Monday, December 10, 2018

Virtue of the Month- Compassion

Virtue of the Month- Compassion

It seems that we do not understand one thing: it is not good when we return the love of those who love us, yet hate those who hate us. We are not on the right path if we do this. We are the sons of light and love, the sons of God, his children. As such we must have His qualities and His attributes of love, peace, and kindness towards all.
+ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives

As I interact with our Agia Sophia Academy students on a day to day basis there are days when we all need little nudges or reminders to be compassionate towards one another. Older students, remember to be patient with the younger children. Friends, remember to forgive one another for those small squabbles. Classmates, remember to show kindness to one another. Siblings, remember to treat each other with love and respect at home and at school. All of us, remember that we are all children of God and this fact alone defines how we are to treat one another. It is easy to love our friends- it is difficult to love and show compassion to those who are struggling or who might not be part of our “friend” group. We, as Orthodox Christians, are called to love one another and that means everyone.

This year as part of our #givingTuesday project, each child made a “grab and give” bag. These bags are part of the “Philoptochos” (friend of the poor) ministry at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. The purpose of these bags is to keep them in your vehicle for those times that, for example, you are stopped at a light and there is a homeless person asking for food or money. These bags, that include a pair of socks, food, water, etc., are a way to show compassion on those within our Beaverton/Portland community. We could choose to drive by and ignore those on the side of the road or we can show a small gesture of compassion by giving to them one of these bags. Please take them with you- they are not to be used just by the St. John’s community- but to be used by us all.

Have a wonderful Nativity and a Happy New Year!

Mrs. Christina Blankenstein

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Shepherding Sam by Melinda Johnson- Book Review

Shepherding Sam by Melinda Johnson

Full disclosure: I love corgi's! I once owned a sweet corgi many years ago and have always wanted to own another one. They are wonderful dogs and really great with families. 

A lovely story about a dog and a boy and a monastery. Sam is an active boy that struggles with church and spending time at the monastery. Saucer is a dog who only wants to herd- sheep, nuns, animals, maybe even Sam. 

I loved this book! I loved that the main character reminded me of my own children- not always super excited to go to church, somewhat distracted by everything that is going on around them. I love that this story shows the struggle that Sam goes through to be at the monastery. Sometimes our church stories skip over that struggle. To have a character experiencing apprehension about visiting the monastery and figuring out his place is refreshing especially for those readers who feel the same way as Sam. 

The other great thing about this book is it includes dragons, animals, swords, and a dog and boy who are trying to figure out their own purpose in all of this. 

This book would be a great read aloud with younger children and older children can easily read it on their own. I am very excited that this is now the first book in a series and look forward to reading book two- The Barn and the Book by the same author. 

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase your own copy at Ancient Faith Publishing 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

#GivingTuesday 2018


For our 2019 #givingTuesday project, Agia Sophia Academy students will put together "grab and give" bags for the St. John the Baptist ministry of Sts. Mary and Martha Philoptochos (women's group). Each child will create one bag to be distributed to the homeless in our area. 


This year marks our 15th anniversary since the establishment of our school. To celebrate this milestone, please consider participating in our #givingTuesday appeal. While education costs continue to rise, our fundraising efforts allow us to provide high-quality teachers and curriculum at a reasonable price for our families. Your gift makes Pan-Orthodox education possible for every family we serve and those to come! Don’t forget to submit your donation to your employer (Nike, Intel, etc.) if they participate in matching gifts. 

#FacebookGives & #PaypalGives

Create a fundraiser on Facebook or donate to ours to maximize your impact on November 27. Facebook and Paypal will be matching up to $7 million on #givingTuesday and waiving procession fees. 
May it be blessed!

In Christ,
Katherine Karafotias - ASA Development Director
Christina (Bournelis) Blankenstein - ASA Principal

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Importance of Reading Aloud- Kate DiCamillo

As if we need more reasons to read aloud to our children/students...
Here is a link to Kate DiCamillo talking about the magic of reading aloud.
Click Here :) 

Enjoy! And if you do not know what to read aloud to your children, any Kate DiCamillo book is an excellent choice!

Have a blessed day!
Mrs. Blankenstein

Ps. Here is a list of Kate DiCamillo's books. My personal favorite is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane followed by The Tale of Despereaux.


