It’s not fog, it’s smoke

Wild fires are nothing new to Alaska. Last year, one fire alone burned 250,000 acres. This year’s fire season is off to an early start thanks to unusually low snowfall over the winter and a warm, dry spring. Fire coordinators report that current fire activity is where it normally is by the end of July. Just yesterday 19 new fires started, mostly by lightning. So far this year according to the Alaska Inter agency Coordination Center, 238 fires have burned 114,906 acres statewide. 80 fires are active.

What does all this mean to Fairbanks? Smoke. Dense smoke. I noticed it a bit Thursday and yesterday, but today was much worse. Smoke rolled in about 1030 this morning and has been pretty thick all day. At times visibility was down to less than a mile. It’s coming from a 55,000 acre fire southwest of us. This fire is burning in the same area as the huge fire last year.

There also a 5,000 acre fire near the Canadian border. This fire is threatening the village of Tanancross and the community of Tok. My friends living near Tok had to evacuate on Thursday. Authorities say they can might be able to return late this evening. Even though it’s not the largest, this is the priority fire in the state due to the closeness to settlements. The Alaska highway has been periodically closed as firefighters work along the roadway.

Karen’s graduation

Last night was Karen’s preschool graduation.  She was a part of the Parents as Teachers program which ends when a child turns five years old. Since we were doing homeschool kindergarten this year, it also was her kindergarten graduation.

They had little blue caps and gowns for the kids to wear. They got to keep the cap. There were banners and a few balloons with Congrats Grads. They were given a certificate, magnetic pen, and write-in book. They also were given yellow t-shirts that had a worm on it saying “Inching my way to College” along with the fact they graduated the PAT program. Very cute, but rather presumptuous.

The graduation was held in a very small gym. It was full of echos and hard to hear what was said. Also, the room was very crowded. They had to bring in several more chairs. I don’t know if more families came than they expected or just poor planning. Hopefully next year they can have it in a better place.

Karen’s name wasn’t listed in the program and they didn’t call us until the afternoon before to notify us about the ceremony. We had a dispute with the director last year on an unrelated matter. Hopefully the omission wasn’t deliberate, but considering she was the only one left off and the late notice (phone call reminder but not an invitation), let’s just say it’s suspicious and disappointing.

The results are in

I got the results from my water fitness instructor exam that I took last week and I passed! I still need to do the CPR stuff before my certification is official, but the hard part is out of the way. Yeah!

CLE ordering time again

It’s the fourth Monday in May and that means it is time for the used homeschool swap. There weren’t as many people selling stuff this year. I don’t know if that’s because there are fewer independant homeschool families (you aren’t allowed to resell items purchased using state allotments) or if families are hanging onto stuff for next year. I still managed to find a few used things. We got a magnetic calendar and some books. I found the 5th grade CLE reader for $3. I just hope I don’t misplace it before he needs it.  Karen got a homemade doll and Richard bought a toy car.

The woman who is the representative for Christian Light Education was there. Her husband wasn’t able to make it up this year so they need to head back down this afternoon. No time to come for a visit at our house 😦 Oh well, it was still good to see her and the others in her family who came up. She invited us to visit when when we drive down to go sailing this summer. Hopefully it will work out so we can.

Besides the family with the CLE booth, there were other families we knew there. While I was ordering, the kids were upstairs playing freeze tag. It was nice to have an open area for them to run while us moms did ordering. Everyone had a good time visiting.

I ordered Bible and some social studies for Karen’s first grade. I considered getting the new version of the last 4 workbooks that we haven’t done but decided to use the ones we already have. However, I did buy the new readers for Learning to Read. Richard’s fourth grade order was Bible, language arts, and reading. We each bought a story book as well.

The total was $160. Not bad considering that was for 2 kids. The following year will be more because both kids will need all workbooks. This fall Karen is finishing somethings we already have.

Thomas Jefferson and religious freedom

There is a lot of talk these days about Thomas Jefferson and religion. He is cited as the source of “separation between church and state” in discussions of the first amendment. However, this is taken out of context. Not only is separation of church and state not anywhere in the fist amendment, Jefferson only used the phrase once. It was in a personal letter.

As for the Constitution, Jefferson was in Europe at the time the Constitution was written. Many mistakenly assume since he wrote the Declaration of Independence, he also wrote the Constitution. He had nothing to do with it’s writing or ratification. Later when asked about parts of it, he said he was unqualified to answer because he wasn’t there. So if Jefferson wasn’t there, and wouldn’t talk about religion and the Constitution himself, why is he used today to wrongly defend a position he himself refused to take?

