Archive for July, 2009


Akiane Kramarik

July 6, 2009

Akiane Kramarik

I want my art to draw people’s attention to God, and I want my poetry to keep people’s attention to God.” ~Akiane

Homeschooled and self-taught in painting, 15-year-old Akiane (pronounced ah-kee-ah-nah) Kramarik has seen her artwork exhibited in museums around the world since she was 10. An internationally recognized prodigy, Akiane is the only known binary genius in both painting and poetry. She is a member of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, and was selected as one of the twenty most accomplished visual artists in the world.

Akiane Kramarik was born on July 9, 1994, in Mount Morris, Illinois to a Lithuanian mother and an American father. The name Akiane means “ocean” in Russian. Akiane’s mother, Foreli, came from an atheistic family and her father, Markus, was a former Catholic who did not pray or go to church. Akiane was homeschooled, she had no babysitters, the family watched no television, and there were no neighbors to play with. Markus worked long hours, and Foreli stayed with her children all the time, giving them her complete attention. So imagine her parents’ surprise when one day their young daughter suddenly began talking about God and creating religious artwork.

The strange thing was, a Christian lady had called from Europe soon after Akiane was born, excitedly telling them what an incredible future was in store for their daughter. Since they were not believers, they did not take the woman’s passionate prophecy seriously at the time. Akiane says that she first met God when she was three, and that her art is inspired by visions that God provides in her dreams. “He said, ‘You have to do this, and I’ll help you.’ I said, ‘Yes, I will.’ But I said it in different words in my mind. I speak through my mind to Him.” Akiane started drawing at age four, working in pastels at age five, painting when she was six, and writing poetry at seven.

When Akiane was nine, Oprah Winfrey heard about the girl’s special talent and asked her to be a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Akiane’s fame took off, and after that she was invited to appear on many other television programs including Good Morning America and The Hour of Power. Akiane’s first completed self-portrait sold for $10,000, and since then her original paintings usually sell for amounts between $50,000 up to $1,000,000. She also makes limited edition canvas reproductions of her work which are available for about $2,000 each. As a result, Akiane is now one of the richest teens in America.

Akiane gives a substantial portion of her sales to various charities. For example, Akiane has donated thousands of dollars to: Kids Free the Kids (abuse, exploitation and slavery of children), Northwest Medical Teams (medical care, food and shelter for orphanages), PANCAN and MACC (cancer societies), Netherlands Kidney Foundation, needy children in Africa and Lithuania, local police and fire departments, Christian schools and churches, and many others.

The Kramarik family was poor while Akiane was growing up, so they had to create their own fun pastimes and learning experiences. Foreli recalls, “Every day I would dress our children warmly and take them across the cornfields to watch the sun set over the nuclear power plant that was visible on the horizon. We spent hours counting birds in the sky and guessing which direction the steam from the plant would drift. At home we made a swing for Akiane, where she spent many hours rocking and napping. The boys grew monarch butterflies from cocoons they found in the meadows, wrote their own books, and turned tree branches into swords. They made wreaths from flowers or pine needles, play-dough from flour, tents from blankets, and forts from cardboard boxes or snow. The children and I made carrot pancakes and almond cookies….Almost every day we walked a few miles to the playground…Akiane liked to stay there half the day-even on chilly days-so we always packed books, blankets, and plenty of food.”

Even today, Akiane’s daily homeschool routine is a bit different from others her age. She wakes up at 4:30 am, has a drink of water, exercises, and prays. Then she paints and writes poetry for about 4-5 hours while it is still quiet in the house, before her brothers get up. After that she studies Russian and Lithuanian. Finally she reads her Bible. She also plays the piano and knows sign language.

Having always been a detail-oriented, tactile child who liked to collect and study rocks, shells, leaves and flowers, Akiane paints what she sees and feels in such a way that the textures seem to pour from her paintbrush effortlessly. From an early age, Akiane showed a high degree of technical skill in the making of her strikingly realistic paintings. They appear to have been made by the steady hand and experienced eye of a much older, professional artist. It was this fine quality of her art that led her to be labeled as a child prodigy.

