Wanderlust, Part 2: Maui

We just got back from a week of vacation in Maui, and we want to share our adventures with you. We chose to attend a work convention/leadership training in Maui and then add several more days of adventure. It was a blast!

Since we live in Kentucky, it’s quite a long trip to reach Maui. It takes approximately almost a full day to get from here to there. We had layovers in Chicago and San Francisco, and then we arrived in Kahului International Airport. It was interesting to leave Kentucky with long sleeves and long pants, and have to change our clothes into shorts and T-shirts because the temperature in Maui was in the 80s (Fahrenheit).

We got the rental car from the airport and then proceeded to stop by our first adventure spot: Costco. Hah! We laughed about it, but we definitely needed to stock up on a few things such as water, fruits, and some swimsuits for the kiddos since they had outgrown their swimsuits.

The island of Maui is the second largest island among Hawaiian archipelago and is about 727 square miles, which is comparable to three times the size of Chicago, Illinois, thought not as populated. Maui has several volcanoes, but the one on the east, Haleakalā, rises to more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, and measures five miles (eight km) from seafloor to summit, making it one of the world’s tallest mountains. It’s a beautiful island, and we were even more amazed by the kind people we met.

The first few days of our vacation, we stayed at Honua Kai resort on Kaanapali beach, on the western side of the island, called Lahaina. Lā hainā means “cruel sun” in the Hawaiian language, describing the sunny, dry climate. Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the mid-1800s, and when you walk down Front Street, you can see this giant Banyan tree, one of the largest in the world, that was planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Christian missionaries.

The banyan tree or Ficus benghalensis has roots that descend or sprout from the branches into aerial roots towards the ground, where they form new trunks around the main trunk. This Lahaina giant banyan tree sprouted 16 major trunks that are apart from the main trunk, forming a large canopy with a circumference of about one-fourth of a mile, and about a thousand people could congregate under it.

Maui is also the best place to watch humpback whales between the months of February and April. These whales migrate from Alaskan waters to mate and give birth in the warm waters of Maui. You can easily see these whales from the beach and from a boat. They often congregate in pods, which is typically a group of a mother, her calf, and a few male suitors. You may also see the males fighting for the female by bumping against each other. When you snorkel or dive, you will be able to hear the sound of the whales singing for hours under the water. It’s a magnificent experience!

We joined a whale-watching ship from the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation, and the tour guide gave great educational information on how whales behave, how to spot them, and how to protect these endangered animals. The kids loved it! We recommend going in the morning as the water will be calmer and it will be less windy than the afternoon would. You also should reserve your spots ahead of time as these whale-watching boats get booked up really quickly.

We got to attend a luau that exhibited amazing singers and fire dancers sharing their New Zealand (Maori), Samoan, Tahitian, and Hawaiian cultures and stories. This is one way to enrich your children’s knowledge of the world cultures while having fun at the same time!

My wife always wanted to see a pineapple plantation, so we booked a plantation tour with Maui Gold Pineapple, where we were able to see thousands of acres of pineapple fields in various stages of growth, tour the packing facility, watch how they harvest the pineapples, and taste various stages of the pineapple and tour the packing facility. The tour took about 1.5 hours and we got to come home with a box of two hand-picked fresh pineapples.

The last half of the trip we stayed at the beautiful Grand Wailea on the south side of the island, in Kihei. The kids loved every one of the nine incredible pools and beach. When you visit, you must check out the world’s first water elevator there. It is rated as the Best Kid-Friendly Hotel in Hawaii by Oyster. The view was breathtaking from any angle. You can even see whales swimming right from the beach or from their signature restaurant, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Try pronouncing that!

The one downside to this trip was the time it took to travel from the mainland USA. This creates jetlag as your body tries to adjust to local time. We would be super tired at 6 p.m. local time (midnight in EST), and then wide awake at 2 or 3 a.m., as it’s already 8 or 9 a.m. in the mainland eastern standard time. By the time we were ready to leave at the end of the week, our bodies had finally adjusted to the Hawaiian time, which means it took us a few more days to again adjust once we get back home. We all agreed that the next time we return, we will stay much longer than just a week.

This was one of our favorite trips. We got to incorporate biology and science learning (whales, climate, and pineapple growing), and then history, geography, and native cultures. The kids got to meet various kinds of people from various parts of the world.

They also learned more about people with interesting tattoos all over their faces and body (Maori and most Polynesian cultures). They learned about how kindness transcends cultures and borders. They learned how the time change affected their body functions. They learned about how different cultures eat different kinds of food. They especially loved the physical education portion of this homeschool trip: swimming and bodyboarding!

