I love/hate Alaska

Confession: I am South American.  I don’t do winter sports.  And I was raised swimming outdoors in ocean water every weekend.  As a result, Alaska isn’t “natural” for me.

img_1670I have this love/hate relationship with Alaska, as I think most people do who weren’t born and raised here.  It’s definitely not a ‘meh’ state.  It’s always going big or going home, in everything from sunlight (and lack thereof) to snow.  Winters are long and hard on my joints.  Summers are short and sunny even during midnight.  It’s very extreme.

And very beautiful.

One of the reasons why we have stayed as long as we have (and plan on staying) is the way homeschooling has just opened up doors for our family.  We have a family we could have never imagined.  We live in a way that feels almost fairy tale like.  And I’m so thankful!

img_1674Just a few Sundays ago we went on a homeschool fieldtrip organized by our charter school.  Drove three hours one way to sit on a boat for 5 hours, and do marine biology lessons and experiments.  And whale watching.  And sea lion watching.  And glacier watching.

It’s the part of Alaska you fall in love with, the views that leave you breathless.  The smell of rain and pine trees that I’m sure I would never smell in any other place.  It’s the big ocean and the big mountains all in one panoramic view.

Then there’s an almost unbelievable amount of homeschooling support in this state that has afforded us to be here.  Paid for by their school (and not my pocket).  Learning about our ecosystem and being surrounded by kids just as interested and curious as my children.

img_1688My children (and I) learned:

  • Alaska (south of the Arctic circle) is indeed a rainforest.
  • We are so rich in phytoplankton that it is visible in our waters from outer space.
  • Alaska is the final frontier to many species of pelagic birds – birds that can swim and fly.  These birds have dense bones to help them really fly underwater but can still get airborne.
  • Marine mammals have had multiple adaptations which help them survive in these cold waters.
  • The tail of a humpback whale is worked by a muscle called a peduncle.  It is so powerful that in two swipes it will get a whale completely out of the water and into the air.  That’s 66,000 lbs!
  • Otters have such lose fur that they can literally grab their back, bring it in front of them for grooming, and put it back.

img_1690My kids got to look at and identify plankton under a microscope that they caught in the bay.  And they learned a lot about how unique our state is, the state I’m learning to fall in love with after all these years.

We also went outside and learned how to spot humpback whales by watching the patterns of the birds that feed around them.  We came to understand their behavior and know when they were going to dive for a long time.

How many people in the world could honestly say they’ve seen a humpback whale?

We also spotted sea lions resting on rocks to conserve their energy.  And so many birds.

img_1730I can get tired of the long, dark winters… but I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of exploring the beauties of this place with my children and seeing the wonder in their eyes.  When you are in front of such big wildlife, you are more aware of how small you are in comparison to the rest of creation – and more in awe that God loves you THAT much.

 

My Hero Academia

Confession: I grew up with Anime (dubbed into Spanish. Yikes) and with few exceptions, I wasn’t really a fan. 

** Disclaimer: None of these images are mine.  I don’t draw that well. I don’t own them nor do I have the copyrights to them.**

heidiI was four years old when I watched my first anime, “Heidi” – yes, based on the novel of the Swedish orphan?  That was like my soap opera.  And I grew up with cousins that were really into Dragonball Z, and Sailor Moon, and I preferred Dragonball.  And then there was the Pokemon craze which I lost interest in after Pokemon #152.

My husband and kids are more into it than I am.  Once Dragonball Super finished my kids were looking into all the wonderful possibilities (and some of them were even dubbed in English!). I got involved to step up my parental controls.

Out of left field comes an anime that inspires us, makes us laugh, keeps us hanging at the edge of our seat!  I geek out over My Hero Academia, but I’m going to give you the parental review and not from a fandom perspective.

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The premise is that humanity has evolved where 80% of the population has meta-powers or “quirks” (not all that different from Marvel or DC comics).  This has changed regulations and laws as villains arose that could do things which had never been done before.  Because the police is maintaining it’s integrity in handling suspects, “Heroes” have stepped in and used their quirk to help apprehend (and that’s the key) villains and save mankind from the catastrophes that this ensues.

kachanEnter Izuku Midoria, a young boy in middle school.  In a world where he is bullied by kids with amazing superhuman abilities, he has none.  Completely quirkless.  But all he has ever dreamed of being is a hero like All-Might, the man he looks up to.