Chapter books[edit]

  • Bink & Gollie series, text by DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illus. Tony Fucile
    • Bink & Gollie (2010)
    • Bink & Gollie: Two for One (2012)
    • Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever (2013)
  • Mercy Watson series (Candlewick Press), text by DiCamillo, illus. Chris Van Dusen
    • Mercy Watson to the Rescue (2005)
    • Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride (2006)
    • Mercy Watson Fights Crime (2006)
    • Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise (2007)
    • Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig (2008)
    • Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes (2009)

Picture books[edit]

  • Great Joy (2007), illus. Bagram Ibatoulline
  • Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken (2008), illus. Harry Bliss

Short stories[edit]

  • "An Ordinary Boy", in Spider magazine for children (vol. 8, issue 9, September 2001)[18]
  • "Super Tulip", Spider (vol. 8, issue 9, September 2001)[19]
  • "Visit", Spider (vol. 9, issue 1, January 2002)[20]
  • "The Third Floor Bedroom", in Chris Van Allsburg, et al., The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Book Review- A Daily Calendar of Saints by Fr. Lawrence R. Farley

As the principal of our school, I was very excited to have the opportunity by Ancient Faith Publishing to read and review this book  Every morning, as a school, we gather for morning prayers. I have been looking for a way to incorporate short readings of the saint of the day into our morning prayers and kept coming across either very lengthy readings of saints lives or the readings incorporated language that is way over the heads of our youngest children (our Montessori preschool begins at age three). This book is the perfect balance of length and difficulty for even our youngest students. In fact, I may have our 5th graders eventually read the life of the saint to the children during our morning prayer time. As we use this book everyday, my prayer is that over the years, the children will remember these lives of the saints (not just the well known saints, but even the lesser known saints). 

I highly recommend this book for families with children at all age levels. It is easy to read and comprehend. Most of the daily lives of the saints are a short paragraph while the more well know saints are a bit longer. 

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Hulafrog- local things for kids to do...
check out their website and "love" ASA!

Monday, November 5, 2018

With Gratitude...


The Virtue for the month of November is Thankfulness/Gratitude. Fitting because we in the United States devote a day in November to “Thanksgiving”. Fr. Thomas Hopko wrote,

The spiritual person is the one who is grateful for everything. He is the one who receives everything with thanksgiving, and who knows that he has nothing except what he has received from God.

If we recognize that all things come from God then we should be in a constant state of Thanksgiving- not just one day a year, but every moment of every day. This is what we strive to teach our students at ASA- to be ever grateful to God for all things!
I am personally Thankful for all of you. Our students, families, staff, and board members.

With gratitude,

Mrs. Christina Blankenstein
Ps. I will close with one of our Bible verses for November:

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. – Colossians 3:17

News from around the school... and ways to support our greater Beaverton community and support our school.

Fundraiser going on now! Click here to find out more information.

We are collecting food for Oregon Food Bank - theme is Ducks v. Beavers- support your favorite college team by placing food in the appropriate barrel. Let's see who wins this battle!

And, to continue withe the Ducks v. Beavers theme, and to take part in the BottleDrop is running a promotion for the month of November that can earn us an extra % of the total bottles and cans that we bring in! So, we have set up, next to the food barrels, Ducks v. Beavers recycling stations to easily return your cans and bottles- each bottle or can is worth $.10 so let's take advantage of this great opportunity. And may the best team win!

For other ways to support Agia Sophia Academy, please check out our website for "everyday ways to contribute" here-
- donate your car
- donate stock
- shop with Amazon? Login through and choose ASA as your nonprofit. A small    percentage of what you purchase goes back to the school!
- Fred Meyer rewards card- you can choose to have ASA as your designated non-profit.
- Twice a month we order Scrip cards (gift cards)

Check out the other ways that you can support our school!

May it be blessed,
Mrs. Blankenstein

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Congratulations to our 2018 Graduates!

This past Spring, we had two students graduate from our 5th grade program. It was a joy and privilege to have taught these now young gentlemen and watch them grow over the years (Daniel has been here since he was three years old in our Montessori program and Michael joined us when he was four years old in our Montessori program). 
Below are excerpts from the speeches that they each wrote and delivered at our Annual Spring Performing Arts and Graduation Night. 

Congratulations and May God continue to bless your future endeavors!

