Nature Walks

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Nature Walks are an important part of our homeschool curriculum this year.  I began them with a sense of trepidation, not quite sure how they would go, and the girls LOVE them.

Currently, we do circle time and Nature Walks 3 days per week.  After we do our closing rhyme, I sing the little ditty for going outside: “Time to put our shoes on and our hats; it’s time to go outside.”   I then repeat multiple times until I am too distracted wrestling the two of them and my pregnant self into multiple layers of outdoor gear and trying to remember the “gathering baskets.”

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Alaskan chamomile!

Then we walk.  Depending on the length of our excursion and the time remaining until lunch, Allison might go in the stroller.  Once, we drove out to Neiman’s Peninsula, which, since we stay on base on it’s only 5 minutes in the car and we walk around once there, I consider to still be ok for a Nature Walk.  It’s not a hike, or a trek, or anything resembling an exercise walk for me.  It’s meandering.  It’s stopping to smell the flowers.  Every. Single. Flower.  There aren’t many left this time of year, but you get the point.

We searched intently for high bush cranberries but the birds got them first!

We searched intently for high bush cranberries but the birds got them first!

This is their time to move as they want to, to explore the world on their terms, at their pace.  I thought I might get a bit bored, but I am filled with delight as I watch them take a bit of this big world and interact with it in a way that makes sense to them.

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Our first Nature Walk was to a copse of trees that I pass by on my personal walks, but had never explored.  I knew that there was a rope swing, but I didn’t know what else was there.  Once we arrived and walked the 7 steps up the hill to the trees, it was blatantly obvious that nothing else was there.  My first thought was, “Oh, no.  What was I thinking????? There’s nothing to explore here!  No nature things to bring back to our Nature Table.  What a disaster!”

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Initially, that was Rachel’s thought, too.  I showed her a tree to climb, found her a nice stick for digging, and 30 minutes later I was dragging her away with promises to return on another day’s Nature Walk.  I could not believe how engrossed they were in digging  and gathering spruce cones and picking rose hips and balancing on tree roots and jumping down the “steps” created by the roots.  I was witnessing something truly magical.  As Steve said, if we let them watch screens for hours everyday, they wouldn’t be this enchanted by sticks and mud.

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I am so blessed to live in a place where Nature Walks are easy (well, at least when it isn’t sleeting at 45 mph).  And I am even more blessed to be the one with my girls as they marvel at the dozen different varieties of grass growing on one small hillside.

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This is our cat stealing gnomes and little wool pumpkins from the Nature Table

This is our cat stealing gnomes and little wool pumpkins from the Nature Table

After much soul searching, debate, prayer, journaling, and talking with friends, we have decided to do a Waldorf method of homeschooling.  It is the perfect fit for our family right now, and I am so happy that we are all so happy!

There are many reasons that I love Waldorf, and one is that it is actually tied into the Catholic liturgical calendar.  Michaelmas is a traditional Waldorf celebration that corresponds with the Catholic Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel.

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My dragon

I still need to get into a groove with planning and finding stories and making story props ahead of time–I have big ideas for next year.  This year, though, we did manage to read the Tiptoes Lightly stories surrounding Michaelmas and go through most of the Waldorf Essentials K1 Super Sam adventures of Michaelmas.  Lacking a dragon for our puppet show, we decided to wrap a plush toy moose in a red play silk.  I failed to get a picture of this, but I assure you it was quite fierce.

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Allison mixing dragon dough

We also made dragon bread and I read a story that progressed as you added different ingredients.  The girls had an absolute ball with that, and Rachel wanted to know if I could find more bread stories.

Rachel's dragon

Rachel’s dragon

Our festival may not have been Pinterest worthy, but Rachel is still asking when we get to do the story again about the dragon who had hiccups!

Falling in love (with Kodiak) again

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There is GREEN on the mountains! Yesterday, we harvested the first fruits of our garden…literally…I now have sliced rhubarb in the freezer!   We planted the girls’ little flower garden today, and will get the vegetable seedlings in the ground this week.