In a chance encounter Izuku meets All-Might and impresses him with his hero potential, not in his physical ability but in the condition of his heart, which gets Izuku a quirk and the best mentor in the hero world – and admission to the elite high school where super heroes are trained.  Here Izuku needs to learn not only how to use his quirk power but also the power in himself to be a hero by doing the right thing.

all mightThree seasons into it we are waiting for every episode.  I love and have had MULTIPLE devotions where we parallel Scripture to what we see!  As we see qualities in Izuku that Christ Himself has shown us to be the supreme example of (sacrifice, love, and compassion) we can’t help but cheer him on.  Along him come a whole crew of characters who are also navigating this personal growth and you can’t help but fall in love with them.  It is very well written!

studentsI personally LOVE how male to female relationships among high-schoolers are portrayed.  There’s a lot of respect, it’s innocent, and not dating centered –  as it should be.  There is the exception in one of the characters but it’s painfully obvious how this one dude is not with the program and when he’s inappropriate, it’s not funny.  It’s frowned upon.  Overall you see a crowd of peers that learn to work together the way I would hope my kids work with other kids at that age.  In the midst of teenagers, hormones, and crushes it’s very refreshing to see a series where boys and girls develop healthy, normal friendships.

That being said, there are some themes that may cause you to pass on this or watch episodes ahead and see if it’s for your child.  Although in my opinion, it’s not all that different than watching The Flash on the CW and definitely WORLDS better than anything on Cartoon Network, so here we go:
– Some females are overly sexualized in their costumes.  It was a character development decision that was thought through and justified (the way you would justify a woman in a bathing suit because she swims, but really wouldn’t expect her in a bikini top at school).
– In season 2, they get into the back story of one character that features an abusive father and the trauma that it brings about in his mother, which may be a bit too dark for younger kids.
– The villains are scary.  Scary the way Killgrave was scary in Jessica Jones; not because they’re monsters but because they are psychopaths.
– Season 3 episode 2 is not for kids.

Overall, I would say it’s for kids 10 and up with some episodes skipped, but with open communication I know of kids as young as 4 watching it with their parents.  And I think that’s what matters the most, to be honest.  What kind of dialogue do you have with your kids on the things they are watching?

Do The Hard Things

Confession: It’s been really nice being on summer break.  I’ve had three days of uninterrupted, unlimited Bible study.  And snuggles.  And coffee that is still hot when I drink it!

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This is my runfie.  This is the hot mess I look like running 2 miles in 50F.

I finished calculating grades and putting together progress reports on Monday and since then I feel like I have nothing to do.  Everything for AK Exploring Studies is submitted and I’m just waiting on the Anchorage School District to get back to me.  There is nothing left for me to do but wait and rest and recover.

And in all this resting, my Bible reading and my devotionals have all been revolving around one common theme: Do the hard thing.

It doesn’t take a neurologist to see that we are creatures of habit (ok, maybe it actually does, but just follow me here for a moment).  We will always do that which we have always done – we will react the same way we reacted last time, we will drive down the same routes we drove down yesterday…  And this is what makes weight loss so painfully difficult!  If you crave salt and vinegar chips when you are stressed and you give in today, you will crave and possibly give in tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

Which is why Paul the apostle told us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to win the prize.  Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything.  However they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away.

Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air.  Instead I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

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My daughter did a triathlon and I did the run part with her AND my youngest.

Bringing your body under strict control is not fun.  It’s hard.  But it’s the hard things that lead to the life God really envisioned for you!  We weren’t created to cruise on autopilot until we reach eternity.  We are told to do this life as if we were in the Olympics, going for the gold.  What does that look like?

