Saturday, December 19, 2015

Update on the wisemen

Well...the other day the wisemen misplaced the gifts for Jesus and were searching for the frankencense and myrhh in the spice cabinet. 

Then Quank was trying to explain the benefit of going by massive dog. They aren't quite convinced yet so we'll have to see what they do. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

An Autonomous Experiment

Life.  What is it supposed to look like?  All the many facets of experiences create a different life for each person.  Like stained glass, each experience is soldered together to create a unique picture of life, some magnificently beautiful, others dark and tragic and still others mediocre and common.  Jesus, in John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” In my mind, an abundant life would be a stained glass that not only was a joy to piece together, but also ends with a picture so brilliant and steeped in the colors of God’s love and mercy that people look and say “I want my picture to look like that!"
4+1 equals 5

When we first started homeschooling, there were lots of reasons why we wanted to not sign onto the experience of public schools.  We had encountered and seen the direction that schools were heading and didn’t want our children rendered in that manner.  No matter the reason’s behind our decision, I knew that I wanted our children’s childhood to be abundant in joy, learning, love and hope.  I wanted them to find the thrill of learning.  I wanted them to be inspired to go beyond a picture of mediocre and common to the magnificently beautiful.  I’m not talking about raising the next Einstein or Doogie Howser.  I’m talking about discovering the pieces of life that God has for them that creates the life abundant in joy, love, peace and mercy, whether that’s as a mechanic or a ground-breaking marine biologist.
Not a rectangle but an isosceles triangle
Once Tucker was old enough to start Kindergarten, I was incredibly excited to start this homeschooling thing.  I couldn’t wait to emulate all those wonderful homeschoolers that seemed to have everything together.  I choose a curriculum that was based on picture books that incorporated all the subjects one was supposed to include. About halfway through the first semester, my image of homeschooling quickly disintegrated.  I stressed about all the points he was supposed to be learning, but wasn’t.  I stressed about how he wasn’t getting this reading thing down.  I mean, come on, it’s so easy.  I love reading, so he shouldn’t have such a hard time picking it up.  I’d get frustrated when he would lose all interest and focus after one or two activities.  All he wanted to do was play, and I couldn’t blame him!  All I wanted to do was play, too.
Lots of great reading

Deciding it must be the curriculum, for 1st grade I chose a different curriculum, started the year with enthusiasm and petered out about November.  Then I’d start the process of finding a new curriculum for the next year while struggling to complete all the necessary work in the current year.  And the cycle continued each year.  It was such a let down.  I must be horrible at this if I can’t get my kid to get with the program and enjoy this learning business.  Seriously, everything we tried, while based on the traditional school system, was so much more interesting and fun than I ever had in school.  Why couldn't my kids see that?

I can’t remember if it was the end of first grade or the beginning of second that I stumbled across a video on the Sudbury Valley School and this movement within homeschooling that was different from anything I’d ever heard.  Yet as I watched and read, I was intrigued and drawn to a lifestyle of learning that seemed so natural and compelling.  But this couldn’t work in real life.  Even if it worked, I was not strong enough to take the criticism that would surely come from this approach to learning.  We live in a very homeschool-oriented area, so surely we can figure out something that makes both the kids and me happy.  So we continued the cycle.
Tucker getting help from daddy to finish his plane.

This year started the same as always, a new curriculum I was hopeful for, Tucker in 4th grade, Titus in 1st and me geared up to make school as interesting as possible.  It started out all well and good, but burn out started even earlier than normal.  Tucker was fighting every other minute, crying, whining and getting frustrated.  Titus, the kid who is so easy going, was starting to have the same revulsion that Tucker had acquired for learning.  Our days were full of yelling, threats, crying, opposition, then avoidance.  We’d struggle through the schoolwork with me vacillating between fake enthusiasm or threaten coercion, then practically avoiding each other because we were all so unhappy with each other, we didn’t want to be with each other.  My frustration would spill into the rest of the day, making life tense.  It was exhausting.  It was hopeless.  It was heartbreaking.  This is not how I wanted my children’s childhood to be.  This is not how I wanted our family relationships and dynamics to be.  But what were my options?  I’d already tried so many curriculums and schooling philosophies that I couldn’t see anything as the answer anymore.

