We, Montana! to Change Directions for Fall 2020: Suspends Classes; Starts Podcast

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 situation has created lots of upheaval in the educational world, and even at this late date, many parents are still uncertain as to how they will proceed for Fall 2020.  Consequently, our We, Montana! enrollments for Fall are down such that moving forward with our classes is simply impractical.  As a result, our Board has decided to suspend all course offerings for now while looking hopefully ahead to January or September 2021 to recommence, provided the situation is better.  We regret this disappointing situation on behalf of all the people it affects, but we’re determined to make lemonade from the lemons that COVID-19 has handed us.  Since we can’t fill up our classes with students, we’re going to take advantage of this opportunity to rework our strategic plan so that we can build another area of our intended outreach ahead of schedule, while hopefully raising enough financial support in the interim to keep the rent paid on our dedicated classroom space (the Great Room) .

Continue reading We, Montana! to Change Directions for Fall 2020: Suspends Classes; Starts Podcast



We, Montana! understands that it’s hard to know how to proceed in these crazy times, so as part of our mission to facilitate homeschooling in the Billings area, we’re implementing a new pricing policy for Fall 2020, and we’re moving forward with in-person classes for those who are interested in getting out during COVID-19.

Continue reading MOVING AHEAD FOR FALL 2020!

To All Parents: Assembling Parent Testimonials

As you may know, we’ve been making a big push this summer to spread the word about We, Montana!  And thanks to the help of several of our older students, we’ve put together some great videos to help spread the word.  Meanwhile, however, I think there’s a real need to get some parent testimonials out there, too.  I’m thinking about putting together a video slideshow of written parent testimonials, and also about posting the same copy on a simple page on our website. 

Continue reading To All Parents: Assembling Parent Testimonials

Website Updated for Fall 2020!

Our Skits Workshop Summer Day Camp included a little painting time!

We’ve been very busy getting ready for the Fall, and there are many new things going on. I’ll start posting registration announcements all over social media today—and we sure could use your help to spread the word.

These are difficult times, to be sure, but we have high hopes that we can keep things going at the Great Room.  With all this in mind, then, a successful Summer recruiting push is crucial!

Meanwhile, here are some brief bullet points about what’s new this year:

Continue reading Website Updated for Fall 2020!

Important Poll for Chorus Members

Community Chorus member/parents–
Would you please answer the poll below today, if possible? I’m doing some thinking on how to increase the size of our chorus, and wondering whether it makes any sense to have both a Monday Chorus and a Tuesday Chorus (for those who can’t come on Mondays). But I wouldn’t want to do this if it meant a mass exodus of Monday members to Tuesdays, because that would ruin the existing group. So I need your feedback!

FYI, If we did have two choruses, it might work something like this: They would sing a lot of the same repertoire, so that we could have a big group in our performances. But they might each have some songs that the other group doesn’t sing, so that we can more easily produce longer concerts on our limited schedule. And they would have one or two special rehearsals all together at the same time, just prior to our performances.

Please take the super-short survey below!

Your name, first and last
1. If a Tuesday chorus were offered in addition to the Monday chorus I already attend, I would:
2. Also, if it meant we could get more members, would you be willing to rehearsal regularly on one of the following evenings, instead of in the daytime hours?

Please enter (into the "Comments" box below) the name(s) of the member(s) for whom you responded in the poll question above.  Also, feel free to give any feedback in the same "Comments" field.

Thanks for participating!  Be sure to click the "Submit" button when you're done!

Beginning Band Discontinued; Recorder Band to Commence?

We are sad to announce that we’ll no longer be offering Beginning Band for the time being. This post will explain why, and will suggest an alternative.

It’s no secret that we’ve had concerns about our beginning band program for some time now. The issue is that on a one-per-week class schedule, it takes too long to complete a thorough beginning band program. This causes two particular problems:

  1. Too few students reach mastery of the various skills in a timely manner—such that it’s hard to feel like they’re “getting anywhere”.
  2. We only have so much time available on the schedule, so if a Beginning Band class takes longer than a year to complete, this means that we can’t bring in a fresh crew of students every year.

As We, Montana! continues to evolve, we recognize that it might be possible at some point in the future to have a two-day band program. (And that would be at least three times better than a two-day program.) You may have noticed that even for Fall 2020, we are now breaking over into Tuesday mornings with two new courses being offered then. But for band, we’d need to get into a position where the classes were at least two days apart, if not three. (For example: Monday/Wednesday or Monday/Thursday.) Obviously, fewer families would likely be interested in a two-day schedule, as it is more demanding schedule-wise, but if we’re ever going to offer band again, we want to “do it right”. And when the standard school band program out there runs five days a week, two days looks a lot better than one day–and three days looks even better! So obviously, we’re not quite ready for that.

We have a reasonable alternative in mind, and have just this morning begun to float the idea of starting a Recorder Band on Monday mornings. And this may “kill two birds with one stone”. Since the recorder is much easier to learn than most other instruments, a once-a-week course would be much more effective in one academic year than would Beginning Band. Further, since everyone would be playing the same instrument (the recorder), much less class time would be spent singling out individual sections during rehearsal.

The “other bird” a Recorder Band would address is the need for all our chorus members to learn to read music. We simply don’t have the time in chorus to learn it, but it’s really not all that hard to do, and Recorder Band would be a great setting for doing that. And when a chorus all know how to read music, their rehearsals are much more efficient, because they’re no longer teaching notes in rehearsal.

Another benefit is that where Beginning Band starts at 10 years old, Recorder Band starts at 9. So, we’re excited to have more offerings for those younger students. And just as Beginning Band was open to parents who want to dust off their old horns, or to start fresh, Recorder Band will be open to parents as well.