  • Reading your Bible before reading your Facebook feed.
  • Putting away all the electronics and playing a board game with your kids.
  • Fasting and praying through decisions instead of making them on a whim.
  • Eating the handful of snap peas instead of the chocolate chip cookies.
  • Going for a run when you’d rather watch TV all day.
  • Listening to your spouse with the intention of understanding, instead of thinking of what you are going to respond because you are angry.
  • Working with your kid on a chore and guiding him until he gets it instead of just taking over and doing it yourself.
  • Bathing your own dog instead of paying someone else to do it when the money is tight.
  • Cutting out foods from your diet that cause inflammation if you are struggling with auto-immune issues!
  • Cutting cable when funds are tight or the family is on a spiritual low.

The hard things are not fun things.  But they are good things.  We know that doing the hard things now will plant seeds of victory that we will harvest later in the future.

img_1652My husband just went back to school.  He was faced with two options: Be a 40 year old C.M.A. or a 40 year old P.A.  It will take him that long to get there anyways and the time will pass either way.  But his career may be completely different if we all choose to do the hard thing now.

The good thing is that the hard things become easy things once they are a habit.  The tough part is making the decision to do it.  After doing it enough times, it won’t be an active decision to wrestle with any more, it will be a normal part of your life.  And that’s where it gets awesome!  Your mind, body and soul will be that much in tune with making the right choice the more we consistently do so when it is the hardest.

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Learning That Looks Different

I can imagine that to outsiders looking in, my Instagram feed looks strange.  What we consider homeschooling doesn’t look like schooling at all.  Where are the text books? Where are the worksheets?  And how is going to the gun range “schooling” at all?

The whole gun range rant is for another post.

But in essence, the truth is: If I wanted to recreate “school” at home I may as well send them to school and save me the trouble.

If “school” was producing such great results, with amazing prodigies in science, sports, and art, our education would rank higher than that of other countries, and our college graduates a much more formidable force in the competitive labor market across the world.  But it doesn’t.

I’m not saying that there aren’t children who do absolutely amazing in public school – because there are.  However, I would argue that succeeding at Public School is not necessarily equivalent with being a successful individual.

So in my personal experience, I need to determine what would my child look like as a successful individual, and work my way backwards from there.  And here is my flow chart:

  1. Being uninhibited in kindness and compassion is a big priority for my children.  They are very tenderhearted, and I don’t want them to be “toughened up” by bullying.  I don’t want them to learn through peer influence and unsupervised socialization to be callous, or rude.  As a result, at this time public school is not the best choice for them.
  2. My kids are argumentative and struggle with submitting to authority.  There is (believe it or  not) a benefit to this: they don’t accept any information at face value.  Everything is questioned, researched, debated… from a history lesson to the chore of washing dishes.  If I want the learning to be meaningful, they would benefit best from a Socratic approach to learning.  And that’s just not a style of learning in most public or private schools.
  3. Creativity helps my children de-stress.  It’s also how they express themselves.  I’m sure there may be a charter school that would allow them to turn in their report in Manga form *somewhere*, but I haven’t found it.
  4. There are learning disabilities to consider!  My kids aren’t behind as a result of ADHD but I also know that the way I work with them at home has helped them to not be handicapped by this condition.  They can stand on their heads, pace back and forth, bounce a ball, and overall wiggle their way through all their learning assignments without being reprimanded for the inconvenience it would cause to the class.  Homeschooling for the win!
  5. A strong family unit is by far the most influential and beneficial factor I could give my children.  I don’t know whether they’ll be doctors or game programmers, but I know that they will grow up and be in relationships, get married and have children of their own (possibly).  And regardless of what they do as a profession, they need to learn how to love their children and their spouses.  Research shows they learn that from experiencing it at home, and I don’t think a few hours around the dinner table is enough.

Am I a helicopter parent? A little bit.  But there is science to back up that a happy heart leads to a smarter mind.  Looking at each child as a unique individual and helping them feel joyful means that they will retain more of what they learn and *gasp* develop a LOVE for learning.  Not learning for passing the test sake.  Not learning for passing the class sake.  Learning because knowledge is worth acquiring.

This is why homeschooling looks different in every home, and it varies within the home from school year to school year.  It’s fluid and organic as the students themselves.  And it will provide very different results from what you might have experienced in other children.  That’s the point.