On November 24th I read an article that made the lightbulb go on.  It was an article on the deficiency of play children are suffering today and lo and behold, Sudbury Valley was mentioned in it again. I decided that I would give this whole autonomous/unschooling thing a closer look.  I searched and read article after article and surfed blog after blog and prayed and scoured the Bible trying to reconcile the basis of the philosophy with my own beliefs.  Could my kids learn the things they will need for the path they will eventually choose?  Could they find the joy in learning I so desired for them?  My research showed a resounding yes.  But would I be able to suffer the image and criticism?  For the sake of my children and our family, a resounding yes.
Dot-to-dot meant for adults

So I sat Stretch down, showed him research I’d done, talked to him about what I was thinking, then talked some more…and more, and decided that we would do an experiment.  For the next six months, we are going to allow the children the freedom to choose what they want to do.  We are not going to follow any curriculum, any schedule, any list of musts.  We are just going to let the kids explore and discover and play on their own terms.  Does this mean we will be letting them become spoiled, horrible brats?  No, we are hoping they will start to become the people that God made them to be, not the cookie cutter version that society thinks we should be.  Will it ruin their entire lives if we take six months off to repair our family and find a learning lifestyle that fits them?  I seriously doubt it.  Even if at the end of this experiment we feel we should go back to traditional schooling, it is not going to put them so far behind they won’t catch up.
How we love our board games.

Yet, if this experiment works, we will be moving towards a layering of facets that could lead to that magnificent masterpiece of life.  We’d be moving away from the cycle of frustration and disappointment, away from the mediocre and common.  We’d be moving away from a learning style that had been stealing, killing and destroying the joy and peace of our family. If the only thing this experiment does is strengthen our family in love, joy, trust and peace and moves us toward an abundant life, I’d throw all worksheets and quizzes away forever, unless a child wants to do one, of course.  

To make sure this experiment is well informed, I’ve decided to just jot down the things I observe them learning.  I need to know, at the end of these six months if they are truly learning in order to move from a theory to fact, at least for our family.  My observations so far have me very hopeful.  So for anyone who is interested, here are a few of the things we’ve learned the last three weeks without school.
What!?  I get to pick what interests me!!?

Math:  Sadie said she needed one more olive after I only gave her four.  Why?  Because she has five fingers and four plus one is five, of course.  Tucker and Titus wanted their sandwiches cut into isosceles triangles, rather than rectangles, which they learned while playing DragonBox.  The boys bought drinks at the coffee shop with their own money. Sadie counted my felt flowers up to 20.  Tucker, Titus and Sadie wanted to buy a toy at the store today, but after counting and recounting, looking and searching, they couldn’t find anything they could get for $1.09.  Guess they learned that a buck won’t get you much anymore.  I told them that it was better this way, because every penny they save instead of spend on a junk toy is a penny closer to getting their dirt bike in the spring. We looked up how far it is from Babylon to Bethlehem, converted the number from kilometers to miles then calculated how long it would take you to walk it if you walked continually, 12 hours a day and 8 hours a day. Titus counted to 99 as he did his karate kicks.  Sadie measured ingredients and counted.  She helped me convert measurements from cups to ounces, then pretended she was doing the same later.  While she was tearing foil, she suddenly got excited because she tore a triangle.  “Look, Mama!  It’s an iso…iso…what kind of triangle?”  “Is it an isosceles triangle?”  “Yep, it’s an isosceles triangle.”  She played DragonBox 5+ and was doing algebraic equations, which I didn’t even realize she knew how to play that game.  “Look, Mama!  I can do it!”  “Wow!  That’s incredible!”  She sang several skip counting songs with the computer and knew all the words!  The boys raced to the skip counting songs.  They each started dot-to-dot pages in the book for adults that I got at Barnes.  “Mama,”  Tucker said, “this book says it’s for adults!!”  “Yep, but you guys don’t seem to be having a problem doing it.”  “Cool!  I can’t wait to see what it is!”  We talked about tearing the paper towels into fourths and thirds.  After building his sandwich, Titus wanted me to cut it into an isosceles triangle.  Tucker explained to Sadie how she needs to calculate her next level of algebra in DragonBox.  Measurements in the lengths of jumps and heights of balls for Native Youth Olympics.  Greater and lesser in the comparisons of the lengths.  Economics when I gave them money for the concessions and they had to spend it wisely.
Titus' leaf man house.

Language Arts:  Read books from the library.  Sadie ‘read' Baby’s First 100 Words. The boys read lots of great books.  We wrote letters and cards to send out.  
Social Studies/History:  Learned about the judicial system after I was called for emergency jury duty that I declined. We then spent a little time later today talking about where scholars believe the wise men came from and how Babylon (which no longer exists) was located around 60 miles from Baghdad, Iraq.  We discussed climate and terrain, what it would be like to travel across the desert and Tucker asked about if there were ruins of Babylon. We discussed building possibilities for teeny homes in the woods.  How are we going to put a roof on?  What kind of heating source will they have?  How many windows should there be?  We learned about the native culture through the meaning and purpose behind the Native Youth Olympics.
Sadie's fairy house.

