Today I welcome my family friend, Erica to the blog. She hails from Kodiak (yep, the island known for the “Kodiak bear”) where she lives with her husband and two children. While my experience with Kodiak was only swim meets a couple different years in high school (was best traveling fun ever because we got to fly), I have always been fascinated with the town, the island and my home state of Alaska, of course.
I invited Erica to do a monthly series of the blog connected outdoor kids to fantastic books. She is an eductator, a former homeschooling mom and a gal deeply concerned about her kids’ eduction and quenching their thirsting for knowledge. After loving the books for years, she recently became an Usborne Books consultant and knows these books well. Known for their non-fiction titles, Erica and I both think they hold great value for kids and parents everywhere. Please give Erica a warm welcome – I’m so excited to have her here!
At the end of the post we’ll be letting you know how you can win $50 in Usborne books for your family to help YOUR outdoor kids learn even more about the world around them!
This winter’s weather has been strange! Having been born in the Midwest and raised in Alaska, I know what winter is “supposed” to be like, and what we’re experiencing this year isn’t winter. The weather this winter is unseasonably – unbelievably – warm! There isn’t any snow in the surrounding mountains, there are patches of green grass on our lawn, new green buds are emerging on the trees and shrubs, and we’ve been admiring the still-growing cabbages in our outdoor garden. I’m wouldn’t be surprised if the tulips start to sprout any day now.
Typically our Alaskan winter days are filled with tromps through the snow, sledding, skiing, snow machining, ice-skating, kick-sledding, and ice climbing (even with the kids). We’ve done NONE of these activities things this year, and it is not because we’re unmotivated or uninterested. It is only because winter STILL hasn’t arrived. Instead of snow and ice, we’re having torrential downpours of rain (imagine if all of that precipitation was snow!!) and temperatures in the 40s! As the autumn months have turned to the “winter” months, we’ve persisted with some of our autumn activities; hiking, biking, freshwater fishing, tide pooling, and then more hiking. On Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, as the sun peeked through the clouds and the rain held off for a couple of hours, we ventured into the mountains for a quick hike with the kids. Most people looking at the picture below would never guess that it was taken in the middle of an Alaskan winter! (Note my daughter on the right wearing a skirt and a tee shirt!)
This unusual weather is getting to some and bringing them down. In a recent conversation with a friend, she relayed that this unusual weather is throwing off their winter family rhythm, which is affecting each of them individually and leaving them feeling unbalanced. Normally, we don’t take issue with bundling up in rain gear for some exercise and adventure, but enveloping ourselves day after day in full-body rain gear to protect ourselves from the driving rain is getting a bit old. The grey skies are gloomy and days are dark. When you don’t have snow you realize, in our limited Arctic daylight, just how much the snow reflects the sunlight and brightens the days. I have a friend, born and raised in Kodiak, who is very tired of the weather and grey days so she’s planned an early-February vacation to –wait for it – Portland, Oregon; a city well-known for its grey, rainy winters, which I think says a lot about our winter this year.
While we lumber through grey, rainy winter, others in the U.S. are experiencing unusual weather as well. On New Year’s Eve, national headlines highlighted snow falling in southern California! And, this week, record lows are being blanketing most of the continental US. How is it that Alaska is experiencing one of the mildest winters on record, and the rest of the U.S. is experiencing one of the coldest?
Between our outside ventures into the rain, we’re snuggling inside with cups of tea and hot chocolate to ward off the dampness. In an attempt to understand the weather and put some reason to our unusual winter, we’ve pulled all of our weather-related books from our bookshelves and are paging through each one of them.
We’re finding answers in a number of books but most within books published by Usborne Books and More. (This isn’t surprising because they’re such wonderful books that are full of fantastic, well-researched information and gorgeous illustrations!) As we investigate weather patterns, everyone in our family is enjoying looking into the science of weather in the lift-the-flap information book, “See Inside Weather and Climate”. Not only is this book is filled with rigorous facts about what drives weather – from how hurricanes and floods happen to how global warming is affecting the Earth’s climates – but it also provides Usborne-vetted internet links for further consideration. As we explore and discus weather patterns, we were left wondering if our unusual winter weather is related to global warming, or if something else is at play.
We are finding additional answers about what drives weather in the books titled, “Weather”, “Storms and Hurricanes”, and “The Usborne Geography Encyclopedia with Complete World Atlas”. The first two books are Level 2 readers, meaning that they are simply written to introduce young readers to common weather events using vocabulary and sentence structure that easy for early readers to understand. And, despite presenting information this way, my husband and I both commented on how we both learned interesting weather-facts while reading these books. Our son, aged 10, is spending a lot of time with the Geography book, perusing the weather and oceans chapters. Together we’re discussing this as a family and piecing together why we’re experiencing such an unusually warm winter.
We’re learning that ocean currents are the main control over the in the world’s weather patterns. Right now we’re experiencing a shift in the ocean currents in the Pacific Ocean from north to a bit more south. The Pacific Ocean’s north-south movements happen on a fairly regular 20-year cycle. For Alaska this means that ocean currents are pulling some of the warm, moist Hawaiian weather up to Alaska. (How come the palm trees, sunshine, and sandy beaches don’t come with it?) Then, as the weather moves across Alaska and over the Arctic, it quickly cools and then sinks south traveling over Canada and down into the continental U.S., which explains why the continental U.S. is experiencing record-breaking cold weather.
However, this new-found knowledge isn’t satisfying our family’s desire for snow. To help with that, we’ve also been reading stories about snow. “Crow in the Snow” is a phonics reader that our 7-year-old daughter is enjoying. Our son is really getting a kick out of the “Mythical 9th Series”, a hilarious collection of four books about three yetis who’ve asked to investigate the strange weather that’s bringing blizzards and ice storms to the Welsh mountains in the summer.
I must say, however, that the snow-laden summer presented in the Mythical 9th Series does cause me a bit of concern. I am holding onto hope that our seasons haven’t switched. Could you imagine getting ice and snow in the summer?!
Win $50 in Usborne books for your Outdoor Kids (your choice of titles!)
Erica has very generously given the chance for one of you to win $50 in Usborne books for your family. Any order placed through her at The Scholar Ship between now and January 28th will be automatically entered into the drawing. Orders over $100 will be given a second entry.
If you decide to make an order, I’d love to hear some of the books you chose for your family (because I always am looking for new ideas for mine!) Comment below and give the rest of us some ideas!
As usual, if you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask!
Winner pays shipping costs ($6 for media mail or $10 for priority in the U.S.). Orders must be placed by the end of the day on 1.28.15
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