Friday, August 28, 2015

Old Plastic Bags: New Cushions

First, put on your safety glasses..
Even a 2-year old can learn to use tools!
 I was inspired by another blog author who had used old plastic grocery bags to stuff an outdoor cushion.... I am sorry that I can't remember where I'd read it. 

And when they're 16, they'll be a pro!
 You can see that we just pushed lots of sacks into one sack and tied it off.  Then we kind of shaped and pushed and fluffed it until it looked like a circular cushion.  Sacks are free, foam is expensive.  We saved a lot and made some good memories too. 
We also covered the fabric with a medium weight vinyl for easy clean up.  If I'd done that with the first stools, I wouldn't have been recovering for the 2nd time!
Pounding in a few stubborn staples...

Beautiful new cushions!
I love the fabric of the old ones... but so full of leftover meals and an accident... or two
My newly organized craft and school supplies location...

My second grader enjoying a stamp project...
This was a fun project for several different age groups.  This is my biggest challenge as a Mother... learning how to shift gears between the different levels.  When I do a project, I try to include some or all of them in some way, allowing them to work on a skill suited to their level.

So for this project, my 7 year old pulled staples with several different tools while her 2 year old sister, with my supervision, thumb printed a little girl with stamps.  I let her cut a little piece of scrap fabric for the dress.  Little ones just want to be in on the action and feel apart of a project even if it's not directly related.  BUT... she wanted to pull staples like big sister so I let her climb up and try out all the tools.  I named each one and she repeated after me, so much for shapes, those are rather boring compared to real tools! 

She actually squealed with delight when she was able to work a loose one out.  Then my oldest boy stapled while I pulled the fabric and vinyl tight, as well as screwed the stool top back together.  Everyone visited, laughed and had a good time, pretty good for a teenager, a grade schooler and a toddler.  I felt successful that afternoon.... now pick another afternoon.... maybe not so much depending on who's had a melt down or what manner of mess or messes have been left behind...

I enjoy the challenge and making memories with purpose, not just entertainment.  We're so entertainment driven as a society that I find myself purposefully saying no to a movie or computer game in lieu of a work or art project.  Everyone seems happier and more fulfilled to be creatively engaged in this manner.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Education happens. Got Books?

You may be wondering why I've posted such hideous pictures of my home? Read on...

Study session interrupted...

Home-ec class ended...
That is a 3lb can of peanut butter in the background just in case you're wondering... I know it looks like paint, but we can eat a lot of peanut butter.
Tornado through bedroom....

Fireball and older Brother enjoying relaxation time...
In the name of Showing How.... I wanted to be real.  My house is rarely clean nor tidy.  It is functional and has a lived in look.  Oh, that's because we do live here!  The hardest part of homeschooling for me is living in a house that always has a mess in some corner or..... corners. 

I realize I have a choice to look at things with admiration and joy or with negativity and frustration.  I can look at all those messes and complain or be happy that people are studying, reading, experimenting, baking, building, and creating.  AND all those things make messes.  All I really have to do is teach them HOW to clean up after themselves.....

Now, that would be a great course title, "How to Clean Up After Yourself 101"  Probably we could all use a refresher course in that...

We are officially starting school next week so this week is finishing up the last of the planning.  I found a great site with loads of printables.

Also, I am using a great book called, "Home School, High School, and Beyond:  A Guide for Teens and Their Parents."  It is a "time management, career exploration, organization, and study skills course."  It all sounds rather complicated, but it's not.  It's written by Beverly Adams-Gordon.

There is a lot of course planning/record keeping sheets, experience records, and creative solutions to documenting real life studies as well as formal textbook style learning.  The older kids are looking forward to using this and so am I.  When someone takes ownership of their own education they are truly understanding the nature of learning.  All three of our oldest children have demonstrated this and are ready for some intense studying this year. 

Our youngest three are at different stages of learning to read, write, and work numbers.  I'm excited to get their journals going again.  Even a little one can trace letters and draw a picture and find it rewarding to "do school" with the older children. 

Then there's the baby....he is learning too!  He's 3 months old today and so interactive and wants to see what everyone's doing.  He coo's, smiles, and tries to communicate.  He likes to observe everyone and watch them turn pages of their books. 

Then I read a great article in one of my favorite homeschooling books written by Debi Pearl called, "The Big Book of Homeschooling."  It's very inspirational and illustrates what I believe to be an excellent way to educate.  In her article she writes of the importance of realizing that babies are intelligent little beings made in the image of God and are learning every minute. 

OK, now I'm rambling, I should stop, I'm just so excited to begin another year at home, educating my children.  I hope to be able to show more "HOW" as the days go by....

