What Black Belt Means to Me

Later this week, MeiLi will be testing for her Black Belt in Taekwondo.  She has been working towards this goal since the Spring of 2007.  She worked through nearly all of the Tiny Tiger belt levels at Karate for Kids before they closed their doors in January 2008.  That summer, she began her quest again at Bend Martial Arts Club as a yellow-instructor.

As a part of the requirements to test for her Black Belt, MeiLi was asked to write an essay – answering three questions.  To commemorate her achievement, I post it here.  The words are her own – though I did make some suggestion to improve the flow.  Writing the history of Taekwondo was the most difficult.  Essentially, I read aloud excerpts from a couple of websites and she narrated it back to me.  I then repeated her words to her as she wrote out her rough draft by hand.  We then sat down together to correct spelling and grammar.  Finally, I typed it up for her to save time.  

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In ancient times, there were three rival tribes in Korea; Koguryo, Shilla, and Paekje. Each wanted strong warriors to protect their land and people so they trained to fight in martial arts but the style was a little different depending on where you were. Koguryo was founded on the northern part of Korea. The Koryo dynasty united Korea from 918 – 1392. During this time, you needed to know Taekkyon techniques to be a part of the military. Young people did contests, called subakhui, to see if they were good enough.

Over time, with the invention of gun powder and new weapons, Taekkyon was not used as much. Also, when Japan took over, they said “No more Taekkyon.” They wanted the people to use their style of martial arts, Karate. So Taekkyon was secretly handed down by the masters until Korea was liberated in 1945 after WWII.

Taekwondo as we know of it today started in the South Korean military in the 1950s and 60s. Today it is the national sport of South Korea. Taekwondo has changed some since then and is now a part of the Olympics.

I started Taekwondo when I was 4 and a half years old. I have learned a lot from my Taekwondo classes. One memorable thing that I will always remember happened when I was a yellow belt. I was sparring with another girl and she kicked me in the chin and my tooth fell out. At first I cried because it hurt but I didn’t let it stop me. I got back out there. I learned to wear a mouth guard and to never give up.

When I was testing for my brown belt, I fell apart. During my poomse, I got stuck several times and I was feeling terrible. When Master Gregory called on me, “Geneva?” I replied, “What!” in a very rude way. All the people laughed and I learned to have better self control. I learned to show respect even when I am frustrated.

After I get my black belt, I am going to take a little time off but I will practice at home. This is because we are moving and I want to find a good Dojang . After 6 months to a year, I will start training with a Sabeomnim again. When I am in college, I want to be an assistant instructor like Lisa. I think it will be fun to help little kids learn Taekwondo.


World Taekwondo Federation. History of Taekwondo. Retrieved 18 July 2011 from http://www.wtf.org/wtf_eng/site/about_taekwondo/ancient_timers.html

Wikipedia. Taekwondo. Retrieved 18 July 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taekwondo

Archery Lessons

Looking for an activity that provides exercise, improves math skills, teaches etiquette, requires focus, reduces stress, and is – oh, yeah – lots of fun?  Consider Archery!

When my little guy told his buddies that he was going to get a real bow and arrow set, no one believed him.  They insisted he was lying even when I backed him up.  When his archery set finally arrived … the boys next door continually asked, “Is it real?  Is it a toy one?”  Even one of the dads, when Buddy brought it over and demonstrated his new skill, was a little surprised.  “The arrows have suction cups on the tip …   They don’t?!”  One of the moms said, “The fact that he has a bow and arrow scares me to death!”  Proof that people tend to fear what they do not know … what they do not understand.

I’m surprised more boys (and girls … I know many girls enjoy the sport, too – but typically it is boys) aren’t allowed the opportunity to explore their interest.  Parents assume it is dangerous.  But once they see the National Safety Council’s numbers ranking archery as one of the safest sports, once they understand just how easy and affordable it is to set up and run an archery program, and once their first class fills up with happy participants who want more…it’s no surprise that Archery is the hot new trend in recreation.

