together, lasting bonds of love, friendship, and understanding can develop. Those relationships are a tremendous source of joy and blessing, but they take time to cultivate and grow!

Over the years, I’ve heard so many parents talking about scheduling in “quality time.” But quality time isn’t an event that you can plan or schedule. We can’t just go about doing our own thing the majority of the time and then make true quality time happen Friday evening from 7–9 or Saturday from noon to 3.

True quality time happens unexpectedly in the midst of living out ordinary days together as we are open to the Holy Spirit and accessible to our families for large chunks of time.

Homeschooling also gives us an excellent opportunity to raise leaders! I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but this world is in a mess! We’ve got corruption in high places, diseases running rampant, the economy is out of whack—you don’t have to look very far before you see some area of society where godly Christian men and women could make a difference for good.

But principled, good, godly leaders are not, by and large, coming out of the public school system. Statistics show that up to 85 percent of public schooled kids from Christian homes leave church by the time they finish high school, and that figure doesn’t even take into consideration the number of children who have never even had a Christian influence in their lives. So good leaders most likely aren’t coming from public schools.

Homeschoolers, on the other hand, because of strong family relationships, less peer pressure, godly curriculum, and other factors, are in a perfect place to raise future leaders. In fact, statistics are showing this to be true. Homeschoolers are strong, reliable, happy people making a positive difference in this world! (An encouraging statistic, by the way, is that 94 percent of homeschooled kids keep the faith of their parents!)

Those are just a few of the blessings that can be ours as Christian homeschoolers, but there are challenges to face as well. We always need to remember that the way we look at things is vital.

The eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews is often called the “hall of fame.” It’s a list of heroes of the faith. By faith Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice, by faith Enoch was translated so he would not see death, by faith Noah prepared an ark, by faith Abraham went out looking for his inheritance, by faith Sara conceived and had a son when she was past age.

Then, right in the middle of that list of heroes, is verse 15: “And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.”

The heroes of the faith, just by being mindful of the option of going back, could have “returned.” But returned to what? They could have returned to where they were before stepping out in faith. That’s a sobering thought.

In other words, if Noah had been mindful of the wrong things, he could have stopped building the ark and perished with the rest of the world. If Abraham had been mindful of the wrong things, he could have gone back and not received his inheritance.

Like the heroes of old, we’ve got to keep our focus right, because if we’re mindful of the wrong things, we’ll be more likely to get off track and “return.” We’ll be tempted to quit homeschooling or not homeschool as victoriously and joyfully as we otherwise could.

We’re Christian homeschoolers. We’ve stepped out in faith to raise and educate our kids for the Lord. We’ve gone against the tide of this world like the faith heroes of old did. As we stand at the beginning of a new year, may we embrace with joy the full importance of our blessed opportunity—the high and noble calling of motherhood and homeschooling!

Joy to you this New Year! 

Kari Lewis is the mom here at Home School Enrichment. She and Frank have been married for 34 years and homeschooled their two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, from their early elementary years through their high school graduations. Together, the four of them started Home School Enrichment in late 2002. Recently, she’s been enjoying her new role of mother-in-law and first-time grandma! You can reach her at kari@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com