It remains to be seen how well-received the Recorder Band will be, but we hope it proves to be very popular, because it is certainly needed. Some students have some piano lessons under their belts, which means they’ve been learning to read music. And while piano lessons are a fantastic pursuit, learning to read music for singing is less demanding still. So we hope that the Recorder Band will be a crowded class.

What if you already play recorder and want to join? Well, it’s up to you whether you’d be bored with it or whether you could be patient as we start from the beginning. It’s a two-semester class, so it lasts a full academic year. And by that time, we’ll have some students with a solid grasp of the recorder, and some others who have become more virtuosic with it. So don’t be surprised if recorder solos start popping up in some of our choral pieces–or even if we put together an occasional multi-part recorder ensemble to play a piece now and then in a Christmas concert, for example.

If you’re interested in Recorder Band, please do let me know ASAP as I’m right in the middle of wrangling the Fall schedule into shape.

And before I close this post, let me say again how regrettable it is that we couldn’t move forward with band. It was great fun, and it’s a shame to shut it down.

Great Room Meeting. 26 April

Here’s an audio recording of today’s meeting about the future of the Great Room classes. You’ll have to sign up for a free account at buzzsprout to hear it. Sorry about that, but the file is too large to host at our website or on Facebook.


Important Meeting: Sunday 4/26 at 3:00

In these difficult social/political/economic times, the future of the Great Room is in doubt. I’m calling a meeting, therefore, for all parents and students who would like to discuss what it will take to move forward. If there is a way to keep going, it’ll likely be figured out on Sunday, so if you’d like to be involved, please find a way to attend. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of playing wait-and-see through the summer, so now is the time to be proactive.

The meeting is at 3:00 p.m. in the Great Room, this coming Sunday, April 26.

I have sent out a notice about this post through the Remind app. Please do let me know in advance if you plan to come.



Homework for Etiquette Class. 17 March

I have an excellent film in mind for the Etiquette Class—for those whose parents approve of them watching it. The film is The Freedom Writers (imdb.com), starring Hillary Swank. Kay and I found the film to be quite “clean”, considering the subject matter. But we realize that each family will want to make that judgment call themselves. (Here’s a complete review of the film’s material.)

Why? The film deals with basic human respect and the sorts of fears and biases that often get in the way of that respect. It details the experiences of rival factions in a high-divided inner-city school, and how one teacher is able to unify her classes by getting them to focus on what they have in common, as well as to get them to focus on the bigger picture of world events. She tells them of “the biggest gang ever” (The Nazis) and the Holocaust, showing them that their own experiences are nothing new in the world. And she gets them writing about their experiences, such that kids who were afraid to share anything in the beginning, became quite willing to share their thoughts by the end. She’s able to get them to overcoming the de-humanizing habits of factional thinking, such that they become good friends with one another.

This has some obvious connections to the whole subject of etiquette, as it is primarily an exercise of respect for others. So here’s the homework assignment for those who will approve of their students watching this particular film:

I’d like to see a short essay of the student’s response to the film—what he or she thinks and feels about the story and the experiences of the students in the story. How long does it have to be? Long enough to get the job done.

Due on 1 April. Essays can be submitted to me via Facebook Messenger (as an attachment), or via email at jackpelham@wemontana.org.

Parents–you know your kids best, so if you’d rather that your students not see this film, please just send me a line to let me know that I should not expect to see an essay from them.

The Freedom Writers is currently playing on Netflix. It’s also available free on Amazon Prime at present.

Homework for Public Speaking Workshop. 17 March

I had been hoping that we could watch My Fair Lady together as a class, but that seems highly unlikely anytime in the near future. Given the situation, therefore, I’d like to suggest that each student watch the film at home and write a summary of what Eliza Doolittle learns about how to improve her speech.

Unfortunately, a brief search for the film at Netflix and Amazon Prime yielded no results, but I did not search any other streaming services. I did find, however, that the DVD can be bought from Amazon for $6.79. I hate asking anybody to spend money in this chaotic time, but it’s not much, and it may be less than the gas money you’d spend coming to and from class. So please participate if you can. Meanwhile, I’ll be watching it to refresh my memory in preparation for reading the summaries that are submitted, and we’ll discuss the summaries in class whenever we meet next. It’s a long film (170 minutes), so you’d better get plenty of popcorn.

The goal of the assignment is to get students thinking about the various reforms that Eliza makes in the movie, as well as about the effect her speech has on others, both before and after her transformation. I hope everyone can participate, and I’d like to suggest a due date of April 1. (Summaries can be sent to me as attachments through Facebook messenger, or to my email at jackpelham@wemontana.org.)

How long should the summaries be? They should be as long as it takes to cover what details Eliza has to deal with to improve her speech. I’d also like to see a paragraph or two on the student’s thoughts about the overall transformation Eliza makes.

Rehearsal Aids for Where Is Love?

This is the first arrangement that our new Women’s Chorus will be learning. The part tracks are below, and since this song has lots of long/sustained notes, the piano sound isn’t always the best for rehearsal tracks. So I’ve provided two versions below; try both, and use your favorite one the most. The first set has all the parts played by piano, while the second set uses mixed choral voices.

Using Piano Sounds

All three parts (SSA)
Soprano 1
Soprano 2

Using Choral Sounds

All three parts (SSA)
Soprano 1
Soprano 2

Tag-Singing Party! (with Hotdogs)

For those members of our Community Chorus who are enjoying the Barbershop Tags we’ve been playing with—here’s a party just for you! We’re going to have a fun meal together, and then spend a couple of hours singing just for fun.


Friday, 13 March, 2020
6:00 Great Room opens
6:30 Dinner is served
7:00 The singing begins

We’ll provide the hot dogs–and we’ll buy the healthiest buns and wieners we can find! We’ll also provide bottled water.