Most of all, as we got to see Hawaii as a melting pot of many different cultures and races, we learned that Jesus loves all the children of the world: red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight. We all learned that God would love for all His children to be with Him again, and that the responsibility to share the Good News is on our shoulders.

Go travel, go outside of your comfort zone. If you haven’t read my previous blogpost on Wanderlust, you should! Click here.

God bless!

Arthur

Making Holiday Memories That Last!

I absolutely love this time of year! I have so many fond memories as a child that I find myself sometimes going a little overboard trying to bring that specialness to my own children — so much so, that I can even resemble Griswold from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”! It can be stressful!! So, I began to think back and evaluate what I really remember as a child. Honestly it wasn’t any of the presents I received or all of the holiday parties we went to. It was those simple traditions that we did together as a family. One of those memories that stands out is of us making sugar cookies together. We made them every year and have carried that tradition on with our own children.

300310_2412045428695_778382947_n

What is it about cookie-making for us? It’s not that they are yummy, or pretty, or messy, or fun….well it’s actually all of that plus more! It’s that we do it together. We get flour on our cheeks and frosting on our fingers. We laugh, talk, create, and eat. Togetherness is what creates the memories that really make an impact on our children’s lives!

163229_1743905005602_5154725_n

10632718_10208442355804613_5330770796296377229_n

During the month of December, I like to switch up our curriculum and take on a more simplified and holiday-focused theme. We learn compassion through gift giving and random acts of kindness. We learn counting and calendars through our Advent calendar. We read classic Christmas literature and poems and work on math, science, and home skills through baking. We also tie in art and music through special church programs and creative crafts we do. We help feed the homeless, and collect items for those in need. There are so many different subjects you can tie into Christmas-themed projects. But, to really make whatever you do memorable, do it together as a family!

409000_3000859508679_479085680_n

393231_3000856908614_878477743_n

Just for you, here is my late mother’s tried and true sugar cookie recipe!

sugar-cookies

Momma Cat

mother-cat-02

We had a couple of stray female cats that showed up last fall, and one ended up pregnant. This cat really liked being outside and wandering around. When she had her babies (seven of them!), she quit going outside and stayed in a box with them. She hardly left the room she was in. She took good care of her babies, giving them baths, feeding them, and making sure they were safe.

While we could take lessons about God from this, I was impressed how like this we should be as mothers. She was willing to give up her freedom and rights to take care of her babies. We need to be willing to change our ways or plans and what we do to fit the needs of our children. Too often, we get tired of changing diapers, picking up toys, washing dishes and clothes, but these only last a little while. Our first work is to raise our children; everything else should come after that.

My favorite quote on motherhood from Ellen White, from Ministry of Healing, in the chapter on “The Mother,” pgs. 377 and 378, says, “There is a God above, and the light and glory from His throne rests upon the faithful mother as she tries to educate her children to resist the influence of evil. No other work can equal hers in importance. She has not, like the artist, to paint a form of beauty upon canvas, nor, like the sculptor, to chisel it from marble. She has not, like the author, to embody a noble thought in words of power, nor like the musician, to express a beautiful sentiment in melody. It is hers, with the help of God, to develop in a human soul the likeness of the divine.”  (My emphasis)

Dirt Trails and Little Boy Tales

This post is one I wrote a few years ago when my sons were four, six, and eight, but I still find it relevant today. With summer vacation already underway for some, or just around the corner for others, it’s good to remember what’s important, and what’s not (as important). While this is geared more toward parents of boys, parents of girls can take these lessons and ideas to heart as well. My prayer is that you and your family will grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord this summer, that you will remember mud puddles have a purpose, and that God is faithful to complete the good work He has begun in us and our children — no matter how many times you have to scrub the floors or walls because somebody “forgot” to wash the mud off before coming inside.

The first time my boys got to play in the dirt, it was love at first sight, and the love affair has only grown over time. There’s something about dirt and gravel that is good for the heart of a boy. With their trucks and tractors, my children excavate roads, parking lots, and lakes in our driveway. They then use the hose to fill these creations with water, which of course, creates mud. By the end of the day, they are thoroughly covered in dirt and grinning from ear to ear. Life for them could not be better.