PS  Playdough, the secret is playdough, that's how I got the time to write all these posts!

Sock Sorting

Let's measure with Daddy's tape!

WOW, it's huge!

Reading numbers is fun!
Ever wonder how to make daily chores fun?  Wonder how to sneakily slip some school in when they don't know it?  Make a sock factory, give them a challenge with sorting and ask them to figure out who has the longest socks.    We had great fun examining how each of the socks were different and which ones belonged to whom and then began to measure as a review of counting forwards and backwards.

Yes, school is back in session in Alaska and never stops in this household.  We're always educating, even when we don't think so.  I have enjoyed gleaning from others, and using my creativity in thinking up ways to teach and engage my children.  As I read my Bible and pray each day I am always inspired by God in some new way.  His wisdom and creativity are endless.

We talk, work, and play together each day.  All nine of us now.  Most days are full to brimming with activity and industriousness.  Other days are full to the brimming with rest.... Sunday.  Sometimes we get sick, tired or lazy.  Even on those days, our brains do not hibernate.  They are always active, albeit possibly on screen saver. 

Those of you that have toddlers or pre-readers, take heart.  Turn your daily chores into sneaky teaching times...or make a game of it.  Enjoy one another and remember to laugh and smile.  Teaching at home does not look like school at the casual glance, but upon closer investigation one can see a lot of learning taking place. 

I've made a habit to validate my children's work and play as learning opportunities.  I use "table time" to practice letters and numbers, work in journals and math workbooks, and curl up on the couch to read.    Whenever you need a break or the kids need "calm down time," read.  It's better than computer games and videos.  Did I mention play dough?  Oh the blessings of glorious play dough!  It is a great activity for all ages and they seem to enjoy their time together as siblings, no matter how old they are.

There's a time and place for everything and different seasons of life.  Young children are precious and require most of our time and energy.  Older children are precious and require guidance.  It's work raising children but fulfilling and fruitful.  It can also be a great joy or a great pain depending on how you look at it all.  Building a family is an incredible undertaking, not for the faint of heart.

Building a Home from Scratch: Alaskan style

The wood mizer.... a tool you can't live without
Two weekends ago we drove down to Tok to help some friends out with their incredible adventure, milling their own lumber to build their own home, on their property, debt free.  What an undertaking!  You could read more about it here at their blog:
The inside of the soon to be living quarters....
One more truss down, a lot to go...
Adding to the stack of handmade trusses...
Outdoor kitchen, sleeping quarters, and home storage...
PE Class in session...

Low bush cranberries... good for eating
The children spent time picking cranberries and all though small, they all added up to fill a gallon size ziploc bag!
Pile of dirt... good for sliding down

Amazing Mother... good for changing the world, one soul at a time!

Two peas in a pod enjoying one another's company
Yes, that gun does have an orange tip and it is plastic.  What fun we all had working, visiting and playing together that weekend.  What good memories everyone made and what a blessing friends from the Lord truly are!

We spent time picking cranberries right out of the peat moss forest.  We hunted for beautiful rocks and made smore's around the campfire.  We discussed home school ideas, plans, books, and got to look at some beautiful educational games from "Simply Fun."  If you're interested go to the above site link, Alaskan Blessings, and she's got a place you can take a look.   They are very high quality, sturdy games, made to last a lot of little hands playing.  I am looking forward to hosting a party.

It was so nice to get away and have a working camping vacation,  good food, listening ears, and happy but Oh so dirty bunch of kids!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Why do I educate my children at home?

 Enjoying one another's company....
We are gearing up to start another year of homeschool... we've been at this for 16 years!  Why do we continue?  I ponder, I muse and I read the word of God and it still says the same thing....

Do not fear.  Do not worry.  Yep, these are commands.  These are not options.

Along with... "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge:  but fools despise wisdom and instruction."  Proverbs 1:7

I do not homeschool because I'm good at it.  I do not homeschool because it is easy.  I do not homeschool to feel good about myself.  I do not homeschool because I am afraid my children will be tainted by the world.  I do not homeschool to receive a reward.  I do not homeschool to exercise my rights and freedoms. 

I have been guilty of all of the motivations above at one time or another.  Whether or not how you, as a parent, decide to educate your children, you could probably say some of the same things.

Proverbs 2:6-9, "For the Lord giveth wisdom:  out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.  He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous:  he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.  He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.  Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path...."  THIS INCLUDES THE DEFINITION OF A GOOD EDUCATION

You can't argue with God.... He is truth.  He is love and all His ways are just.  Not fair, just.  Read some Old Testament stories.... study the New Testament and understand how good, and merciful and loving He really is.  Read the Bible in it's entirety, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you find. 