YOU bring chips, or a side dish, or a dessert, and whatever you’d like to drink. ALSO, we need condiments, so here’s a list of what we need, and as people tell me (privately) that they’ve got things covered, I’ll remove them from the list:

1. Ketchup. (Or perhaps, Catsup, provided it’s fancy enough.)
2. Mustard.
3. Relish.
4. Chili. (As a topping)
(Everything else—chips and side dishes and such, we’ll just leave to pot luck.)


May I invite friends and family to come sing with us?
Yes. If you’re pretty sure that they can sing in tune well, that would be super-cool! (Otherwise, it all gets rather messy and it’s not as fun! So it’s your call whether to bring them or not.)

When will it be over?
About 9:00, or whenever we get too tired of singing. Or whenever we get tired of talking after—or of playing Foosball.

Do I need to RSVP?
Yes! I need to know how many are coming so that I can have enough hotdogs and water on hand. Please contact me here to let me know as soon as you can.

How will the singing go that night?
Well, we’ll sing mostly as a big group (however many that is), but if some want to try some tags in quartets, we’ll take the time to do that, too.

Will we need sheet music?
No, I’ll provide what you need—some in print, and perhaps we’ll learn a couple by rote.

What if we would like to look at some sheet music in advance so we could practice our parts at home before we get there?
Then I’d say you’re one of the coolest people in the world! Let me know you’re that cool, and I’ll see about getting you something to practice.

Will there be door prizes?
Funny you should ask! Yes, there will be a drawing from among those who seem to have the most Barbershop Harmony enthusiasm (as assessed by Mr. Pelham). The winner gets a brand new pitch pipe!

Do you need to borrow my gas grill for this event?
Yes! Thanks for asking! Please contact me and we’ll work it out!

What if I don’t have any questions? Does this mean I’m not a cool person after all?
Wait, ask me that question again, but slowly. Then ask yourself whether you really don’t have any questions.

Special Public Speaking Movie

Parents and students of the Public Speaking Workshop—

I previously posted on Facebook about scheduling a special movie night for the Public Speaking Workshop students, but I got zero responses. So I’m trying again and will post this announcement on the website, and on Facebook, and will sent out a notice of it on Remind. Please respond ASAP as it is not a very effective strategy simply to schedule a date and then hope people show up. If possible, I’d like to get the ENTIRE class assembled at once to see this movie outside of class hours (along with whatever number of other people—including parents—comes to watch).

So once again, I’m going to suggest a date and I want you to please respond ASAP as to whether you can attend.

TENTATIVE DATE: Friday, February 28
TIME: 6:30 p.m. sharp!
MOVIE: My Fair Lady
DESCRIPTION: The film is the story of a famous speech professor who takes on giving speech lessons to a British commoner as a bet. He eventually gains respect for her as she masters the lessons. The film is about 3 hours long, so we should be done about 9:30.

Please RSVP here—whether you can come or not.

Friday Night Painting Party!

This Friday, 21 February
4:00 until 9:00 p.m. or until it’s done, whichever comes first.

I’m having a painting party Friday afternoon/evening. Here’s what that looks like. It looks like me painting, along with whatever other qualified help shows up. Meanwhile, whatever OTHER people show up are having fun playing games and eating whatever snacks they brought! (I’ll supply popcorn and water bottles.)

I could use as many as 4 or 5 OK painters. We’re painting the interior of the bay door green. We’re also painting mortar lines on the brown closet walls. These are almost certainly not tasks for folks under 12 years old—and maybe not every 12-year-old is up to this, either—but probably a lot would be at that age.

So please do let me know if you can come, just so I’ll know what to expect. It’ll go a LOT faster if I have help. And even if I don’t have lots of help, it’ll be a lot more fun to paint during a party than all by myself in the Great Room!

“Not All Skits”: Recording of Script

Because “Not All Skits” is so long and has so much high-level language, I’ve made a simple recording of me reading the entire script (which is just under 15 minutes long.) This way, you can get used to the flow of the language. You’ll need to read along with your own script to know whose line is whose.

Please start memorizing right away. We need to be off the scripts in three weeks!

Mr. Pelham reading “Not All Skits”

New Communications App Now in Use!

Parents, to increase our efficiency and effectiveness in communication, we’ve just set up ten new “classes” in the “Remind” app. We need all parents with smart phones to go get the app and to register for those classes that pertain to them and/or their students. You’ll find our school listed under “We, Montana!”. You can download the app here.

For most new posts we make here, we’ll send out the appropriate notifications on the Remind app so that you’ll be informed immediately of things that pertain to you. So please go take a few minutes to look through the ten “class” options there—one of which is for “Weather Closures”, by the way.



Movie & Games Night
This Friday, February 14th!
7:00 p.m.

Yes, that’s Valentine’s Day.  I know this movie night is really exciting, but if you have a big date planned already, don’t forget about it and come to this movie and games night instead.  That would be bad, and we accept no responsibility for you standing up your date—although it IS The Muppet Movie, and there IS Foosball (and other games), and there will be snacks.  And yes, there is a romantic thread throughout this movie.

You’re totally welcome to join us for the movie, but if you want to drop off your We-Montana-registered students for our movie/game night and go have a quiet dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day, we’d be happy to keep them occupied while you’re gone. (Just be back no later than 10:00 p.m.)
Sorry, this offer doesn’t apply to anyone who is not already enrolled in our classes.

Film starts at 7:00 p.m. sharp!  House opens at 6:30.

We’ll supply (microwave) popcorn and bottled water. 
You bring some snacks.
(“You can eat your fill of all the food you bring yourself!”  Who knows what I’m talking about?)
You can also sit in any comfortable chair you bring, because we’re cool like that!

Here’s the “Event” on Facebook. It would be really swell if you were to mark yourself as “Going”—if indeed you intend to come. Thanks!