Akiane describes her painting process this way: “I pray and wait for an answer in pictures, words or ideas. When I have a picture in my mind, then I think for a while how I can put it on the canvas. If it is a portrait, I search for a model or study many people wherever I go. If it is a landscape, or an animal I research the resources or work straight from my memory and imagination. For example, when I was flying on the airplane I decided to paint birds above the islands. Then I studied how islands and birds had to look correctly from above. Since one of my favorite birds is swans, I studied hundreds of them sketching them in different positions. I often go to the library to study gardens, plants and farm animals. I enjoy observing for myself the behavior of wildlife in the nature. By the lake or river we see many eagles, ospreys, and swans. I watch them move, fly, land or play. Then I observe the shadows and the light on their bodies and take many pictures or sketch.”

Although she learned how to draw and paint through self-study and observation, Akiane states however that she is primarily taught by God. Akiane says, “I am self-taught. In other words, God is my teacher. I really like working by myself without any distractions, learning from my own mistakes.” All of Akiane’s paintings have a unique meaning behind them. As a young child, Akiane was always unusually sensitive to the moods of those around her. Interestingly, her concern for people and their emotions is reflected in the fact that she enjoys painting faces the most.

Akiane composed a series of Jesus paintings after finding the perfect model. “I always think about Jesus and talk about Him,” she said. “I was looking for a model for a long, long time, and when I couldn’t find anyone, one day I suggested to my family to pray all day for this model so God would send the right one.” That very day, a tall man who also happened to be a carpenter came to their door looking for work. Akiane said, “I told my mother that that was him. I want him to be my model,” she recalled. The carpenter (who wishes to remain anonymous) was reluctant at first, because as a humble Christian he thought he “wasn’t worthy to represent his Master.” But he called back a week later to say that he had changed his mind.

Akiane frequently has visions of God, Jesus, angels, and Heaven. As the young teen attempts to describe what she sees, she has difficulty finding the right words. “God is enormous. He is light, He is love, He is kind, He is beautiful. It’s hard to say who He specifically is. [God is] an emotion. He’s a person. Each time when I paint, God is all around me. He works through people, so it’s hard to say just quite who He is. I believe [God is] so much larger than our human capacity can handle,” she says.

Akiane’s parents and two older brothers, Delfini and Jeanlu, are involved in the enterprise of promoting and selling her work. She also has two younger brothers – Ilia is six and Aurelius is her new baby brother. Through Akiane’s influence, her family underwent a spiritual transformation which brought them all to Christianity. Regarding her daughter’s unfolding ministry, Akiane’s mother says, “We don’t have an answer as to why this is happening. We don’t have a clue. We’re just thankful to God.” When asked why she thinks she received her special gift, Akiane replies: “I have been blessed by God. And if I’m blessed, there is one reason and one reason only, and that is to help others.”

View a gallery of Akiane’s paintings at


Rivendell College

July 6, 2009
Rivendell College

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic work, The Fellowship of the Ring, Rivendell is a sanctuary. A safe haven. A place of healing and renewal. A realm of beauty and peace. Here ancient lore has been preserved, and crafts of learning thrive. Here races set aside differences and unite for their common good. Here leaders forge a daring and surprising strategy to conquer the dark forces that threaten the land, with virtue and valor the centerpiece of their heroic plan. We are inspired by this powerful, mythic vision as we live out our own story and take up the quest that has been set before us.”

Rivendell College was named after the fictional place created by J. R. R. Tolkien, the Elven outpost established and ruled by Elrond in the Second Age of Middle-earth. “Riven” means split apart like a rift or narrow gorge; and “dell” means a small wooded valley, usually secluded. The Elvish realm of Rivendell is located at the edge of a narrow gorge by the river Bruinen, but well hidden in the foothills of the Misty Mountains. The climate there is temperate with moderate precipitation.