Science:  Watched videos about hermit crabs and other crabby sea life. Kids watched the specials on the Epic movie, which we surprisingly haven’t ever watched, and learned about how animals and bugs camouflage in their environment.  We chatted about the energy force that Dr. Octopus created in Spiderman 2 and how it’s similar to our sun.  We talked about gravity and magnetism and how creating a sustainable energy source would benefit the world.  We also discussed how one might be able to use robotic prosthetics that communicate with your body by being connected to your nervous system.  Very enjoyable talks.   The boys during co-op were studying snowflakes through the loupe and recording a representation of them on their paper.  Titus enjoyed it so much he stayed outside longer than anyone else.  It was so ‘cool’ having all of us squinting over the paper, looking at how amazing God’s design is.  Great mammal videos in the 90-minute drive to Northway and back both days.  Amazingly insightful discussion on evolution theory versus creation, what and why scientists don’t believe in the truth and how we can trust that God’s truth and timeline is true and the millions year old myth isn’t.  How we need Christian scientists to show through scientific exploration the magnificence of God through HIs creation.  The boys learned physics through the different NYO events and the angles, force and balance needed to perform them.  Observed the Northern Lights on the way home the first day.

Art: Made masks out of scrap paper.  Created fairy houses.  Made cut-out cards.

PE: They ran crazy back and forth while singing their skip counting songs (which I guess would go under math).  They attempted to do karate after watching Karate Kid.  The boys hauled wood, pretending they were in a battle and needed to gather wood to help defeat the enemy.  

Home Ec: Sadie helped me make Jello Jigglers and wash the dishes.  She becoming such a good helper in the kitchen and its truly a blessing seeing her gain more and more new skills.

This list isnt exhaustive, just a smattering.  So, Im hopeful, for the first time in a long while.

Links Ive found insightful:  - Sudbury Valley’s website  -  The lovely Sue Elvis’ website on unschooling. Great information by a wonderful woman I’d go all the way to Australia just to visit.   -  One of my favorite websites.  Cathy puts into words my feelings on so many subjects much more eloquently than I ever could.

Just in case you think I'm's a sweet picture to soften you up!
Until next time, God bless!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Water...very important on a desert trip

The wisemen are packing up and getting ready to go. Of course, since most of their trip is across desert, they know the importance of bringing water. Since Tok water is the best and they don't want to have to pull a Bear Grylls if they run out, they are bringing extra big bottles. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Security Detail and a Shooting Competetion

So the three wiremen were sick the last two days with the flu (well...actually I was dealing with kids with the flu, so the wisemen therefore were staying put, sick in bed as well).  Today they are feeling much better and decided that they needed to interview people for their security detail for the trip.  In good Alaskan fashion, they have set up a shooting competition to chose in the difficult terrain of Mount Boyzclothes.  So far, the competition is close, since all participants are fairly even in ability.  With much discussion, they've decided to go ahead and hire them all.
The competition is fierce.

These boys are serious!

The targets, various fake animals for reality sake, are in difficult locations.

The Side Journey and Native Youth Olympics

Friday the wise men took a little side journey to go watch Tucker compete in a preliminary round of the Native Youth Olympics.  They snuck into the diaper bag and were peaking out every now and then.  Titus caught them one time and exclaimed, "Hey!  Where'd they come from?  I didn't see them when I was digging in there earlier!"'s fun to keep these kids on their toes.

