Late February

Enjoying the park and the sun.  Spinning is such fun.


Harry Potter – listening to the books in the car, making it their own with their legos, trains, etc., watching part of the 6th movie.

Spanish game playing.



Train track building.


Watching several TedEd videos.  Learned about Hatshepsut (a female Egyptian pharoah), simple levers and bats.

Visiting the Museum of Natural Curiosity, exploring the maze, pushing building posts into the ground, spinning.


Dressing up and acting in winter scenes.  You can see what they are doing in the room and then how they are projected onto the film clip on the screen.  They also spent a lot of time making stop motion animation films with astronauts and octopi.  The animation room is a favorite.

More Spanish game playing.  Enjoying the quests and practicing numbers from twenties through one hundred, simple conversational phrases.

Admiring the city at night from the sky bridge downtown.


Spiral Scouts, learning songs and playing games.

Rainbow loom creating; trying a new design, getting frustrated, persevering.

Trying out some chinese jump ropes.

Writing a letter. (It was an excruciating proposition, but after empathizing and cuddling, the process and result were alright.  I’ll take it.)


Planting seeds inside and making labels.  “How do you spell cucumber?”


Roller skating.


Reading Dr. Seuss in an impromptu read-a-thon.  (It was snowing huge flakes and I mentioned oobleck.  A few minutes later, Lilah had located Bartholomew and the Oobleck.  Then Gavin pulled out a few other Dr. Suess books.)

Hula hooping.



Working on cards for Grandpa.



tea for three

There was Rat-a-Tat-Cat playing.


We listened to Harry Potter in the car.

We did some more building.

The kids spent some time enacting scenes with Hero Factory characters.  “Oh, you defeated the Dark Lord.  You’re doing really well!”

There were oatmeal fraction discussions.  “If we use 1/4 cup of oats and 2/4 cup  of water how much oatmeal do we have?”  “What’s another way of saying 2/4?  I’ll draw a picture of 2/4 of a circle on the whiteboard.”  “One half!”

We used tea pot (our first ever!) for a green tea party.   We were all excited to try out our tea pot and the kids enjoyed trying green tea and peppermint tea and talking about all kinds of tea.

There was a game of Monty Python Fluxx.  Then we watched Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks sketch.

We visited the Hill Air Force Base museum.


The kids enjoyed looking at the planes but ultimately both decided they didn’t really enjoy the museum.  It wasn’t terribly kid friendly.  I’m actually quite excited about this as I think it’s a great opportunity to try something new and then decide, oh, that’s not really my favorite.


Now we know.  There were a few planes painted with teeth which entertained Lilah and Gavin really enjoyed looking at a huge plane engine which was displayed with the ability to watch the gears turn inside.


Unbeknownst to me, Lilah had brought her stuffed animal with her from the car (where I usually ask that they stay) and we lost it in a network of huge warehouses two separate times.  Luckily we found it both times but it was frustrating and both of us need to make sure the animals stay in the car before we head out on an adventure.

The kids helped vacuum the house (it’s on our list of chores they can choose to do and get paid for) by choice.  We took the glass over to the recycling center in the park and then collected sticks and bark to build a fairy house as a birthday present for a friend.

The kids each painted a cork as a fairy and then we hot-glued some ribbon as wings on the back.


Then we started building the house, clipping sticks to the right size and hot-gluing those in a log-cabin style for the fairy house, finishing with an open bark door and bark roof and pinecone chimney.

We stopped for a bit to watch as firemen arrived to put out a small fire nearby.  We got to see the ladder on the truck in use as well as their long hoses.

Lilah had a friend we haven’t connected with since the spring over.  It was so good for them to have time to play!  They explored the house, and then got out the marble blocks.  It’s always fun for me to see what different combinations of kids gravitate toward.

At the same time Gavin had playtime with his friend,and now pen pal, at their house.  He tells me they built a temple with legos, jumped on the trampolines, and ate noodles.

The girls dressed up as villains, made a haunted house, played dead, drew on the whiteboard, made a slide with the bean bag and gymnastics mat.  And giggled A LOT.

After both play dates had ended, we finished the roof of the fairy house, cuddled, read The Wizard of Oz and the Ranger’s Apprentice and then bed.




an order of coffee

Today there was Wild Kratts (a television show about animals) watching for both kids first thing.

After breakfast they played with their Hero Factory pieces, building characters and then making stories together.