May it be blessed, 
Mrs. Blankenstein

The Farewell by Daniel
I remember my first day at Agia Sophia Academy as though it was yesterday: my mom entering the bedroom telling me it is time to get up, a warm bagel waiting for me in the kitchen that I could not really eat because I was terrified of what lay ahead that day, a picture taken in our driveway as I was departing for my first day at school, a drive that made me more and more fearful as we approached the building and of course Ms. Rusudan holding me tight in her strong embrace as I was crying my life out seeing my mom running for the exit.  It was my first time away from the familiar confines of my parent’s home.

In those early days I knew that I had come here to learn and to get an education. What I could not foresee was that through the zigzags of experiences, ups and downs, tries and misses this place would come to be my second home. A home from which I would draw spiritual inspiration. A home where I would make friendships and where I would be mentored by people who not only shared their wisdom and knowledge with me, but filled these walls and all that is here with love and understanding.

As I sat down to write this speech, memories flooded from my days in Montessori, the chores, activities, field trips, projects and of course how I looked forward to every show-and-tell presentation. I truly enjoyed it all. But more importantly, it was the teachers, Mrs. Padma and Ms. Rusudan, who undoubtedly left a most lasting impression that I hope to cherish for a long time to come. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was their Georgian and Indian accents that filled the room and interplayed in beautiful ways, or their calm demeanor interlaced with warm emotions when they wanted to complement or even reprimand you or maybe it was their full and undivided attention that they gave to all the students: I don’t know what it was but I always felt engaged, loved and safe in their classroom. Being as shy as I was in Montessori, this was a huge deal for me. Thank you Mrs. Padma and Ms. Rusudan.

My journey from the first grade to this very hour has been rather methodical. I took small steps forward, learned my way around, began trusting the teachers, and eventually built bonds with students. Though gradual and slow in coming, this process has shaped my worldview and I hope has prepared me for what lies ahead. Forever instilled in my memory are our daily morning prayers and liturgies where I cemented my spirituality and connected deeper to the roots of my faith. I will carry this through my life and would like to express my gratitude to Fr. Theodore and Fr. Matthew for guiding and supporting this school.  The instruction in Latin, Greek, Art and Music was deeply enriching for me. While not present in many schools where my non ASA friends go, it helped me develop the love for reading, history and playing the piano. Christmas and Spring Fine Art Night performances have always been a highlight of the year and I feel extremely fortunate I was able to be a part of them for the last eight years. The library has become another special place as I looked forward every week to checking out new books and talking to Ms. Ferris about them. Mrs. Powell, Mrs. Perussi, Ms. Ferris, Kiria-Maria thank you for everything! The exposure to science and math is another thing I will cherish about the school. All my elementary school teachers provided excellent instruction and have given me intellectual certitude to be curious.  But above all, they taught me how to love those who are close to me, how to feel empathy for those in need, and how to respect those who disagree. Father Ed, Mrs. Rice, Mrs. Blankenstein, Ms. Chiprout, thank you for caring, teaching and guiding me through these past five years. Thank you for always encouraging me to do the right thing! It means a world to me and I am sure to everyone in this room. I will remember you and cherish these experiences long after I leave ASA!

Throughout my years at ASA one thing remained constant. My parents and grandparents always provided their full and unconditional support. They did all they could and more to create an environment where I could learn and enjoy school. I am forever grateful for what they have done for me and my brothers. I know that for a long time to come I will miss the walls of this building, the chatter that fills these rooms, the solemn silence of prayer and many meaningful friendships that I built over the years. I can only hope that as I forge forward in this world I will always carry the warm memories that have been created here. During one of our trips back from Eugene earlier this year, as I was sitting and starring aimlessly out the window from our car after a long and tiring day, my father looked at me and said, “Learning can be a long and lonely journey but the joy and satisfaction you get from understanding or creating something is worth more than any frustration.” I caught myself thinking that strangely I can relate to this, thanks largely to my many years at ASA and the students and teachers that make this a very special place. Thank you!