So, why do I educate my children at cannot have a true education apart from Jesus Christ. 

Science: He authored it, we simply discover it.  Isn't He amazing? 
History:  He allows it, we simply write it down.  Isn't He amazing?
Languages:  He speaks it, we simply communicate.  Isn't He amazing?
Art:  He expresses Himself through the beauty of His creation, we are simply His creation responding in like fashion.  Isn't He amazing?
Math:  He developed the work week.... seven days and one in which to rest.  Genius!  Infinity was His idea.  Numbers never end and neither do the workings of mathematics every day.  What wonderful abilities He gave us.
P.E.  He gave us these physical bodies to feed, care, and clothe.  What a joy to be able to run, laugh, jump and move within gravity.

So, I could go on and on, but you get the picture.  We aren't the ones bright enough to design anything without some sort of raw material.  He designed all this with nothing!  Incredible. 

So, we are made in His likeness and image and we love to create just as He has done.  We are free to do as we please with these lives of ours and free to choose how we're educated or how we will educate our children.  Let it all be for the glory of God and our good.  We will reap what we sow.  This is how we learn. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital Trip

Feeling good enough to smile!
Yes, one of the Gerhardt's landed in the hospital again!  Why us?  I'm not sure either but by now we're feeling well prepared to encounter whatever medical issues come our way.  God is in control and He just proves that over and over again to us. 

Imagine my joy when they transferred my oldest son from the E.R. now able to respond to us with verbal communication to the pediatrics unit for an overnight stay.  Who should open the doors, but the same pediatric nurse that attended our youngest son in the NICU a few months ago!  I was so happy to see a familiar face I gave her a hug!  I love this hospital and the people that serve in it.  Everyone has been so helpful and caring.

For those of you wondering what happened, join the group.  We'll keep you posted as best we can and continue to thank God for answering our calls for mercy and healing.  Our son had an A-typical (meaning there are things that happened that don't normally happen this way) migraine two Sunday's ago.  I found him on his knees on the bathroom floor at church, unable to communicate with me other than some moans and was too weak to stand.  I flagged our Pastor down who was already teaching S.S.  He helped my son down all the flights of steps and prayed over Him with my husband and then we left for the hospital.  On the way we realized he was going in and out of consciousness so we called 911 and they let the hospital know we were on the way. 

In the E.R. we knew he was having great pain but was difficult to know where because he couldn't tell us.  He was shaking and having trouble breathing so they gave him oxygen and ruled a lot of scary things out with a chest x-ray, a cat scan of the head, and an MRI of the brain stem.  I told him I loved him several times because I knew he could hear us and one time he even smiled! 

To make a long story short, they released us the next day with some answers but also some questions remain.  I debated whether or not to blog about this, but I wanted to post this picture that my son allowed me to take. 

Even amidst suffering we can smile.  Even amidst the unknowns we can know Him who holds the universe in His hands.  Even amidst pain we can find something to laugh about and find encouragement and hope for the future.

So he's doing great now, but we still have some unknowns that might have to stay that way or perhaps we'll know but for now we are rejoicing that he has all his former abilities back.  Thank-you to all the people that prayed for us and transported our other children home and sat with them, and for just being concerned and loving us and calling and texting us. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Teens teaching V.B.S.

All eyes and ears at attention during VBS
 Our 3 oldest children took part in C.Y.I.A. training this summer at a camp in Willow, Alaska, for 8 days back in June.  They just finished teaching their first 5-day club yesterday.  Friendship Baptist Church of Fairbanks hosted a V.B.S. all week and allowed them to teach and lead along with the team leader and her daughter.

They did a great job and my little ones also attended a couple of the days.  All these children heard the gospel clearly presented. They were challenged with growing in their relationship with the Lord.  The series they taught is entitled, "Turned Around."  Each day was a lesson about someone in the Bible who was "turned around" by God:  Zacchaeus, Noah, Mephibosheth, Saul, and the Ethiopian. 

It is great training for the teens in learning how to effectively share their faith and build confidence in speaking in front of a group.  Also, many Christians come together representing several churches all for one common cause:  sharing the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I always experience sweet fellowship and come away encouraged meeting other Christians and hearing their testimonies and what the Lord is doing in their lives.

I really believe that being involved with the organization, C.E.F. is a great way for families to minister together.  There are so many different aspects of volunteering and different ways you can participate.  You can host, teach a club, pray, bake treats, pray, pray, pray, did I mention pray?