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We drove to Pasagshak to play in the sand with friends as the waves roared on the beach and the whales (yes, WHALES–humpback whales) spouted and occasionally popped their heads out of the water.  We saw bison, bison tracks, eagles on their nests, and even eagle tracks.  It was truly one of those days when I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, I am so lucky to live here!”

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Slowly into Spring

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April was a hard month.  We had more days of snow in April then we had all winter, I think.  I knew it wouldn’t be warm here yet, but I thought, perhaps, it might be green.  It was not.  I thought that Kodiak would be more like Oregon in the winter…wet and green…and more like Oregon in the summer…dry and brown.  But Kodiak is wet and green in the summer, and wetter and very brown in the winter.  We didn’t even have the benefit of enough snow to brighten the landscape for all but a handful of days.

It is May 2.  We left Florida one year ago today.  I remember how hot it was.  I remember swimming in our friends’ pools the days before we left, and sweating as the movers had the house open to pack up our things and take them to the truck.  I’m not saying I miss the insane Florida heat, because I don’t.  And I really don’t miss the insane insects that thrive in that insane Florida heat.  My point is that in Florida, if you blinked, you missed spring and were thrust smack dab into the sauna that is summer.

Kodiak has been pretending spring for weeks now, and although the days are getting MUCH longer (sunset at 10 pm tonight!), it is still cold enough to warrant hats and gloves and layers and rain pants…of course rain pants…we are all so very tired of rain pants.

After living on the Gulf Coast for 6 years, it is so strange to long for summer, and celebrate every bit of spring that slowly comes along.

But spring is literally now in the air.  When the sun shines, it actually warms you (as long as the wind is calm).  The birds sing joyfully on my morning walks.  There is a faint green haze on the western slopes of the mountains.  We started our seedlings indoors.  The salmonberries are blossoming and the daffodils are blooming.

It has been a long, slow slog into spring.  But oh, what joy to finally say that it is truly here!

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Stay At Home Mom: Financially Practical!

From scratch, food-dye free birthday cake

From scratch, food-dye free birthday cake

Many families think that they NEED two incomes in order to remain financially solvent.

Steve and I have been married for six years, and I have not had a paid job during that time.  Before we had children, I considered it, but the commute would have been terrible, and I have never wanted to work full time.  So we were never a “DINK” (dual income no kids) but we are now certainly an “OINK” (one income no kids).

Financially, it makes sense for me NOT to work.

We don’t need the added income.   We rarely go out to eat, never go out to movies, and generally keep our expenses to a minimum. I may not earn money, and the girls and I may be “extra mouths to feed” but by staying home, I save us an untold amount of money.  I don’t just “stay home.”  As a striving Radical Homemaker, I actively plan and participate to make our household more sustainable and self-sufficient and thus cost us less money.

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Because I stay home, I am able to…
Make bread
Make breakfast, lunch, and dinner every. single. day
Make snacks and muffins and treats (though the girls do love those Annie’s bunny crackers!)
Make our household cleaners
Clean our house
Garden, and actually grow some of our own food
Mend our clothes
Sew some of our clothes (working on doing more of this)
Prepare herbal and other alternative healthcare items
Make my facial soap and lotion
Shop at the thrift store first when we need something
Compare prices and products and make good decisions when we do need to buy something new
Use the library
Form friendships and build a network of like-minded people
Continue to form a deep bond with our daughters (hopefully this will save us money in therapy later on)

homemade salmonberry jelly

homemade salmonberry jelly

Because I stay home, we don’t have to pay for…
A second car (and all the expenses that comes with)
A work wardrobe for myself
Childcare for the girls (Excellent childcare is CRAZY expensive)
Someone to clean the house
Organic ready-made food
Breast pump, bottles, etc.
Private school

Yes, Steve earns a more than adequate salary with the military, and our conventional healthcare costs are entirely paid for.  We both graduated college with zero school debt; Steve went the Academy, and I attended an in-state school and received numerous scholarships.  We pay for our cars in cash.  We budget, save, invest, have an emergency fund, and pay our credit cards on time every time, and always have.  If you want to stay home with your kids, there are ways to make that happen.  It may require more work, but I wouldn’t trade my job!