Lilah worked on writing a letter to a friend and coloring a picture for her.

Gavin and I went on a walk and played Ingress.  Gavin felt really excited to be out and about, just the two of us.  I need to make that happen more frequently.

They had an disagreement over something and Lilah went into the bedroom feeling bad.  I followed her in and cuddled with her and then I asked her if she’d like to read to me.  She said yes and Gavin wandered in soon so she read a library book, an Elephant and Piggie story, to us.


Lilah and I picked up a friend and they painted and played while Gavin and I had a game of Tokaido.

Then all three played with play dough.  Lilah has very much been taking advantage of having easier access to the art supplies already, even just one day after setting it up.  Woohoo!  They had a restaurant where they took my and Chris’ orders and then made the food and brought it over to us.  The coffee was a little purple and a bit solid (wink), but it was lovely.

Before bed I read another chapter of Wizard of Oz (Lilah’s choice) and Chris read another chapter of Sorcerer of the North in the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan (Gavin’s choice) to the kids.


moments lately

Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been doing:



Playground visit.


Roller skating.  Climbing.  Bouncing.

Math puzzling.  Addition, subtraction and division.  Finally, exploring fractions!


Walk by the Jordan river, counting birds and recording them for the Audubon’s national backyard bird count.  We saw red winged blackbirds, mallards, coots, starlings, geese, robins, and chickadees.


Putting together many pieces of furniture for new craft storage, game storage and moving Chris’ workspace into our room so he’s not in our living space trying to concentrate while the kids and I play.  One of the biggest things I worried about when we began seriously considering unschooling was how to give the kids access to resources at home.  We had and have a lot of resources but they weren’t easy to get to, they weren’t organized, and we didn’t really have good spaces for activities as I wanted to provide.  So we thought about it and thought about what we wanted and then began to reorganize.  There are storage units with tubs for toys in our living room.  One of them doubles as a bench for cuddling or looking out the window.  We just added craft supply storage in bins, so that our supplies are not crammed in cupboards, forgotten about for months because they are so inconvenient to get out and find what you’re looking for.  We also added game storage, open boxes so that games can be seen at a glance but still out of the way.  We adore games so we wanted a good size place to keep them safe but handy.  Not many days go by that there’s not a board game or card game (or three!) played in our house.  Here are the kids putting together a drawer.

Here is our game storage, newly built and populated! Yes, we have a lot of games, and that’s only about half.  The others are out of rotation in the closet.



Here are the storage items we put in over the summer to better prepare our space for easy exploration and enjoyment.  The first picture shows toys in bins and the bench by the window.  The second is more toys, dvds, photo albums, the tv.


the modern era (or this week)

The kids played My Little Pony Life.

Lilah read a whole stack of Elephant and Piggie books under an umbrella.  Because it’s cozy, I think.


We made designs out of pipe cleaners and then mixed up some borax solution to grow crystals on our ornaments.

The borax crystals are especially enjoyable because they grow in mere hours and are ready to take out the same day or at latest the next day.

The kids often ask about how healing happens so I found this video and shared it with them.


We picked up a friend and the kids played all afternoon with playmobil castles and people and animals.

On our way out to the car today, Lilah kissed our tree.  She said, “I love you, Whomping Willow.”  It’s Harry Potter all the time, around here.  And it’s such fun!

There was a hike up by Jeremy Ranch, muddy and snowy and beautiful.

Gavin and I played No Stress Chess.  The kids played alone as well.


Lilah and I made some oatmeal chocolate cranberry cookies, changing our old vegan but not gluten free to vegan and gluten free.  Yummy!

We watched the first bit of the 6th Harry Potter movie, as well as listening to the 4th book on our drives around town.

In the evening Chris took the kids to scouts for their service project meeting and I stayed home.  Alone.  It was good.  I’d been feeling itchy to have some time with my own thoughts.

When they got back we read some more Wizard of Oz in bed.

There was letter writing and card making.  The kids enjoyed using some new stationery with owls on it.

Many games of Carcassonne were played, some with new rules negotiated.

We visited the natural history museum to see a new Extreme Mammals exhibit.  There were some fun things to look at but mostly it was information to read.  We saw what baleen look like, which was great because we were just talking about that a week or two back.  We saw an animal with lower teeth that looked and functioned like a shovel.