And speaking of staying on their toes...Tucker was able to compete in Native Youth Olympics (visit their website here for more details).  This was such an incredible opportunity to not only learn more about the culture around us, but for Tucker to stretch his physical and emotional abilities.  We hadn't heard much about these games, just the passing it's happening every year.  Not being Alaskan Native, we figured we'd just be in the bleachers watching.  However, the possibility to compete got thrown out there a couple of weeks ago during our homeschool PE class.  Then Wednesday the official was at Tok school teaching kids about the Olympics during their PE classes, and, voila, Thursday we were making the 60 mile trip down the highway to the Northway village so Tucker could participate.  We made sure to discuss that this year was a reconnaissance year, gathering information and techniques since we know absolutely nothing, so if he doesn't do all that well, he needs to remain positive and have good sportsmanship.  Then we'll come home with all the data we compiled and get to practicing for next year.  I felt this was very important for my Tucker to understand, especially since he'd be competing with kids 3 years older than him.  He has a competitive streak, for sure, but he's also very hard on himself when he can't get something.  He gets incredibly frustrated and would rather not try or half-heartedly try than to fail.  With this mindset in place, he did awesome.
Kneel Jump...One,
Thursday was all afternoon and evening.  Tucker went all in, signing up for every event that came up.  The day started off with the Kneel Jump, which he did very well in.  Eskimo Stick Pull and Alaskan High Kick also was done on Thursday.  One event I was completely surprised that he did very well in was the Wrist Carry, or what I call...Torture.  Seriously, my wrist was hurting after watching this event.  The evening ended with the Scissor Broad Jump, which is a complicated coordinated series of jumps from two feet to one then crossing behind with the other and finally landing on the first foot.  It doesn't seem like it'd be that hard, but the crossing behind kind of throws you off.  Tucker did pretty good in this one, though his technique will get much improved with practice.
Wrist one wrist...torture!


Alaskan High Kick
Scissor Broad Jump

Friday was a shorter day starting at 8:30 (yes, we had to leave at 7 to get there on time) and ending at around 2.  Indian Stick Pull, One Hand Reach, One-Foot High Kick, and Seal Hop were the events of the day.  I was surprised how well Tucker held his own on the stick pull when he was put against boys much bigger than he is.  Though he lost, I was so proud of him when I could see his frustration in the tears in his eyes, but he pulled it together and continued on.  The One-Foot High Kick, which is very difficult had Tucker putting his all into it.  On his last turn, he kicked so hard and jumped so high that he's landing had him on his backside.  I made sure to let him know that when doing something, it's better to crash, knowing you pushed yourself beyond what you could do at the moment, than to play it safe and not.  Because how are we to truly know what we are capable of if we don't stretch ourselves!?  The Seal Hop was the most frustrating for Tucker.  With the older boys going quite a bit further than him, his seven feet or so, pushed him over the frustration wall and having a few tears fall.  Though when I pointed out that some kids didn't even make it off the line and he made it much farther than I ever could make it, he realized he hadn't done that bad.  Plus the reminder that the other boys were at least one if not two years older that he is solidified his accomplishment.
One-Foot High Kick 

Seal Hop

Overall, it was a pretty good competition for Tucker.  There was a young gentleman from Dot Lake who was amazing at all of the events.  Everyone was in awe while watching this kid push himself to kick higher, reach higher, everything -er than thought imaginable.  When we got in the car to drive home, we were talking about this teen and I mentioned to Tucker that his principal told me he practices all the time.  That he pushes through the pain and is always practicing focusing himself to get the it done.  When we got about 3/4 of the way home Tucker started asking about ways we could set up some of the events for practicing and if he practiced about an hour a day, would that get him in the direction that the Dot Lake guy was?  So I think he might be hooked!
Borealis on the way home...spectacular!!!
Until next time...God Bless!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Test running new products is vital

Last night the wisemen did an extremely important test run of the new sleeping bags they got for the journey. They all were nice and toasty, though Quank wasn't too happy that the store only had pink camo.
We had another busy day today.  Our day started off with homeschool co-op, where we made fairy houses (well Titus made a Leafman house). Then after Stretch saved me from locking the keys in the car, we hustled over the Northway about 60 miles away to catch up to and watch Tucker in the pre-preliminaries for Native Youth Olympics. I'll post pictures tomorrow after he is all done. For now, I'm going to bed!  Good night!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Snack time...

The wisemen got hungry and decided to grab a snack. You know, studying and trip planning is hard work!!  Coincidently, they like GoGurts as much as the kids do!!  Sadie's reaction was classic..."Aaah! What are they doing in the fridge!!!"

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Let's not forget anything...

The wise men were very busy this morning making up a packing list. What exactly would you need for a 3-month one way trip?  Tucker thought bug spray and sunscreen was funny....yet probably really needed!

Today was a busy day making chili cheesecake and gluten free pumpkin bars (recipes to follow) for my homemakers' party, cutting, foiling & taping and mâchéing fairy houses for our homeschool co-op, and getting birthday presents ready for the kids party tonight. Phew!  Busy day!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Travelocity....option or no?

After pouring over the maps yesterday, Josef, Rocky and Quank decided they should maybe look into a quicker, more convenient way to travel. Since Travelocity has that adorable gnome (that little guy just cracks Quank up!), they hopped online. Surprisingly, there's no commercial flights showing out of Baghdad!