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Nigel the Christmas Tree

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This is our Christmas Tree!  We named him Nigel, in honor of our Florida Christmas tree, Norbert, which was a potted Norfolk Island Pine.  Nigel, however, is a legitimate Sitka Spruce, real “live” Christmas tree.  We figured that as a local renewable resource, Nigel is less of a strain on the environment than an imported potted plant purchased at Wal-Mart.

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We legally cut Nigel near the Buskin River, under the baleful watch of a bald eagle, in the shadow of Barometer Mountain.  Well, there would have been a shadow if there had been any sunshine.

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Nigel is currently adorned with lights and decorations and is sitting in a brand new tree stand purchased at the thrift shop for $5.  We think he is beautiful and are delighted!  Allison isn’t too keen on the low branches as Sitka Spruce needles are sharp, but she is learning to walk around the tree instead of into it.

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Merry Christmas!

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St Teresa’s Academy

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I came across this article* a few months ago, and it made me laugh.  So in that train of thought, I thought I’d offer what our homeschool “ranking and description” would say.

“St. Teresa’s Academy is a small, Catholic all-girls school that prides itself in numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation as well as near-fanatical adherence to checklists.  St. Teresa’s is still in it’s Waldorf preschool stages, but looks forward to a challenging secondary curriculum that will combine the distinct talents of its faculty in rhetoric and mathematics.  St. Teresa’s is the only school of its kind in Alaska.”

We are calling our homeschool St. Teresa’s Academy after St. Teresa of Avila.  St. Teresa is one of the first women Doctors of the Catholic Church.  She was independent, active, intelligent, and not afraid to go against the opposition.  She reformed the Carmelite order into a simpler one more in line with the Gospel.  These are all traits we desire in our girls!  Furthermore, St. Teresa is my Confirmation saint; Steve and I were confirmed at the same church at the same time, and were married there 6 years later.

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us, as we begin to educate our daughters in our little homeschool.  May we impart to them the constancy of your spirit and the Gospel desires of your heart.

*This is the only article I have ever read from this website, and I do not in any way endorse any of their other articles


Pillar Mountain

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A few weeks ago, we did our second hike up Pillar Mountain, per Rachel’s request.  Almost all of the electricity on Kodiak comes from these beautiful wind turbines, and they are all up on Pillar Mountain.  We can see them from our house and drive by them every time we go to town.

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Last time we hiked Pillar, the rain and fog were so thick that we couldn’t see more than 100 feet in front of us most of the way, and we heard the windmill before we saw it.  We hiked the real trail up the mountain, but then hiked the road down, as my knees were aching on the way up.

We ate our picnic lunch along with some lignonberries (called low bush cranberries here) that we found on the ground.  The weather was spectacular, and the views matched.  What a glorious day to live in Kodiak!  We had camped at Ft. Abercrombie the night before.

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My Job

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I knew since I was 17 that I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom and homeschool my children.  I received quite a lot of criticism for that in college, as many of my fellow students (male and female) thought that my scholarships should have gone to someone who was “going to actually use their education.”

I wonder if those same students know how much courage, tenacity, creativity, research, debate, language study, management, and organization I put into my vocation of motherhood.  I may not be building a resume, but I am building the future.  And I am building myself, too; mothering has made me into a much better person!

Someday, I will work or volunteer in a more career type job.  Someday, I will not have to wake up at 6 am to exercise before my day really starts, after being up 4 times during the night.  Someday, I will be able to read an entire book in one week, rather than one month (or 3 months…).

But right now, this is my life.  I chose this, and I still choose this, and it is amazing.

The tasks are tedious and repetitive and never ending.  The hours are absolutely terrible.  The results are incredibly important.  And the joy is incomparable.

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