Gavin took a special interest this visit in reading all of the signposts leading into the museum, each one focusing on one era… jurassic, triassic, etc.  We decided that the furthest ones from the museum are longer ago and then the closer ones are less long ago until the one right outside the entrance is the current time, Holocene, if I remember correctly.

Lilah drew this.  It’s she and I as mermaids.   She is wearing a purple sweater dress.



Hearts and Flowers

There was more pop bead and K’nex play.

Gavin got out his Lego master builder set.

The hexbugs came out and were built and raced with and they went to Hogwarts.

We watched and listened to Weird Al Yankovich’s Word Crimes song/video about misuse of the English language.  I’m in complete agreement on the topic of saying, “I could care less.”  That’s bothered me for decades now.  The kids found it amusing and we got to talk a bit about some common mistakes that are made.

We checked out some pictures of sociable weaver nests – huge structures built by African birds who work together to build what is essentially a bird condo, with individual nests with separate openings are joined inside one large nest structure.  Fascinating!

“Webervogelnst Auoblodge” by Harald Süpfle – photo taken by Harald Süpfle. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons


Gavin received a letter today from a friend he hasn’t seen in months.  He was so thrilled!  It asked two important questions: Did he want to be pen pals?  and Can we have a playdate?  The answer to both is of course, yes!  I’m quite excited to both rekindle the boys friendship and to encourage writing.  The best part of the pen pal suggestion is, both boys are slow, frustrated writers, so they will be a great match.

We strung up some of our paper hearts to decorate for Valentines Day.


The kids were happy to put them up and begin talking about what they’d like to do to celebrate.  I’m thinking maybe some cookies with pink and red colors, some hand made valentines and…?  We’ll have to do some more dreaming together.


After lunch we went to the Museum of Natural Curiosity.  We climbed and slid and played with drum machines and melody makers.  We spent quite a bit of time making drum loops and melody loops, trying faster and slower tempos, different sounds, different drums, patterns.  Here they are, creating music.

We were bandits and stole dollars from the bank and then gave them to some customers outside the bank.  We explored the magic shoppe and learned some new tricks.

We zip-lined and spun and explored the outdoor nature playground.

Then we headed home for a bit of a Harry Potter movie, dinner, reading, cuddles, songs and bed.

The morning brought more hex bug play.

We finished the craft flowers we started a while back.  The petals were painted in carefully formed wire pieces previously and today they wound them around a stem, added leaves and then wrapped green paper around to make a stem.  Gavin says his looks like a tulip.

I discovered a short video about how dogs smell and interpret the world that I shared with the kids.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7fXa2Occ_U]


Lilah and I boiled water and stirred in (lots and lots!) of sugar to begin growing sugar crystals.


Gavin came and helped us decide when we’d added as much as could dissolve.  It’s amber colored because the sugar we used is non-whitened.


Gavin worked on some more Lego master builder pieces while Lilah helped by finding pieces for him.


In the afternoon we headed up to the local living history museum, This Is The Place.  It was pretty quiet, mostly closed for the winter, but we wandered the village, took a short train ride, enjoyed some animals.

On the train tour of the village, Gavin noticed that they had a small version of the blue locomotive named Jupiter, named and painted based on the famous locomotive from the joining of the railroads at Golden Spike site.  He also checked to see how the train cars were linked together and discovered it was different than the huge old link and pin that the replicas of the old trains at Promontory used.  There was a rope in the tree and they figured out quickly what that was for.  Gavin and I read a plaque with information on all the hand-cart companies that travelled across the country to Salt Lake City, when they left, arrived, how many there were, how much equipment they carried and how many survived the journey.

We visited the boot shop and the observatory and house that was inhabited by a squirrel.  That was amusing- going in the bedroom and seeing a squirrel who shot away into the kitchen and then out the door to escape us.

They also practiced their carriage driving skills, sans horse this time.




Playing outside

The kids played Heroica with my sister for an hour or so and then they took the dog for a short walk.

Lilah worked on some perler bead making.

Gavin helped Dad pump up his bike tires.  Then he biked while Lilah and I walked to the park where there was swinging


and climbing

and biking on the hills


and spotting some tiny fish in the creek that has trash in it and isn’t taken care of well at all.  But there are fish living and growing!  We saw at least ten the size of Lilah’s fingers, darting over and through the shadows.