Jefferson was in favor of total freedom of religion. Jefferson lived in a time when countries forced their citizens to belong to a “state” church. Persecution by the state for those who believed differently was real. Jefferson didn’t like that. He wanted people to be free to believe any way they chose without interference by the state either for or against. This is the non-establishment part. The state should not force religion upon its citizens. Nor should it limit expression of religion.

Today we are quick to embrace the first part. However, we have greatly failed in the second. It isn’t an either or. But instead is a balance of both. This is true freedom of religion. Freedom is religion includes the freedom of atheists and others not to believe. To force the atheistic view above all religions is for the state to enforce atheism, which is actually a form of religion in that it’s a belief in no religion or God.

An atheistic state is the lead up to socialism and even communism. The state determines what is right and wrong. It begins by placing the desires of the few above the freedoms of the many. Thomas Jefferson understood the danger in this.

Now Texas is rewriting it’s history program to get rid of teaching about Thomas Jefferson. That way no one will know when he is incorrectly cited or taken out of context. The danger is that since Texas is such a large state, textbook revisions to accommodate their new program will likely be sold to other states.  Thus, eliminating Jefferson there as well.

I would urge you to learn more about our founding fathers so you will better know how precious and precarious our freedoms are. Start by reading the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights so you know exactly what’s in them yourself. Despite their importance, they aren’t very long. Perhaps our current lawmakers should read them as well to learn about how to be brief and to the point in writing law.

There’s also some great audio recordings about Jefferson. One is by Jim Weiss. Another is a 2 part episode of Focus on the Family. They also have a DVD. Even if you support the separation of church and state, you should do your homework on the true history of this idea. If you think it’s in the Constitution, you’re in for a surprise because that phrase isn’t mentioned anywhere in it.

Finishing up the school year

We are winding down our school year. In some ways that’s too bad because they’ve really been interested and doing well in the lessons recently. Richard has 6 lessons then his final test in reading and language arts. Once we finish them, I can focus more on finishing other subjects. Hopefully we’ll be finished with everything by the end of June.

His math has 7 lessons left. He’s doing well so I may skip some of the review. However, today he said he was having so much fun with a lesson on double digit multiplication that he wanted to do all the pages in the lesson by doing some each day. That’s fine as long as he gets the regularly scheduled work done too.

I’ve not been following the history schedule very well so I’m not sure what’s left. He’s up to early 20th century. We’re behind because I spent the first part of the year finishing up last year’s program. After he finishes the language arts and reading, we can spend more time with history. I don’t want to continue it until the fall again.

Both Richard and Karen have mild colds this week. Yesterday I got Richard to do work by giving him 15 minutes computer time for each lesson he completed. He actually got all 3 subjects done. Today we did math, health, and and are now working on an art lesson.

We haven’t done art in a long time. It’s one of those things that keep getting pushed aside. It will be nice to do more of it in the next few weeks. We’ll probably work on it through the summer. He said he wants to continue with this art series (Art With a Purpose, aka Art Pack) next year.

Karen’s right where I was hoping she’d be in reading and language arts. She did 2 math lessons today. She enjoys Math-U-See. However, her brother keeps confusing her by trying to link her lessons to what happens in higher grades.  She is only about halfway through her math book. Since she’s starting to understand it better, we may move a bit faster. I’d like to finish Primer before she starts Alpha in the fall.

We’re excited to be finishing the year. It’s been a great year. They have both learned so much, not only academically, but spiritually and physically as well. Karen is gaining confidence and budding out of her shy shell. Richard is exploring everything around him. I can’t believe he’s finished with the primary grades and will start upper elementary. We’ll take it easy this summer. They have nature and Bible camps planned (including an overnight camp-out for Richard), but that’s all. We’ll start school again sometime in August.

I’ve finished my curriculum plans for next year and can’t wait for ordering. Allotments are available starting July. We’ll get a lot more money next year because Karen will officially be in kindergarten. I just hope the science program I want to use (Exploration Education) is approved so we don’t have to spend our own money. Monday is the used curriculum swap. Usually the Christian Light Education representative is there. I missed the Abeka ordering last week due to car trouble. The next one is in July.

Math in the mirror

8+6=14 +6= 20  That was the message awaiting me on the bathroom mirror this morning. We have foam numbers and math symbols the kids play with in the tub. Well, my son used them to leave me this message on the mirror sometime late last night.

Yes, that’s right, but what started him thinking about it in the middle of the night? Silly boy.