MudPuddleFun1

Despite being a mom who likes to have a sparkling clean home, I understand the importance of letting my boys be themselves. So often our society tries to fit little boys into molds that are decidedly not little-boy shaped. They must sit still at their desk while doing lessons, they must not get too dirty or climb too high, they must not rough-house and tumble about with their friends. This mentality causes all kinds of pinching, chafing, and general grumpiness, because boys were meant to be — well, boys! They were meant to conquer, overcome, and use their strength (preferably to help others). When our culture tries to make being a male unacceptable, we are left with a generation of boys who are trying to figure out just who they are and what it means to be a man. Extreme aggression and machismo, as well as low self-esteem, can all have roots in boys not being allowed to be themselves. They feel that they have everything to prove, or that there is no point to anything, and have given up.

My husband and I certainly do not have all the answers, but here are a few of the rules that we live by at our place. This doesn’t include rules that help with health and making family life run smoothly (although those are certainly part of our everyday lives); this list includes rules that help a boy know who and what he is (though many can be applied to little girls as well).

MudPuddleFun3

  • Work hard at chores. Play harder. Physical work is fun and rewarding, and play is even more fun because of it.
  • Shout, holler, and yell.
  • Climb things.
  • Conquer your fears by trying new and difficult things.
  • Create your dreams and fantasies in bright colors using a variety of mediums.
  • Build intricate cities and roads out of stones, Legos, and sticks.
  • Always try to do better than you did last time.
  • Know the One in whom your strength truly lies.

MudPuddleFun2

It is the desire of both my husband and myself to raise happy, self-confident boys who are ready for the challenges and joys of adulthood. Their future success lies in the freedom to discover their talents and strengths, and in the supportive environment we give them as parents. So, next time your little excavator comes in and leaves muddy footprints all over the floor, why not offer to join him in building the highway of his dreams?

Charlotte Mason Education, Part 1

When I first began homeschooling my children just over a decade ago, one of my favorite things to do with them was to read aloud. I loved sitting in a cozy space with my children all snuggled around me while I read great adventures and heartwarming stories of old. I was drawn to vintage curriculum used in the late 1800s to early 1900s, and I stumbled across Old Fashioned Education online. Little did I know this would be my introduction to Charlotte Mason education. I taught my children to read through McGuffey Readers and spent hours reading stories aloud to them after lunch. We used a grammar curriculum from the early 1900s, along with Dick and Jane books. Plus, we spent a lot of time reading aloud. I loved this time in our education.

daisies-676368_960_720

But, somewhere along the way I got burned out, life got hectic, the kids were getting older, and a new little one was on the way. I tried a bunch of different types of educational methods and just couldn’t find what worked. So, I resorted to worksheets. While it was easy, it was lacking in depth and passion. The kids weren’t enjoying it and neither was I. I craved something meaningful, enriching, and beautiful. I longed for that simpler time when the kids were younger and all we needed was a good book and time outside! And, then it happened! I was perusing Pinterest and stumbled across Charlotte Mason. I don’t remember exactly what blog post, quote, or picture drew me in, but it was like a fire was lit! All of a sudden I was excited again! I spent hours researching and reading everything I could get my hands on. The Charlotte Mason method of education was exactly what I had been craving.

So, who is Charlotte Mason and what was her method of teaching? Charlotte Mason was a British educator who believed there is more to education then just learning to take tests. She believed that each child is their own individual person, capable of dealing with a multitude of enriching ideas. She believed they are not just a blank slate ready to be molded. She said that education is a discipline, an atmosphere, and a life. True education is about finding out who we are within this world that God created and how we fit into it.

b506ec2654b5896cc729f4351b1c3128

“An Atmosphere, A Discipline, A Life”

Charlotte Mason had three main principles that her method was built around. “Atmosphere” refers to the surroundings in which a child grows up. A child absorbs so much from their surroundings. In fact she believed that the rules that govern us as parents make up one third of a child’s education. “Discipline” is also referred to as “Habits,” specifically good character habits. This is another third of a child’s education. The last third of a child’s education is “Life.” This portion applies to academics. Charlotte Mason believed that we should give children and education that is full of living books, thoughts, and ideas, rather than dry textbooks, worksheets, and facts. The application of her educational method is based on this idea.

12790890_10208924299372901_8795859832097322005_n

Charlotte Mason believed in teaching subjects through living books. She encouraged including topics that were lovely, like poetry, composer and artist study, and nature studies. She was a huge proponent of children spending lots of time in nature, and believed formal education should wait until the child is 8-10 years old.

Untitled

I am still in the learning phase of this method of education, but I found that I could immediately apply her method while still learning. There are so many wonderful resources out there that have helped me.

12670698_10209234651971522_68891768274181566_n

Further Links for Reading:

Next month I will cover Part 2 on how we are applying the Charlotte Mason Method with our children from toddler to middle schoolers.