Archery is contagious. Here is a way to investigate an activity that is gaining in popularity all over the U.S.,  particularly amongst homeschoolers. 

1. Name and explain the archery safety rules.

2. Tell about the local and state laws on ownership, use and registration of archery tackle.

3. Name and point out the parts of a bow and an arrow.

4. Describe and show how to use an arm guard, shooting glove, finger tab, and quiver.

5. Explain proper care of and how to store the bow, bowstring, arrows, and leather items.

6. Make a bowstring and use it.

7. Make one complete arrow from a bare shaft.

8. Explain the following terms: cast, bow weight, string height (fistmele), aiming, spine, mechanical release, freestyle, and bare bow.

9. Describe the different types of arrows.

10. Show the nine basic steps of a good shooting method.

11. Locate and mark with dental floss, crimp on, or other method the nocking point on a bow string.

12. Shoot with bow and arrows, using a finger release.

13. Explain the difference between field and target archery.

14. Explain the difference between field round, hunter round, and animal round.

15. Explain the importance of obedience to a range master or other person in charge of a range.

16. Learn some of the competition rules in various forms of competition archery.

17. If possible, attend a archery competition. Speak to the participants and ask them how much and how often they practice, when did they learn, and about any special training that they have had.

For those with Olympic dreams, archery has many advantages. The equipment is affordable, official competitions are held all over the country and are open (don’t require pre-qualification), and archery can be practiced year round, indoors or out.

Other programs include The Way of The Bow, an archery curriculum that explores the diverse culture and history of archery (Japanese Kyudo, Native American, Ancient Roman, and others) in addition to learning how to shoot. ArrowFaith, a faith-based curriculum that explores the personal virtues that are necessary if one aspires to excel at archery (such as responsibility, perseverance, mindfulness, and others), combines the fun of shooting with personal development. GoArchery! is a program designed by two-time Olympic coach Lloyd Brown to set up beginners with optimal form while having fun learning the sport. Information on these and other archery programs is available at Teach Archery.


In the midst of the summer, it became apparent that my little guy was not crazy about Taekwondo.  I thereby didn’t enroll him in August or September and have tried on numerous occasions to talk with him about what else he might be interested in participating.  Nothing seemed to appeal to him.

Then a week ago, something seemed to click in my brain (finally!) and I realized that the one thing he enjoys above anything else is riding his bike.  Recent posts on Facebook from a childhood friend of mine had reminded me that when we were kids, he and my brother were passionate about BMX.  In fact, my brothers children have also dabbled in the sport and enjoy competing occasionally.

When my little guy is outside, he loves to emulate our neighbor, Tristan, who has a trick bike.  He shows the little guys how to go over jumps and pop ‘wheelies’.  The boys are in awe of this young teen.  Would Buddy enjoy BMX?  Could this be his passion?  I did a little investigating … talked with my sister-in-law … and got the ball rolling.

We visited our local track on Monday evening to discover that to ride … participants are required to have a full-face helmet, long pants and long sleeves.  Their bike must not have a chain guard, reflectors or kick stand … basically anything that could break off and potentially harm other riders.  We talked with the volunteers and looked the track over.  Fortunately, a vendor was on site with gently used youth helmets on clearance.  I figured $35 was a worthwhile investment whether he proved to enjoy it or not, so we brought home a helmet.

Buddy was an instant celebrity in the neighborhood … oohs and ahhhs from all the little boys.  The moms were beside themselves.  “Where did you get that helmet?  Why?”   Finally … Buddy was receiving attention that was truly all his own … for something very positive.

On Wednesday, we had a full day of activities and at the end was our 2nd visit to the track and his first opportunity to ride.  His behavior during the day was awesome!  He even dressed in a white shirt and tie promising that he’d change before he took his bike out on the dirt track.  Throughout the day .. everyone complimented him both on his behavior and his attire.  He was all smiles.