For the next 5 Sunday's our teens will also teach the younger children at Sunday school with the same material they've used at C.Y.I.A.  Starting in September they will also teach a Good News Club at the nearest local Elementary School once a week.  We did this last year at a school across town as a family and thoroughly enjoyed it.

How do you get involved?  Click on either of these links whether you're in Alaska or the lower 48 or other places around the world.CEF of Alaska  or CEF Home Page

Friday, August 7, 2015

Happy 40th Birthday to my Dear Friend Desiree

Here's to 40 more years of adventure, happiness, joy, and yes, more wrinkles and grey hair but hopefully days filled with wisdom, laughter, and following the Lord Jesus Christ:

Happy Birthday Dez!  Here's some advice for the coming days ahead... 

Don't be afraid to stretch your neck out and take a risk...
nothing but clean fresh air up that high...
and the ability to just BREATHE is wonderful.
If things get tense, let a two-year old drive, that'll shake things up a bit!
 Whatever animal this is called, I'm sure it was made for a good laugh.  Laugh a lot all the time
Remember even grizzlies need their naps, so do we!
 Don't forget to slow down and smell the roses or grass or whatever God puts in front of you
and enjoy the water, and the sun...
and an occasional roll in the mud... or perhaps a massage or chiropractic appointment
Hide if you want too...
 Just don't forget to... BREATHE and let your eyes and ears stick out just
so people don't forget your still around
Don't forget to share your beauty, your talent and your creativity...
 with the whole world... did I mention your beauty...
inside and out...
including your listening ear, sound Biblical advice
hearty laughter, sisterly love
 and sensitive and valuable spirit?
Even when this shows up at your door, you welcome
it with your open heart and arms
not caring what your neighbors think...
 You've given me a beautiful friendship for more than 20 years!
I can't believe it but it's true...
I am so BLESSED to have you for a friend!
HAPPY 40th Birthday Dez!

Alaska's 50,000 watt radio station

We toured KJNP (King Jesus North Pole) radio station two Saturday's ago...sometimes these weeks become a blur... this radio station is inside the longest log cabin in Alaska with a grass sod roof and is located in North Pole, Alaska.  A simple dream of sharing the gospel with the Alaskan natives in the 60's, went from a little strumming on the guitar and a gospel presentation as a guest on secular radio, to a full blown 50,000 watt AM Christian radio station.  Then in the 80's it added FM, and finally a TV channel. 
Out front of the radio station

Yes, there really is a North Pole, Alaska!

This building is half under ground and roofed with sod!
 Their broadcasting travels 6000 miles south to New Zealand and around the artic circle and as far as Norway, Sweden, and Finland.  Not to mention places in Europe like France and Germany.  They have little pins marking all the places that people have written or called letting them know they heard their station. 

Tempting to pull off...

Radio across the globe...

Russian gospel tracts they dropped from a plane along time ago and never did again...
God used Don and Gene Nelson, to build this "voice of the Interior."  I just read Psalm 50 and thought about how prophetic some of these Psalms really are, "And the heavens shall declare his righteousness..."  Radio waves go out into the heavens and truly declare the glories and praises of our God.  The story of this couple is quite amazing, having nothing but pennies in their pockets, God blessed them and took their faith and multiplied it just like the 5 loaves and 2 fishes.  Today the radio station is a thriving ministry.  They are in the process of installing high definition TV equipment and transferring all their music from CD's to digital storage on the computer. 

Love the door carpet!

TV broadcasting area

Walking into the station is like stepping back in time to the 70's.... green shag carpet and wood paneling on the walls to sound proof the rooms.  Our tour guide even pulled out an old record from their collection to show the kids.  They'd never seen one. 

The church building

Great sign out front of the church...
There's a little church on the property in a sod roof log cabin, as well as numerous cabins for the volunteer/missionary staff to live in.  We have a copy of the book written by Don Nelson and Don Leach entitled, "Shadows on the Arctic Snow."  It contains a detailed story of Don and Gen Nelson's lives and ministry and is so inspiring.  Don was a WWII hero and also prisoner of war.  He spent a lot of time drunk before he got saved.  One pastor after hearing about his previous life said about Don that, "He could make a black mark on tar paper..."  God can truly use anyone to spread His gospel His way. All it takes in one yielded heart in obedience to God's plan. 

Don was a bush pilot ministering to the Alaskan villages with his wife and daughter prior to building the radio station.  They lived in a remote village for several years and understood the loneliness of isolation and the need for these villages to hear the gospel and be encouraged with Christian music and "Trapline Chatter."  (A time on the radio that people could share personal messages to one another.) I would love to turn their story into a visual flashcard missionary story for Alaskan children.