The location of a school says much about what kind of school it is. So it seems fitting that the setting of Rivendell College at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder, Colorado is similar in many ways to the literary Rivendell. The mountains, temperate climate, and majority of sunny or partly sunny days each year make it an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Hiking, biking, kayaking, and rock climbing are a way of life for many Boulderites. The annual Shakespeare Festival, Pearl Street Mall, and the Bolder Boulder, a 10k race that draws 50,000 participants each year, all speak to the rich diversity of this unique place. IBM, Ball Aerospace and Technologies, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research are all located in Boulder, too.

Rivendell has chosen to weave their presence and programs into the fabric of the larger university community. This gives students access to the benefits of both: a small private liberal arts college in the Christian tradition, as well as a major research university – the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus – right across the street. Rivendell is a relatively new college. It was in 1983 when a Christian study center called Dayspring first opened its doors within the shadow of the University of Colorado. The purpose was to bring Christian thought and perspective to the richly diverse academic square of the secular university campus. In 2005 Dayspring changed its name to Centers for Christian Study International (CCSI). In 2006 CCSI launched Rivendell College and formally began the process of seeking its own accreditation at the state and regional level as Rivendell College.

At Rivendell, a Certificate in Undergraduate Studies is granted upon successful completion of 30 credits, and a Diploma in Undergraduate Studies requires the successful completion of 60 credits. While Certificate and Diploma Program students may apply for a degree program at Rivendell College, many students go on to complete their degree elsewhere. Rivendell classes are recognized and approved for transfer to schools such as the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado. Academic advisors are available to help students craft a course of study with their interests and needs in mind. Rivendell College also offers two-year Master of Arts degrees featuring required core courses along with selected areas of inquiry, designed to help students acquire a greater understanding of the Christian tradition, gain a graduate-level mastery of an academic discipline and its methods of scholarship, and prepare for further graduate work, vocation, and a lifetime of effective leadership.

If you are seeking the right fit for your faith and finances, look no further! Rivendell College is a quality Christian campus that supports the values of homeschooling families and is surprisingly affordable. The College is committed to helping students and their families meet the financial cost of earning a certificate, diploma, or degree from Rivendell. In recognition of the challenges the U.S. economy has created for students and families, Rivendell College is taking every step possible to keep the cost of enrollment for 2009-2010 as low as possible.  Tuition has been lowered to $12,000 for full-time undergraduate students, and $6,000 for full-time graduate students.

Homeschool scholars will be especially interested in the Great Books honors program. Great Books at Rivendell College is a complete general education track that meets most core curriculum requirements for a bachelor’s degree. This program of study is centered around great literary and artistic works that have influenced generations and shaped western civilization in significant ways. The learning experience focuses on rigorous personal and group engagement with primary texts and works of art, supplemented with historical context lectures and other lectures that provide scholarly input from Rivendell faculty, based on the core values and educational philosophy of the College. Students go through the program in small learning cohorts, led by Rivendell Fellows who serve as mentors and tutors. Students are required to write, present and defend essays as an essential part of their coursework. In addition to the Great Books curriculum, students complete a major of their choice and must meet all other graduation requirements. The Great Books program is designed for highly motivated students who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and potential for leadership during their high school years.

Since its beginnings, the Rivendell community has been committed to the advancement of Christian scholarship and constructive engagement with the larger academic community and the ideas that influence our society. In this tradition, Rivendell students are encouraged to take some of their coursework at the University of Colorado, and to interact with university campus life by participating in Christian campus ministries, using facilities such as Norlin Library and the University Memorial Center, attending public lectures and conferences, and enjoying university athletic, music, and theater events. In turn, students, faculty and staff of the University of Colorado are invited to enroll in Rivendell College courses through one of its Guest Student Programs, and to participate in Rivendell College events.