Kids’ Chorus to Start in Fall 2020?

Interested? Let us know!

We’re looking hard at finding a way to start an auditioned kids’ chorus for Fall 2020. The idea as it stands right now is to create a new performance group (as opposed to a music class), made up of kids from 7 to 10 years old. We’d be singing mostly 1- and 2- part songs, and probably collaborating with the We, Montana! Community Chorus on some of their concerts. (The upcoming May 17 concert, in which our General Music Class will be singing 3 numbers will serve as a bit of a prototype for this.)

Continue reading Kids’ Chorus to Start in Fall 2020?

Beginning Band Parents Meeting

I just posted the following on the Facebook group for Beginning Band—and I think that most of you are in that group. If you are, would you please join the discussion there? And if you’re not, would you please message me through this website’s contact page to let me know when you can meet? Here’s the Facebook discussion.


Parents– I’d like to have a brief meeting sometime soon for parents of those in Beginning Band. It seems that the group is plateau-ing somewhat, and I think it would be good to get together to discuss it. (Since we’re trying to do in one day what public schools do in a 5-day program, we’re going to have to work a little smarter and harder, it seems, if we want to get similar results.) So could we please have a discussion below about when we could get together for such a meeting? Let me kick it off this way–with a proposed date for starters—and if that doesn’t work out, we’ll figure it out from there. How about from 9-10 a.m. on this coming Saturday morning, February 15th?

General Music Class to Sing in Chorus Concert!

I’d like the General Music class to sing three numbers in the chorus concert on May 17th, so I wanted to start communicating about that. It will be a very special concert at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral in Billings. We’ll need to figure out what they should wear—which can be a challenge! So I’d like to have some conversations about that. And I’d like you to please confirm ASAP whether your kids are available for that concert.

I think that most everyone in this group is on Facebook, so I’ve started a new “group” there where we can have easy discussion. Here’s the Facebook Group Page.

Meanwhile, here’s the Facebook “Event” posting for the concert.

Please join the new Facebook group right away so that we can better communicate about the class and the concert.



Chorus Concert Scheduled for May 17

We’ve scheduled our semester-ending chorus concert at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral in Billings. We had a fantastic rehearsal there last week to try it out, and the church has enthusiastically responded to our request to have our show there. We’ll announce more as the date approaches. Further, we’ll be heavily marketing this event to try to fill the hall—and particularly to fill it with those who may be interested in joining our chorus for Fall 2020.

A huge thanks to Bethany Elkin for spearheading the exploration and booking for this event!

FYI, here’s a link to the “Event” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/638345856966709/

Homeschool Chorus Changes Name!

The We, Montana! Homeschool Chorus is now the We, Montana! Community Chorus. We are now in our fourth semester, and sound better than ever. So good, in fact, that I think we’ll be able to go recruit the help we need to fill out our full choral sound. We’re so thankful to the handful of parent members who have joined us, and we’re looking to recruit a few more adults from the community—in addition to the continual recruitment of new and qualified student members.

We’ll be keeping the ratio of new, non-homeschool adults fairly low, mind you, because we don’t want to change the “feel” of the current group dynamic from what it is. So we’ll be looking to add maybe two new non-homeschool folks into each section. And I suspect that our upcoming semester-end concert will help a lot with recruiting them—as well as with continuing to build the number of homeschool student members we have.

Weather Closure Notifications in Process

Parents and Students,

I’m in the middle of implementing a new messaging technology through Remind.com. I hear that the service is really good, but having just entered in names and phone numbers for all who signed up to be on the text message list for weather closures, I see that the invitation message (over which I have no control?) is rather poor. It reads:

Hi ______, this is J. Pelham. I’m using Remind to send important updates…..

Most of you have probably already received a text message like this. Please respond to it. It’s legitimate.
Also, there were a handful of students signed up as well, and I’ll be entering those numbers into the system in the next few minutes. So they should be receiving similar messages shortly.



Skits Lite Night: Monday, February 17th

I’m excited to announce that our Skits Workshop cast & crew need a guinea pig audience—-and you’re it! We’re working toward a semester-ending big show, but we need some time in front of a live audience to get some experience with that’s like. So we’re putting on a sampler show, showing three of our skits early as a preview of our final show. In return, you provide normal audience-like behaviors, so we get to learn how to pause for laughter when it happens, how to keep going when expected laughter doesn’t happen, and so forth.

Continue reading Skits Lite Night: Monday, February 17th

Rehearsal Aids for Down Our Way

This Barbershop classic is at once one of the most “normal” Barbershop arrangements, and one of the easiest to sing. In order to accommodate the altos singing the “lead” (melody) part, we’ve raised the key four half steps from the original (B flat). This puts the basses a little higher than they might like, but it doesn’t put it out of reach.

Continue reading Rehearsal Aids for Down Our Way

Chorus Field Trip! Class Schedule Slightly Altered for February 3rd

I’ve been talking for months about how nice it would be to have better acoustics in the Great Room. Well, now we’re going to go on a field trip so you all can see for yourselves what I’m talking about!

On Monday, 3 February, the chorus will have its rehearsal not in the Great Room, but at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral in downtown Billings. Please read the following details very carefully:

Monday, February 3
12:10 p.m. to 1:30
LOCATION: St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral (See Directions)

IMPACT ON OTHER CLASSES (Only the two classes listed below are impacted. General Music, Beginning Band, and Skits Workshop will meet as usual.

Public Speaking Workshop. This course normally meets from 10:25 to 11:40. For this special day, it will end 10 minutes early, at 11:30.

Etiquette Class. This class usually meets from 1:50 to 2:45. For this special day only, Etiquette will start 10 minutes late (2:00) and will end at the regular time of 2:45.

For this, the Great Room will close promptly at 11:35 (right after Public Speaking). It will open again at 1:50 (ten minutes before the delayed start of Etiquette at 2:00.