What was great about this was the first thing that Tucker said this morning was "They didn't have planes!!"  We then spent a little time later today talking about where scholars believe the wise men came from and how Babylon (which no longer exists) was located around 60 miles from Baghdad, Iraq.  We discussed climate and terrain, what it would be like to travel across the desert and Tucker asked about if there were ruins of Babylon.  We looked up how far it is from Babylon to Bethlehem, converted the number from kilometers to miles then calculated how long it would take you to walk it if you walked continually, 12 hours a day and 8 hours a day.  It was then we understood why the gentlemen were scoping out Travelocity.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Good map skills needed

Good map skills are a must when you go on any journey. The wise men are figuring out the best route possible. The first thing Tucker said this morning was, "wow! They're figuring out how to get to Bethlehem!"
On another note: we are round tripping it to Fairbanks today, and this was the sunrise behind us at 9:43 this morning. (To those "outside"--i.e. In the lower 48, round tripping is doing the 4-hour one way road trip to Fairbanks and back for intense shopping....all in one day. Not the funniest, but a reality of Alaskan bush living)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The importance of cross referencing-- 3 wise men

Today the wise men are cross referencing what they are studying and see in the sky out the window and what has been prophesied in Scripture. Very important work if they want to get it right!!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Three wise men get names

So I let each kid name a wise men and here's what they came up with. Titus named his Josef.  Sadie named her's Rocky.  Tucker named his Quank.  Today they went to their library to get books to research where they need to go. 

A Traditional Alternative to Elf on the Shelf

Meet the three wise men.  Maybe the kids should name them.
I believe some might call me a bahumbug parent or worse, big ol' meany pants.  And while I'd be upset, I'd understand.  You see...we've never had a visit from Santa at our house.  I know!  Horrible Mom Award goes to....drum!  We do have our reasons, and it's not just to deprive our children.  The hubby and I decided when Tucker was born that we wanted the focus of Christmas to be on Christ and not to be distracted from the purpose we celebrate at all on the 25th of December.  So Santa has never visited. When we watched movies with Santa in them and were asked, we just would say he's make-believe and a fun story.  They even get pictures with Santa, but they know he's not real.  The kids, from what we've seen, haven't missed out on anything.  They still get presents under the tree.  They still get stockings filled in the morning.  They just know who they came from.

Cut, separated and ready to sew!
So when the elf on the shelf started popping up a few years ago, I didn't really notice all that much beyond the fact that he's a little creepy looking.  However, I'm starting to see more and more of this elf in Facebook and Pinterest, and quite honestly, it's a little heartbreaking.  I mean, we already are conditioned to start shopping and planning for the season early.  This year there were Christmas decorations up in the stores in the beginning of October!  October!!  The anticipation and celebration of the birth of the world's Savior is being drawn out and minimized by all the fluff and stuff and worldly materialistic views that now demand to be front and center.  And a little elf that is keeping tabs on our kids, making their focus be on their reward for good behavior when Santa comes just adds another distraction.
Glueing the pieces...however I ended up sewing them later.  Glue didn't work.

So...when posts of what the elf was doing started flooding the internet on Tuesday, I decided I'd make a way to build anticipation in our home for the birth of the Christ Jesus and draw our focus to Him, rather than ourselves.  How?  By following the three wise men on their journey to find the King.  Two years ago I wrote a post about an idea my grandma had given me about having the wise men travel across the room to the nativity scene throughout the month, which ended up being a pretty fun way to show the journey they made.  Tuesday a lightbulb moment happened when I thought--Let's take that great idea, mix it with the elf idea and have the wise men journeying to the Savior with the kids waking up to see what they are doing on their journey.  Since all my nativity scenes are glass and I wanted these playable, I got out my felt and fabric stash and went to work.  I downloaded a very cute nativity pattern from DoSmallThingsWLove over at Etsy.  You can get that here.  Obviously, with a baby and 3-year-old and everything else going on, I wasn't the quickest getting them together (two days isn't too bad!).  But now they are ready for their journey.  Now I just need to make my order to Felt on the Fly for more felt to finish the rest of the nativity!
Sadie approves...though she thinks he needs eyes.

Waiting on the other guy
This morning when the kids woke up, two of them were waiting impatiently by the clock because the other was late, like always!  (Well, really he just wasn't sewn together, but I couldn't wait any longer!)  What will they be up to in the morning?  I don't know!   You'll have to come back to see.