Spring Fine Arts Night by Michael
Hi! My name is Michael. Like every great comedian, I’d like to start off this speech with a joke.  So here goes: 
            A priest walks into a bar.  (pause).  He said, “ouch!”  I kid, I kid.
            Here’s a true story.  When I first came to ASA, I thought I’d have a “direct line” to God, if you know what I mean.  As in, he would hear my prayers, or hear more of them, or hear them more often.  Well, I now understand that wasn’t necessarily the case.  You see, every day I prayed that I’d be taller than Father Ed by the time I graduated.  Turns out God let me down by just a couple of inches!
            I know you all want to eat snacks, as I do, so I’ll make this quick. I have been lucky enough to experience this time in my life here at ASA with some amazing people.
            First off, my parents.  (eye contact) In my first years at ASA, they packed both me and my sister’s lunches. I learned how to do that later. They also drove me to school everyday. They helped me with math, spelling, and reading - well, mostly my dad did.  This past year, they drove me to school, often cutting it close to being late with some last-minute poopy diaper changes. They have been great mentors and have helped me get through some tough times myself.
            Second, my teachers. Father Ed (eye contact) was a great teacher. He was humorous, strict and loved to teach. One of the best moments in my academic life with Father Ed was when he taught us how to build a telegraph.  When Miss Chiprout announced that Father Ed was coming back after his break from teaching in the middle of the year I was really happy for him.  And speaking of Miss Chiprout (eye contact), she took on a huge responsibility when she was chosen as the long-term substitute for Father Ed.  She’s a fellow comedian, she made us laugh a lot and she laughed a lot, and I really loved that about her.  Next, Mrs. Perrussi (eye contact).  She has been an amazing art teacher and I don’t think I’ll ever have a better one.  Magistra Downs has been an incredible Latin teacher (eye contact). I still can’t believe that she knows 5 or more languages. Next, the principal, Mrs. Rice (eye contact).  She started out as Ms. Wright, and along the way tweaked her last name.  We have a fair bit in common, as she too had her life impacted by a baby fairly recently.  Last, but definitely not least, Mrs. Mackenzie (eye contact). Every time I got hurt on the playground, she fixed me up.  Which was a lot. Thank you to all the wonderful ASA teachers and staff.
            Most people think I’m a pretty good kid. But I’m not perfect. Here is a story………. once, maybe around Kindergarten, there was this time where we were playing soccer on the playground, and my friend Landon kept picking up the ball.  Now, everyone knows you can’t touch a soccer ball with your hands! So I’d had enough, and   I drilled him in the chest…hard.  Apparently picking up the ball isn’t a foul, but punching your friend is.  When Ms. Lubliner e-mailed my parents to tell them of my unfortunate “mistake”, my Dad asked if I threw a left hook or a right cross, before apologizing for my actions.  My Mom’s still hopeful that she laughed.
A couple years ago, my sister joined my class and had the best years of her life, because every time I did something wrong, she would know and she could tell my parents.  Which she did, often.  I’m not sure, but maybe I should say, “thank you?” (eye contact)
            ASA has impacted my life in ways I never thought it would. It made me a better Christian, it hopefully made me a better person, and it helped me find amazing friends.  ASA also taught me that punching a person probably isn’t the first, or the best, way to solve problems. 
            We live in a world of turmoil, where the only constant is change.  As the great Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  ASA has prepared me to do just that, and I’m forever grateful.
            In conclusion, I am forever grateful for my parents, ASA teachers and staff, and most of all I thank God for my many blessings.  Thank you for listening, and have a great night.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Sent to me from Fr. Ed...

We have a sacred obligation to prepare our youth and new members to receive the power of God. If we teach our children to do their homework but not to pray, we are only preparing them for misery. Good grades cannot save us from a tormented conscience. We cannot prepare a catechumen just by getting him to memorize dogmas. We must help him to be healed from the wounds of sin. 
-- His Eminence, Metropolitan JOSEPH

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Reading Options...

Read this fantastic article about the importance of audiobooks. Some great suggestions for listening to audiobooks include Audible (this is an account and place to purchase audiobooks), Overdrive (this is what most libraries use to check out audiobooks- go to your library website and reserve audiobooks), checking CD's out of the library of audiobooks, internet search for free audiobooks to download- lots of classics are available for free!

A suggestion from our pediatrician- listen to an audiobook of something you have already read to help you fall asleep at night. In our home, we use a blue tooth speaker in our youngest son's room that is connected to my kindle in our room. He read Fellowship of the Ring and, now when he has trouble falling asleep, he listens to the book. For myself, if I have difficulty falling asleep, I listen to Dante's Divine Comedy.

As a commuter school (and remembering back to the days we lived in North Portland and drove to ASA every morning and afternoon), audiobooks were a wonderful way to pass the time while sitting in traffic.