Immediately upon our arrival at the track, he put on his helmet and began to watch the other riders.  It didn’t take him long to figure out what to do … he pushed his bike up the steep incline to the starting gate and he was off.  I look forward to what joys and discoveries this new sport will bring.

How Will We Begin?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my goals and expectations for homeschooling. I actually spent some time coming up with a schedule that alloted a specific amount of time for math, reading and writing each day as well as an hour for theme studies (social studies 2x a week and science 2x a week), nature walks, and picture studies (Charlotte Mason approach to fine arts). Looking back on it, I realized it was too constrictive and would take away from what was most desirable about homeschooling, flexibility.

Through my research, I have discovered that there are probably as many different approaches and styles to homeschooling, as there are those that choose to undertake the responsibility themselves. In other words, I know that I can do whatever works for us and that what we do will most assuredly evolve and change over time. As a teacher, it will be difficult to change my approach… difficult to not schedule specific time for each subject.

However, I know that we all learn best when we are hungry for knowledge… when something has excited us and we want to know more. I’ve therefore decided to let my children lead the way… while I sprinkle the 3Rs daily.

I am very intrigued by the Charlotte Mason philosophy. While some of her ideas don’t necessarily fit with our lifestyle, we already incorporate others. Some of her ideas that I will be integrating into our studies include:

Narration is the process of telling back what has been learned or read. Narrations are usually done orally, but as the child grows older (around age 12) and his writing skills increase, the narrations can be written as well. Narration can also be accomplished creatively: painting, drawing, sculpting, play-acting, etc. I definately want to do more of this… so frequently when I finish a story or book, I close it and set it aside. I am now going to make a more conscious effort to ask the kiddos to give me a narration of what they have heard.

In spite of often rainy, inclement weather, we will go out once-a-week for an official Nature Walk, allowing the children to experience and observe the natural environment firsthand. We will each have a notebook or artist sketchbook in which we may draw plants, wildlife or any other natural object found in its natural setting. These nature journals can also include nature-related poetry, prose, detailed descriptions, weather notes, Latin names, etc.

In addition to the weekly Nature Walks, we will continue to take our daily walk in the evening with Daddy for fun and fresh air, no matter what the weather.

Bring the child into direct contact with the best art. Choose one artist at a time; six paintings per artist; study one painting per week. Allow the child to look at the work of art intently for a period of time (maybe five minutes). Have her take in every detail. Then take the picture away and have her narrate (tell back) what she’s seen in the picture. I love this! I never had the opportunity to study art (with the exception of one art class I took in high school).

There’s great value in keeping a personal journal, encouraging reflection and descriptive writing. Record activities, thoughts and feelings, favorite sayings, personal mottoes, favorite poems, etc.Couldn’t agree more… why else would I be blogging? 🙂

Daily copywork provides on-going practice for handwriting, spelling, grammar, etc. Keep a notebook specifically for copying noteworthy poems, prose, quotes, etc. Especially for the younger kids, it is a great way to practice writing without having to do tedious pages of a single letter. A great resource I was introduced to by a homeschooling friend is Draw Write Now. DD has already done 2 pages! After reading the book Stellaluna, I asked if she would like to do the page about bats and she jumped up with enthusiasm! The next day, she asked if she could do one at bedtime rather than color in her color books (as she usually does at bedtime).

A Book of the Centuries is a glorified homemade timeline; usually a notebook containing one or two pages per century. As children learn historical facts, they make notes in their book on the appropriate century’s page about famous people, important events, inventions, wars, battles, etc. I love this idea, too! Even if I choose to later enroll my children in public school, I know this is something we will continue to do as it will enable them to see the big picture and see how events impact one another.

My hope is to finish daily academics in the morning, allowing the afternoon hours for free time to pursue crafts and other leisure activities or areas of personal interest. Of course, some academics will also take place in the evening as we enjoy reading aloud to the children or sharing stories of our childhood with them before they go to sleep. This is important for DDs favorite activity is doing craft projects and if you recall, “Scrapbooking, Knitting, Stitching and Painting” are the things she wants to learn most.