We realize that some of the students who spend a lot of the day at the Great Room may need a ride to St. Patrick’s and back again. Whether they’re in chorus or not, we’ll be happy to try to find rides for them to go with us both ways. I’ll start a discussion about this on the Facebook page for the chorus. (See it here.)

Thank you, Bethany Elkin for arranging this with St. Patrick’s! I would not have gotten to it this early if left to my own devices. You’re such a champ for getting this done!

Parents’ Meeting Tomorrow!

This is a reminder about the mandatory parents’ meeting tomorrow night:

Parents’ Meeting
7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Great Room
5055 Jellison Road

In a perfect world, we could get EVERYBODY here at once—both parents, along with the older students. But if only one parent can come, we completely understand. Also, some of your students are of the age where they either are or should be starting to “take ownership” in their own schooling, as well as in our classes/programs here. So we encourage them to come, too. What’s the right age for that? Well, we’ll leave that to your judgment. Meanwhile, if there’s a way to leave most of the more-restless younger ones at home, that would be great—but we fully expect that at least of few will need to bring them, and that’s just fine!

We will begin and end promptly, so we really hope everyone will get here a few minutes early. And then you can stay afterward as late as you like for further discussion.

Parents’ Meeting Postponed/Rescheduled

I apologize for the inconvenience, but a scheduling problem with work forces me to postpone the parents’ meeting that was scheduled for this Saturday morning, 11 January, from 9:00 to 10:30. My client in Havre scheduled more work than I could get done without delaying my return to Billings, and it’s just not practical to delay the work. The meeting will be postponed, then, to the following date and time:

Monday Night
20 January
7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

As a reminder, this crucial meeting will be aimed largely at improving communication with parents and at informing everyone of the particulars of the upcoming semester and of our progress toward incorporating and achieving federal tax-exempt status. In a perfect world, all parents could attend, but we’re hoping that at least the primary educator parent can attend. Further, we’d be glad to have particularly our older students in attendance. More and more of them are “taking ownership” in what we’re doing, and that’s exactly the mindset that we want to encourage.

This meeting pertains to all six courses on our current schedule. Please do RSVP via our Contact Page as soon as you can so that we know that word is getting out.

Mandatory Parents Orientation: Saturday, 11 January

As we continue to “sharpen the saw”, we’re adding for this Spring semester a mandatory parents’ orientation session on Saturday morning, 11 January, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Great Room.

This is for the parents of all enrolled students, across all our course offerings (or any thinking about enrolling). The goal is to explain briefly what each course is about, how it’s going, and what would make it better. We also want to iron out the communications/email process once and for all, as communication was spotty last Fall. Further, we want to be sure that parents have a good idea where We, Montana! is headed and how we plan to get there.

So please plan to attend this very important session. If both parents can come, that’s great. If only one can come, we really hope it’s the primary home educator. Your students are free to come with—and especially the older ones, as many of them are “taking ownership” more and more in what goes on here!

We, Montana! Classes to Remain Mondays-Only For Now

We had previously floated the idea of initiating some Tuesday courses in the Spring 2020 Semester. We have since decided, all things considered, not to pursue that expansion at this time, but to focus our attention more on the growth of the fledgling nonprofit corporation and the development of other projects that aren’t directly related to our Great Room classes.

We do hope to expand to a 2-day schedule sometime in the future, but it won’t be this Spring.

Meanwhile, Monday classes resume on 13 January.

New Public Speaking Workshop for Spring 2020

We’re making a shift in our Monday course slots for the Spring 2020 semester. Our Intermediate Band class has dropped below the attendance threshold, so we’re replacing it with a Public Speaking Workshop, which course was a big success when we ran it a year ago.

This course is capped at 12 students, with a minimum of 8. It’s for ages 12 to 18 years old. (Sorry, parents, but only kids are allowed in this one.)

Mondays from 10:25 to 11:40 a.m.
January 13 through April 27.

This is not a debate class. Nor does it involve speech writing. Rather, this course, is simply about learning to effectively use the voice and body to speak excellently-written material. It’s largely about getting enough public speaking experience to feel confident, and especially about some of the most basic of fundamentals, such as learning to speak loudly enough to be easily heard.

Students will learn a series of excerpts from famous works, and will work toward a semester-end recital. There’s a Code of Conduct so that everybody knows what sort of behaviors are expected of everyone. And even though we run a “tight ship” in this class, there’s a lot of humor! It’s one of the funnest classes you’ll ever take. And it’s also a really good starting point for those who might like to audition for the Skits Workshop next Fall.

There’s no audition for this course, but I do ask that we talk it through before signing anybody up. Believe it or not, we’ve had students sign up for classes of this sort, and then refuse to do anything in front of the workshop on day one. So entry into this class is only with teacher approval after a good talk with the parent and/or student.

To start the discussion about enrollment, please contact Jack Pelham here.

Road Report: 9 December 2019

All classes are a “go” for today, but judge for yourselves whether or not to travel.

See the latest road report.

I drove from Laurel to the Great Room at 5:30am today and here’s what I found:

  • Laurel to Zoo Drive: Lots of black ice. 45 mph proved to be a safe travel speed.
  • Zoo Drive to South Billings Boulevard was much clearer. 55 mph was safe.
  • South Billings Boulevard / Blue Creek was in surprisingly good shape all the way to Jellison.

I’m looking forward to seeing whoever makes it out today!


Adjusted Schedule for Monday Classes

Thank you all for the outpouring of prayers and sympathy on the occasion of my father’s death. I found out Sunday evening and promptly canceled Monday classes, expecting that we’d be flying immediately to Florida. But as it turns out, they decided to postpone the funeral until next Monday, December 1st, on account of this being a holiday week. So naturally, classes will be canceled for the 1st also.