In our Upper and Lower Elementary classrooms, we use Daily 5 as part of our literacy instruction. One aspect of Daily 5 is "Listen to Reading" where the students do just that- listen to audiobooks for a set amount of time per day.

So go forth and listen to a book :)
Have a blessed day!
Mrs. Blankenstein

Monday, October 15, 2018

Shepherding Sam and The Barn and the Book by Melinda Johnson

We received our copies of the two book series Shepherding Sam and The Barn and the Book by Melinda Johnson. The goal is that our Upper Elementary students will read these books and learn to write a book review which will then be published on this blog, on our Instagram account, and on our Facebook page (I have started a Twitter account but have not used it at all).

One of our 5th grade students has already read Shepherding Sam, so I handed him the copy of The Barn and the Book as his first read. I asked the students who would like to read this book and write a review and the hands shot up in the air! I handed the book to one of our 4th graders. She will read it and then we will work on how to write a book review. Then she will read the next book and pass on Shepherding Sam to another student.

On a personal note... my youngest has Shepherding Sam on his bookshelf in his bedroom but has read about half of it (I suggested last week that he read it but he is in the middle of reading The Indian in the Cupboard series- I believe he just finished book three and is waiting for book four from the library).

If you would like to purchase your own copies of these two books, please check out Ancient Faith Publishing website here. This link will take you directly to a special promotion to buy both books together for $20 plus shipping. And, I am certain that at some point, The Logos Bookstore at the our church will be carrying these two books.

Return soon to read the book reviews by our wonderful students! Have a wonderful and blessed day!

Mrs. Blankenstein

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Virtue of the Month- Honesty

“Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, a door of enclosure about my lips”  -Psalm 140:3

This is one of our Bible verse quotations for the month of October. This month our Virtue is Honesty- telling the truth and being genuine. It is far easier to begin by telling a simple lie but then that snowballs into a complicated mess of lies. If the first time we tell the truth, even though in that moment we may be afraid of the consequences of telling the truth, the end result is far greater than lying. I pray that God grants all of us- especially our children- the strength to always be honest.

May it be blessed!
Mrs. Christina Blankenstein

PS. The photo is of two new books that we have purchased for Upper and Lower Elementary classrooms as part of our Faith curriculum. Neither of these are about Honesty, but I wanted to share that we now have these books and, hopefully, I will have some students who will read and write a review for this blog! 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

"With us everything should be secondary compared to our concern with children, and their upbringing in the instruction and teaching of the Lord.” 
- St. John Chrysostom

A friend of Agia Sophia Academy emailed the above quotation to me, knowing how much I would appreciate it. It is Friday afternoon- we are at the end of a long week. So the quotation is timely for me- a reminder of why we, the staff of ASA, come here every day. May we all have a blessed weekend!
In Christ, 
Mrs. Blankenstein

ps. These are a sample of photographs from the blessing of our school. We begin each day, as a community, gathered in the church for morning prayers. We end each day, in our classrooms, gathered around our icon corners for afternoon prayers. And in between, we pray before we eat, we make our cross when we hear a siren from an emergency vehicle, and we venerate the icons as we pass through the narthex.

Monday, September 24, 2018

September- Obedience

Each month, as part of our children’s education at Agia Sophia Academy, we focus on a different Virtue. Our weekly Bible quotations for memorization, our faith lessons, and our discussion and articles are based on that particular virtue. For our first month of school our virtue is obedience.
For some, obedience has a negative connotation- you must do exactly what I tell you to do when I tell you to do it, whether or not the request is reasonable or unreasonable. For others, as long as I give my child a lengthy explanation of the why’s and how’s of what I would like them to do, then they should do it. Neither of these examples are obedience but different forms of coercion. And while within a family, school, and community there is a certain level of expectation to do certain “jobs” or “chores” even when we do not want to, our attitude towards those jobs  and our love for one another can lead us to St. Porphyrios’ definition of obedience:
“I can’t give you an example of what real obedience is. It’s not that we have a discussion about the virtue of obedience and then I say “go and do a somersault,” and you obey. That’s not obedience. You need to be entirely carefree and not thinking at all about the matter of obedience, and then suddenly you are asked to do something and you are ready to do it joyfully.” 
~ St. Porphyrios

May we have a blessed school year as we learn to acquire obedience to the point that when asked, we “do it joyfully”!

In Christ,
Mrs. Blankenstein