The Academic Dean at Rivendell College is Gary Stanley, formerly with Campus Crusade for Christ, and a contributing writer for “Christian Ethics and Morality: A Foundation for Society.” He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Southern California. He is also one of the founding faculty of the International School of Theology in Southern California where he taught for twenty years.

“At Rivendell College we embrace the classical vision of the university as a Christian institution. As heirs of that legacy, we believe that all truth is God’s truth, and that every good gift is from God. This foundational conviction inspires us to engage in rigorous and thoughtful interaction with the brightest and best minds within and outside the Christian tradition. We earnestly seek to learn from ancient wisdom and contemporary thought. And we are passionately convinced that pursuing these things – in community – with the highest standards of personal excellence will produce a generation of leaders who will shape cultures and change the world!”

In previous years, Rivendell College has hosted a Homeschool Visit Day in February. Contact them at 877-444-1199 (toll-free) if you’re interested in touring the campus on a future date, or visit for more information.


Homeschooler Sails Around The World Update…

July 5, 2009

Zac Sunderland, 17, had hoped to finish up his around-the-world solo adventure by the end of June. Unfortunately, the last leg of his trip has been plagued with troubles which will delay his arrival at Marina del Rey until sometime around July 14. Since leaving Panama, the winds have been incredibly frustrating. First the winds were fluky and light, so he barely made any progress. As he sailed farther north along the coast of Mexico, strong winds kept sending him in the wrong direction. Then his bulkhead broke, forcing him to stop for repairs. Zac explains how it happened in his blog:

“This morning I tacked over to a port tack to make some northing after a dismal night bearing south no matter how hard I pushed northwards. The wind built during the day and by 10am I was slamming in to 25 knots and 8-10 foot sharp seas…. I hit a huge wave and Intrepid launched out of the water. When we came down I heard a bang like a gun going off. Looking I saw that the deck was flexing about 3 inches up where the shrouds are attached to the deck at the chain plates. I went into the head and saw that the inch thick teak bulkhead that my portside chain plates are tapped into had cracked…. With this damage the mast wouldn’t be able to take the strain of beating in these conditions so I altered course more downwind and now I’m headed for Banderas Bay where I will repair the bulkhead and get back out to sea as soon as possible.”

This unanticipated complication also coincided with a rather nasty tropical depression that would later be upgraded to a Category One Hurricane. Both of these things had Zac heading for a safe harbor. Zac’s father and grandmother flew down to be with him at the Paradise Village Marina in Nueva Vallarta. The repairs were completed in just five days and the weather abated. As of June 27, the conditions were right for Zac to continue his journey toward home.

On July 3rd Zac was still off the Mexican Coast, 400 miles away from Marina del Rey, when a U.S. Coast Guard ship came up to him. Four armed officers boarded his boat and did a customary search for anything illegal. Zac said, “After checking my paperwork and passport they asked if my parents knew I was sailing around the world alone … which was pretty funny.”

Zac is the youngest American sailor since 1965 to attempt a solo global circumnavigation. That was the year 16-year-old Robin Lee Graham departed Los Angeles, but Graham did not finish his voyage until the age of 21. Graham’s book, Dove, was one of Zac’s inspirations. Zac sailed west from Los Angeles on approximately the same course as Graham, but plans to complete his voyage while still 17 years old.

The eldest of seven children, Zac is a homeschooled straight-A student. He brought books along to study on board so that he could finish his high school education during the 40,000-mile journey. “I have all my books with me. I have one more year to finish at high school and I have to send back my tests (via e-mail) to my mum. She’s going to grade them and make sure I am doing well.”

Visit Zac’s website and check his progress at

“I have spent a lot of time out here thinking about what is important and what I’d like to do with my life. I don’t have all of the answers but I know this…without God in your life, you have nothing and I don’t want to spend my life reading about what other people have done. I want to be the kind of person that people want to read about. I believe that my solo circumnavigation is just the beginning of many more adventures to come. Documenting them and telling others and hopefully inspiring others at the same time is what I want to do.” ~Zac Sunderland