These things happen, of course, and obviously, this makes quite a wreck of our semester-end events. So here’s plan going forward. If you’re all willing, on Monday, December 9, all classes will meet for a last class session for the semester. Then we’ll move the special events (bands, chorus, general music, and skits) into late January or early February—which will give us a chance to make up for lost rehearsals at the beginning of the next semester.

I want to begin the January semester on Monday the 13th. So I’ll figure out some exact dates and times in the next day or two and will post those.

Please let me know via email if your students can make it to class on December 9. (There may have been some confusion for each class regarding which Monday was supposed to be the last day of the semester.)


Chorus. If you will please keep practicing at least a little through the end of the year, we should be in pretty good shape to pick it back up again on January 13 and to prepare for a concert in 3 or 4 more rehearsals. That, on top of a good rehearsal on December 9 will put us in good shape.

Skits. If you will keep working on memorization of your lines, and can come to class on 9 December, we’ll plan a for-family performance for February—AND a second performance of the same show, where we charge admission. It’ll be an experiment for us to see if we can figure out how to earn our own keep a little bit. I’d like to sell 100 seats at $5 each.

Beginning Band. If most of you can come to class on December 9, we’ll start learning the Mo’ Better Blues and have a legit concert in late January or early February.

Intermediate Band. We’ll learn Mo’ Better Blues, too, and will play along with the Beginning Band in the concert mentioned above. You can also do your solos then, and we’ll perform Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (and perhaps one of hte others) for the concert.

General Music. If you can come to class on the 9th, we’ll have lots of fun, and we’ll sing a couple of Christmas songs—and we’ll practice the Montana State Song so that you can sing it in the early-Spring concert along with the big chorus!

Parents. We still have a large number of parents (over 20) who are not getting our email notifications of new articles that are published (like this one). This presents a considerable difficulty for us, as it’s hard to figure out who is not getting notified. Would you please go be sure you’re signed up to get the notifications, and that they’re actually WORKING? And if you think they’re not working, we really need you to check your spam/junk filter to see if they’re in there. If we can’t communicate with you reliably, it makes it very difficult to navigate the semester—and especially the concert season.
To be super-clear, we don’t just need for YOU to be satisfied that you’re getting our messages; we need you to tell US you are. And if you forget to do it, then we think you’re not, so we have to look for a way to contact you separately to find out. So please take a few minutes to let us know your status.
You can sign up for notifications (the first time) here. And you can edit your preferences here.
Oh, and please be sure you’re signed up for notifications for EVERY class your kids are taking—as well as for the Weather Closure category, and things like Movie Night and Talent Show (if you want those). The more we can be sure that everybody gets the posts they need, the easier life is for us all!

Homeschool Talent Show and Christmas Party. It’s still on for Monday, December 16! It’s not too late to sign up an act. Just contact me!

Movie Night. Movie Night is still on for Friday, December 20! We’re showing White Christmas. If you don’t already have plans for that night, please come join us and have some Christmas fun.

Classes Canceled for Monday 25 November

As many of you know, my Dad has been hanging on for many months now. I just got word, however, that he has finally breathed his last. So Kay and James and I will be heading to Florida for a few days, starting tomorrow, if possible. This means all our classes for tomorrow will be canceled.

It probably also has implications for our upcoming concerts, but I’ll wait a little bit before making those decisions, and will get back to you shortly about all that.


Quick Response Request for New Tuesday Courses

Parents, we published some possible Tuesday courses (for Spring) a couple of days ago, but so far, have heard very little. We know it’s late notice, and we apologize for that—but at the same time, if we’re going to move forward with any of it, we need to know sooner than later what enrollment to expect.

Please contact Jack Pelham ASAP, and by Wednesday, 27 November at the latest to express your interest in any of these classes. Please indicate the courses and the number of students for each. Otherwise, rather than trying to campaign until the beginning of next semester, we will simply withdraw the offer and keep our Mondays-only schedule for the remainder of this current school year.


Action Required: Spring Etiquette

Parents, I announced a (newly-invented) 2nd semester of our Etiquette Class, but haven’t yet heard back from more than a couple of parents. I need to plan that time slot quickly, one way or the other. If there is insufficient interest/availability, I’ll book another class in that slot. May I please hear from you all by Wednesday, 27 November whether you intend to enroll your students or not? (That is, please contact me either way so that I’m sure you’ve heard about the change.)



We, Montana! to Offer Tuesday Courses Starting January 2020

Having topped 80 enrollments this Fall, our schedule is bursting at the seams, and we’re going to experiment with some Tuesday course offerings for the Spring semester of 2020. (Our Monday schedule will stay the same, with the newly-invented 2nd semester of Etiquette Class to fill in the same time slot as in the Fall.)

See anything you like?

Before we open official registration for the Spring semester, we need to gauge public interest in the following possible course offerings. Please let us know as soon as possible if you’d like to enroll in any of the following:

Continue reading We, Montana! to Offer Tuesday Courses Starting January 2020

Talent Show & Christmas Party–16 December!

It’s time for our second mostly-monthly Homeschool Talent Show! This is not an auditioned show; see below for how to sign up an act. Several members of our Skits Workshop will be emceeing the event. We have a few acts signed up so far and will take as many as 20. Here are some examples of what we hope to see:

  • Singing (with or without accompaniment)
  • Instrumental music (with or without accompaniment)
  • Skits
  • Jokes
  • Readings
  • Demonstrations (such as martial arts, for example)
  • Juggling or similar feats of skill
  • Parent acts (because parents can be cool like that, too!)

This is a “Little Show”, which means it will be held in our Great Room, and will not require an audition. If you’d like to enter an act, contact us quickly as we have room for 20 total acts, and many of the slots are taken already.