The kids taught me how to play “Chinese War”, a variation on the card game War, that my cousins taught them over the holidays.  Gavin got very frustrated when he was losing and decided to stop playing.  I’m not sure how to help him deal better (faster?  more easily?) with the frustrations of games that don’t go the way you wanted them to.


Lilah and I went to gymnastics class while Gavin played Civilization with his dad.


On the way home we passed a UPS store and Lilah asked me if we order things from UPS.  I said no, and explained how people and companies pay UPS (or USPS or…) to pick up and then deliver their packages for them.

We started a project making hearts out of paper.  It involves stapling and cutting with a paper cutter so the kids practiced their safe and effective stapling and paper cutting.  We made a huge heart but don’t think it could stay up that way so we might just string them as a garland.

I read a chapter of The Wizard of Oz to them.  We talked about what cowardly means, since we just met the Cowardly Lion.

There was coolmathgames.com play together.

They played several more hands of Chinese War, often getting really frustrated but continuing or playing again later.  It’s hard for me to decide whether and when to step in and say, “This is causing too much frustration” and whether and when to let them keep hitting the same wall and trying again.  Sometimes they deal with it alright and sometimes they get mad, yell, throw things, refuse to do anything for twenty minutes, Gavin more than Lilah as his expectations are often higher.  More and more I think I need to say aloud what I notice happening, maybe say what I would feel or choose if I were in the same position and then let them work it out.  Solving problems for others doesn’t work for kids any better than for adults.

The perler beads came out again.  A ninja star was designed by Gavin and a lace circle by Lilah.

We went to Lindsay Garden park and the kids spun on the merry go round for a long while while I used the swings.

Then we went on a short walk through the cemetery.  There is supposed to be a nesting owl who comes every year about this time but I have no idea which tree they call home.  Maybe sometime we’ll happen on an owl nest.

After lunch we watched a bit of the 5th Harry Potter movie.  We’re listening to the 3rd audio book when we’re driving around.

Then it was time for Lilah and I to pick up her friend from school.

All three kids played with K’nex, Legos and pop beads together, making up an epic tale involving ninjas, queens and magic ala Harry Potter.  There was scepter building, underwater place building, cat drawing, cafe visiting and everything else they could toss in.

In the morning the K’nex were used with the pop beads to create this home for the pop bead characters they are designing and playing with.

We took a drive out to Promontory, Utah to visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site.


It was a long drive and so we were happy to get out and balance on the rails, inspect the replicas of the old locomotives, check out the large collection of tumbleweeds hiding behind the railing at the visitors center and admire various old tumbling down buildings (more me than the kids).

The actual gold spike was not at the site, it’s at Stanford University, but they had a replica there.  So Gavin learned that word pretty solidly and has been using it since, at least twice that I’ve heard.


There was a crew working on restoring the locomotives, one coal burning, one wood burning.  They were welding and scrubbing.  The guide kept referring to Gavin as a girl and he never chose to correct him, so I followed his lead.  Afterward I told him that he’s always free to point out he’s a boy if he wants to in these situations (happens shockingly frequently!) or ask me to if that’s more comfortable.  He answered that he didn’t really care, which surprised and impressed me.  The last time he was not happy about it at all.  So we left it at that.  It didn’t really matter enough to make a fuss over.  If he’s comfortable, that’s what matters to me!   A cat visited us while we were admiring the paint on the trains.  She’s in charge of the mice, the guide told us.  It seemed to me she was also an expert in visitor relations.   She came right over to us and Lilah knew she’d like some petting.  And she did.

We learned that the trains had to stop every 15 or 100 miles, depending on what they burn to produce steam.  We learned that hooking the trains to the other cars was a very very risky career with injuries and deaths likely.  Here’s Lilah trying her hand at using the link.


Afterward, on our way home Lilah spotted a playground and shouted, “Mama, PLAYGROUND!”, in a sort of desperate plea/command.  So we circled around and tried out another merry-go-round and teeter totter, climbing bubble, and finally the play structure.  That seems to be how the kids rank the various options – older and probably more dangerous first, then new and plastic and (possibly) safer.

I’m glad to know a merry go round is still something that can occupy hours and endless combinations of movement and experimentation.  I remember it the same way from my own childhood.  There aren’t very many left in our city – only one that I know of but in smaller towns like where we stopped today there are probably many more older playthings left.

I’m working hard to get us outside every day and take advantage of the spring time weather we are having in the beginning of February.  It’s gorgeous right now, even while it’s obviously a sign of climate change.