unschooling

camping in Anza Borrego & Organ Pipe

We headed down south to find some flowers and sunshine with my parents.

Our first stop was a night in Las Vegas with Chris before he had to head back home to work. We enjoyed Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere. It was beautiful and fun and funny and we had a lovely time watching it together.

Next my parents and the three of us headed further south into California to Anza Borrego, a high desert which often boasts desert superblooms early in the year. This year we were a bit early for some of the flowers but we found a few spots where the sandy desert was covered in rich colored petals and it was magical. The smells were so lovely in the windy air.

We found a slot canyon (my kids favorite natural formation type!) and that was a fun hike. It was narrow enough to have to go sideways in spots and Lilah spotted a tarantula in the wash. Wow!

Almost every morning we were there we saw rainbows.

We spotted some desert bighorn sheep traveling along the mountain above our campsite and got a good look with my parents’ spotting scope.

Up the canyon from the campsite there’s a palm oasis, such a strange change of environment from a mile lower where the world seems to be just sand and rock. There was quite a bit of water and the palms looked happy and healthy with little ones sprouting and fruits hanging from the big ones. The kids found a spot behind the dry palm leaves and the rock that was sort of like a little cave.

We heard frogs each night so one day just after dark we headed to the pond the noise was coming from with our flashlights and after some long minutes we spotted one and then two! We watched them blow up their necks and make incredibly loud songs to each other even though they were only the size of a quarter or so.

Each night we saw more stars than you can ever see at home. We looked at constellations and I saw several falling stars.

Then we moved camp to Organ Pipe National Monument. I’d never been there before. It was gorgeous with cactus everywhere in so many varieties and stages of life and death. We saw saguaro, organ pipe, senita or gray bearded, barrel, prickly pear, hedgehog, cholla. We really enjoyed watching (and listening to) all the birds in the campsite! There were so many and they liked all the cactus and bushes near camp. We identified quite a few varieties with my parents’ guidebooks. Two types I know I spotted were the Gila woodpecker which liked sitting  on the saguaro tops and the cactus wren who seemed to be interested in building a nest in a cholla, covered in spikes everywhere!

We ventured into some washes right near the US-Mexico border and saw lots of huge cactus with some wildflowers and lots of dead and decaying cactus too which was fascinating to see. Lilah particularly liked the giant cholla skeletons, full of lacy holes. The sunsets were beautiful. Lilah captured this one.

We hiked up a mountain searching for flowers. We didn’t make it all the way to the top of the trail because it was super steep and we only had an hour of daylight left but we saw plenty of beautiful views on our way.

We learned saguaro don’t put out arms until they are ninety years old. We learned there are bats who migrate from Mexico to feed on and pollinate the pipe organ cactus every year. We checked out some natural water tanks (spots in rocks that fill up with water) and an old adobe building.

We looked for elf owls who nest in holes in saguaro but never saw any. We did luck out, spotting a big horned owl nesting in a saguaro and got to look at it with the scope as well as some of us spotting it’s mate in a nearby tree on our way out.

We stopped for a night in Tucson on our way home and visited the Sonoran Desert Museum, which is a bit more like a zoo. They had great live animal exhibits. We particularly enjoyed seeing the cougars, bear, bobcats, ocelot, screech owl, burrowing owl and hummingbirds. The hummingbirds let you get very close to them which was really fun. Some were very quiet and some were very talkative. Lilah identified each of the four types in the aviary.

It was a wonderful time with my parents and in nature even if it was a bit windier than we had hoped for. I’m SO lucky to have family who love nature and camping and who I love spending lots of time with.

Standard
unschooling

a walk in the rain

We went for a walk in the rain that turned to snow yesterday.

It was a short walk, maybe a half mile one way, then back.

We each had an umbrella, boots and jackets. Our hands got cold from holding umbrellas and Lilah’s feet got cold from snow falling inside her rain boot gaps. Perhaps we could’ve done better with clothing choices.

But we enjoyed it. We listened to the stream and the plops of rain, then snow on our umbrellas. We noticed animal tracks. We looked at leaves in so many different stages of decomposition. The kids pointed out all the different colors they spotted: dark red bark, golden seeds, light green reeds. We watched water collecting and then moving across the path in a stream. We gazed up and watched the snow falling, from as high up as you can see a single flake, watching one fall, then watching the swirls of movement in many flakes together.

I was worried that the kids would be miserable. I was worried they would leave without any enjoyment. I let them choose how long to walk and turned around when they wished even though I could have happily gone several miles. They enjoyed it.

I’m so glad we went.

Standard
unschooling

turning year

Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye
Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.
So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.
Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.
Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.
To the New Year by W.S. Merwin
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible
Standard
unschooling

more ghost town adventures

We’ve headed out to the desert to look for more ghost towns several times lately. We got lucky and found a spot by chance that’s too small to have a recognized name.

This is Lilah eating lunch before our exploration.

On another trip, we walked up to this larger named town remains. Both were mining towns, as are most ghost towns in this part of the country.

There was an old car that the kids enjoyed looking at. Strangely, we think we found a door to the car a half mile away from the rest of it. Hmmmm.

There was a head house still standing.

 

Lilah and I found lots of odds and ends.

There were many collapsed structures too.

We enjoyed this rusted cylinder, tipped on its’ side.

We walked up to the mine sites and looked at rocks and explored more remains.

We noticed these really neat frost crystal formations along our way, grown to huge proportions by hiding in the shade for days or weeks.

And these plants with super soft seeds were interesting.

We found some pinecones that were weathered in different amounts. Some looked almost feathery. Some still had pine nuts nestled inside, but were mostly rotted. We hope to go on a pine nut forage at some point.

Standard
unschooling

lately

We’ve been bowling.

And having friends over.

We made lanterns and had a lantern walk with friends.

The kids have been playing online games with friends.

We’ve tie dyed and ice dyed.

We’ve raked leaves and picked apples.

We’ve drawn with charcoal.

Lilah has trained her cat to cuddle with her in a hammock in her room.

Gavin has made several manga portraits of friends to give as anytime gifts.

I’ve been reading.

We’ve been playing Gloomhaven and Photosynthesis and Tiny Epic Galaxies with which Chris got for his birthday.

We made lemon poppyseed baked donuts by modifying two recipes and they were delicious.

We have plans to make a Lego advent calendar, though it’s likely at least one of the kids is mostly interested in candy eating and not building.

We’ve been reading about Egyptian mythology and history.

 

Standard
unschooling

owl & owl burrows

We went out to Antelope Island and found an owl. It wasn’t it it’s usual spot but we wandered around craning our necks and found her? him? half a mile away in a tall tree. The owl was very interested in the sound of the camera shutter and was wide awake for our visit.

Then we went burrowing owl hunting. We didn’t see any owls (they migrate south around this time) but we found some burrows that we will go check again in spring.

 

Standard