Monday 16 December 2019

7:00-9:00 p.m.
(Those in an act should arrive at 6:30 for a brief orientation.)

The event will be held in the We, Montana! Great Room. If this is your first time coming, please plan to be a little early, as we will start the orientation promptly at 6:30 and the show promptly at 7:00.

Who may do an act?
Homeschool students and/or family members are eligible to participate. While we expect lots of students in solo acts, parents are also encouraged to get involved, whether doing a solo act or one with your family.

If you’ll be in an act, we ask that you dress a little fancier than you probably do ordinarily.

We have seating for 76 people and room for about 24 more than that. It would be a good idea to bring your own camp chairs or folding chairs in case we run out.

We have for your use:

  • A small stage, 12′ wide by 8′ deep.
  • A digital piano with keyboard amp.
  • An 8-channel PA system with three mics, a straight stand, and one boom stand.
  • One monitor speaker and two mains.

We’ll provide bottled water and paper goods. You bring whatever snacks you’d like to share after the show. Also bring whatever games you might like to play. And, of course, there will be Foosball. Stay as long as you like; the party’s over when the good conversations run out!

No, We’re not Crazy!
We know it’s Christmas time, and we’re sure that not everybody can make it, but we thought we’d put together an event for whomever happens to be available that night and is interested in having some fun. If you can’t come, we hope you have fun doing whatever it is you do instead of coming to our event!

To submit an act, please contact Jack Pelham.

Rehearsal Aids for The Oak and the Ash

Here are the parts for the older male singers. The first recording has both together. Then comes the Tenor and the Bass. Please rehearse with your music in hand until you have mastered the notes for your part, and have it memorized.

All Parts (2)

Rehearsal Aids for the Schubert Sanctus

Please be sure to read this page carefully, as it has lots of information. You’ll see 4 recordings of the parts first, then a recording of the lyrics pronunciation, and then a translation of the lyrics. Please practice your parts while looking at your sheet music and listening to the parts below. For example, if you’re a Soprano, sing and read the Soprano Only part until you have it down, and then read and sing the Soprano part while listening to the first recording (which has all three parts).


This is all three parts together (Soprano, Alto, Tenor)
This is the Soprano part only.
This is the Alto part only.
This is the Tenor (& Bass) part only.


This is me reading the lyrics in meter.

And here is a fairly literal English translation of the lyrics.

Heilig, Heilig, Heilig!
Holy, Holy, Holy!

Heilig ist der Herr!
Holy is the Lord!

Heilig, Heilig, Heilig!
Holy, Holy, Holy!

Heilg ist nur Er!
Holy is only He!

Er, der nie begonnen,
He, the not-begun,

Er, der immer war.
He, the always-was.

Ewig ist und waltet,
Forever is, and prevails.

Sein wird immerdar.
He will be forever.

Allmacht, Wunder Liebe,
Omnipotence, wonder, love,

Alles ringsumher.
Everything around.

Heilig, Heilig, Heilig!
Holy, Holy, Holy!

Heilig ist der Herr!
Holy is the Lord!

Upcoming Performances: Band, Chorus, Skits, (& General Music?)

Our semester-ending performances are quickly approaching. All events are in our Great Room. Here’s the schedule. And please note the invitation to the General Music class to sing three numbers for our Chorus concert!

Bands Family Night
Monday, 2 December, 2019. 7:00 PM
(Students arrive by 6:45 at the latest.)

This fun night will not be a typical “concert”, but a “family night” where the students’ families are invited to come see us in action in a rehearsal that’s quite close (in many ways) to our weekly routine. We want you to come see what the band experience is like so that you can better understand the process and the needs of the program. In particular, so that you can see what skills are needed to do well in band, and how crucial at-home practice is for keeping up in band class. We also want you to see just how much humor goes on, and how well we’re able to keep the rehearsals disciplined and orderly at the same time. Further, your younger kids—if they haven’t seen it already—can see what goes on, and can ponder whether they’d like to be in band someday, too.

Band members are encouraged to arrive at least 15 minutes early to find their places and to warm up. We’ll have seating for about 50 (in addition to the band members, who get dibs on the blue chairs). Please put some camp chairs in the car in case the crowd exceeds the available seating equipment!

Dress Code: While we had originally envisioned a typical concert with an all-black dress code, please note that this event calls for normal, everyday wear, such as students wear to class on a typical Monday.

SNACKS! Please bring snacks. (Paper goods and bottled water will be provided.) We’ll have snacks and visit afterward, and the foosball table will be open for play.

Chorus Concert (With a segment by the General Music Class?)
Tuesday, 3 December, 2019. 7:00 PM

(Chorus students arrive at 5:30, GM students at 6:30. House opens to the public at 6:30.)

General Music Segment. While it was not part of our original semester plan, we’d like to invite as many of the General Music Class students as are willing and available to take part in our chorus concert. You’ll open the show, singing three or four numbers that we’ve been singing in class, and maybe showing off some of your Solfege skills (Do-Re-Mi). We want your families to see what all you do in class, but we also want to give you the performance experience. So, parents, please let Mr. Pelham know in class on Monday whether your students are available to participate. GM students should arrive when the house opens to the public at 6:30. Dress is casual—whatever you would normally wear to GM class.

Chorus Segment. The chorus will perform a concert of some of the pieces we are preparing for a grand event next Spring. Chorus members should arrive at 5:30 for a warmup and final run-through. The house opens to the public at 6:30, and the concert begins promptly at 7:00.

SEATING. We’ll have about 75 seats available to the audience. Please toss a camp chair or two in the car in case that’s not enough!

As of Fall 2019, we have a dress code for our concerts, because we are cool like that! All chorus members are expected to dress in all black as follows:
Boys/Men: Black slacks. Black belt and black shoes. Black long-sleeve, button-down shirts.
Girls/Women: Black bottoms of modest length, whether slacks, skirts, or dresses. Modest black tops, long or short sleeve. Sequins or other sparklies are OK, provided they do not change the color from the basic black look. NOTE: Ballroom gowns are too fancy for this event, and would stick out. Meanwhile, cowboy boots and hats with all black are too un-fancy, and would stick out in the opposite way!

SNACKS! Please bring snacks. (Paper goods and bottled water will be provided.) We’ll have snacks and visit afterward, and the foosball table will be open for play.

Skits Night! Monday, 9 December 2019, 7:30-9:00 PM.
(Cast and Crew to arrive at 6:00 PM. House opens to the public at 7:00.)

This could quite possibly be the funnest teen performance you’ve ever seen. We have a troupe of 11, counting, cast, crew, director, and stage manager. We’re running lots of original material, with some moments borrowed from classic show biz. So prepare yourselves for a witty and hilarious experience as we make our debut performance!

SEATING. We’ll have seating for about 75, with room for another 30-or-so camp chairs. So please put a couple of camp chairs in your car in case we run out of seats.

SNACKS! Please bring snacks. (Paper goods and bottled water will be provided.) We’ll have snacks and visit afterward, and the foosball table will be open for play.

For this event, the entire cast will dress in all black as follows:
Men: Black slacks. Black belt and black shoes. Black long-sleeve, button-down shirts.
Women: Black slacks. Modest black tops, with long sleeves being preferable to short. Please avoid sequins or other sparklies.

We Have a New Web Host!

Please send us an email to let us know you got the notification for this post! jackpelham@wemontana.org

I apologize for all the email troubles of late—and the website being up and down. Can you say “Cheap hosting company?”

Well, I’m glad to report that wemontana.org is now hosted by Zee Creative of Billings, MT, where we know by experience that the site will run with high reliability—as will the emails.

For those who are subscribed to our various post categories, we hope you’ll start getting emails that were previously being blocked by your email or Internet providers—but it remains to be seen just how it will work in each case.

Would you please take a moment and send an email confirming that you received the email notification for this post? That will help us to know how well it’s working.



Movie Night: Sergeant York

This Friday—15 November, 2019, in honor of Veteran’s Day week.

Here’s the event on Facebook, in case you want to mark yourself as “Going”.

Our second Movie Night is in honor of Veteran’s Day week (though delayed, to show it on a Friday.) This is one of Jack’s favorite films–and for several reasons. It’s one of the most heartsy and thoughtful stories you’ll ever see about military service, and it’s great filmcraft, too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergeant_York_(film)

Gary Cooper snagged an Academy Award for his portrayal of Sgt. Alvin York, and Walter Brennan won for best supporting actor. The film is also widely considered to have been one of the best mixes of musical score and picture ever. This is a film your kids are not ever likely to see on TV, so it’s worth it to come watch it on purpose. It’s a captivating story that makes it a worthy example of a classic film.

Here’s the parental advisory blurb from imdb.com for this film, so you can determine whether it’s a good film for them to see. (My opinion is that it’s probably fine for most.):

“Depictions of WWI. Much shooting; men fall onto the ground. No blood is seen except for one scene where a man is shot in the face and a small trail of blood oozes from his mouth. A couple scenes of men fighting in a bar, punching each other in the face, and pushing each other into tables. “

Afterward, everyone is welcome to stay and play Foosball or any other games that you bring yourself, or simply to visit. Stay as late as you like. We mean it. Good friends. Good company.

Bring whatever snacks and non-alcoholic beverages you like. We’ll provide bottled water, coffee, tea (hot), and paper goods. We have a microwave for popcorn.

The movie starts promptly at 7:00. Don’t be late. The Great Room will be open at 6:30. We have school chairs and pews for 76 people. If you want to bring something more comfortable to sit in, do it! Also bring a blanket or throw–or some manner of pad if your kids would like to sprawl out on the floor.

(FYI, we’re hoping to have a movie night once a month or so. We’ll pick from Jack’s favorites, and you can count on our movies always being totally suitable for the family—although some may be better suited for younger ones than others. Please do plan, however, to keep any toddlers you bring well in-hand and orderly as we can’t have them running about during the evening.)

Here’s our location. Please read it carefully: http://wemontana.org/location/

Talent Show: October 11th!

We’re finally ready to have our first talent show! Several members of our Skits Workshop will be emceeing the event. We have several acts signed up so far and could use a few more. Here are some examples of what we hope to see:

  • Singing (with or without accompaniment)
  • Instrumental music (with or without accompaniment)
  • Skits
  • Jokes
  • Readings
  • Demonstrations (such as martial arts, for example)
  • Juggling or similar feats of skill

This is a “Little Show”, which means it will be held in our Great Room, and will not require an audition. If you’d like to enter an act, contact us quickly as we have room for 20 total acts, and many of the slots are taken already.


Friday, October 11, 2019

7:00-9:00 p.m.
(Those in an act should arrive at 6:30 for a brief orientation.)

The event will be held in the We, Montana! Great Room. If this is your first time coming, please plan to be a little early, as we will start the orientation promptly at 6:30 and the show promptly at 7:00.

Who may do an act?
Homeschool students and/or family members are eligible to participate. While we expect lots of students in solo acts, parents are also encouraged to get involved, whether doing a solo act or one with your family.

We’ll provide bottled water. You bring whatever snacks you’d like to eat after the show.

If you’ll be in an act, we ask that you dress a little fancier than you probably do ordinarily.

We have seating for 76 people and room for about 24 more than that. It would be a good idea to bring your own camp chairs or folding chairs in case we run out.

We have for your use:

  • A small stage
  • A digital piano
  • A PA system with one microphone and a mic stand with a boom.

To submit an act, please contact Jack Pelham.