planting & growing

This week, we planted pumpkins, butternut squash and rainbow swiss chard seeds in the garden and admired our rapidly sprouting carrots and less rapidly sprouting but still growing quite nicely kale.

We met up with the local unschoolers again, played hard, and afterward decided to invest in foam swords so we don’t constantly need to borrow them, since they are an essential play item when groups of boys of all ages get together and play outdoors.  Chris and I have been having long conversations about how we deal with toy weapons and weapon play in our household and I think our approach is shifting.  I’ll write more on that soon.

On a Memorial Day adventure with dad the kids noticed some horsetail by the stream, recognizing it from Lilah’s Wildcraft game and told us about its healing properties.  (It’s good for headaches, low energy, etc.)

We went to the Museum of Natural Curiosity where the kids favorites were the bank where there is play money, a teller window complete with vacuum shoot and a back alley where robbers are constantly in action, and the outside play area where they love the cave and spend long periods howling like animals inside the caverns.

We hiked up by Jeremy Ranch, saw wildflowers, deer tracks and droppings, lots of mushrooms and then got rained on and hailed on and headed back down quickly, though not quickly enough to avoid a thorough soaking.

We swam again, working on going underwater, swimming strokes and kicking and propelling ourselves through the water.  Lilah discovered she could somersault in the water and was quite pleased.

All four of us went up to Silver Lake and enjoyed walking on the boardwalk, climbing rocks, spotting a beaver? muskrat? otter?, watching ducks and squirrels and butterflies and maneuvering through areas with snow and areas with spring run-off streams rearranging the landscape.  We spotted a dark colored butterfly with yellow edges on its wings and Gavin wanted to know what kind it was so we looked it up at home and decided it was probably a mourning cloak butterfly.

On all of our drives lately we’ve been listening to the first book in the Brotherband Chronicles: The Outcasts, by John Flanagan.

In between there was lots of building, imagining, reading.  Bedtime and othertime requested stories lately are The Ranger’s Apprentice series (also by John Flanagan) and Castle in the Air by Dianna Wynne Jones. I think Castle in the Air may be one of the first stories the kids have encountered with a genie (and a magic carpet) in it, and they are enthralled.




Joining the Group

We finally, finally made it to meet with a group of other unschoolers!  This has been a goal of mine since before we actually left school last year.  It’s been hard because there were less opportunities over the winter months and we were still trying to get our balance in this new way of doing things together.  Then a couple of times we did go to some meetups but weren’t sure who was who and I couldn’t get my courage up to go around asking anyone and everyone, “Are you an unschooler family?” We did make it to a group tour of the capitol but there was little opportunity for connection forging with others in that setting.  So, it’s been a challenge for me.  Since it’s a challenge, it’s also been a worry source.  Will we ever find friendships as strong as those we had at school?  Can I, as a very private and introverted parent find ways to meet my kids needs for time with others who are on a similar path often enough?


Anyway, we made it to a park playtime this week and it was lovely.  There were a dozen or so kids from 15 years down to infants and most of them played together in fantastic adventure games organized and supported by the older kids.  Gavin was thrilled to hang out with other kids and especially older kids doing exploring and adventuring together.  He cried when it was time to leave and I assured him that there will be many opportunities to do the same in the future.

Lilah played on her own quite a bit as well as watched some of the other kids and that was good too.

I chatted with other moms, learning that we have a lot in common and much that is unique to us as well. I am hoping we can build some friendships that will help us feel less isolated and that we can really be ourselves in.  It’s definitely something we need.  I am hesitant in new friendships, detest small talk and very much enjoy time alone or just with our family but am also wanting some more with families who approach parenting and learning in a similar way.

This has far and away been the hardest thing about our unschooling (or life-learing) journey for me, as an extremely introverted parent without any already established connections with the local unschooling groups.  So, I’m very glad that I finally got the  ball rolling and that what the kids experienced yesterday was exactly the kind of thing I’d been dreaming of for them.

We’ll go again next week!

In the meantime, we need to review what poison oak and ivy look like (fairly prevalent here in SLC and I want the kids to be able to spot it on their own), what parkour is (apparently an interest of some of the other unschooling boys), find our water guns, and get a picnic blanket to keep in the car.  That stuff is easy-peasy.


Several weeks in May

Gavin has been watching/listening to the google doodles lately.  Today he informed me that today’s “google thing” was about “how girls are as good and the same as boys”.  Thanks, Google!

They rode and walked to the park with my sister for some cops and robbers games.

We had a friend over and played with Legos and marble runs and cars.

Lilah made a beaded necklace to give a friend.


Gavin wants to write a book about Castle In the Sky so he was practicing the lettering from the front cover this afternoon.

Lilah has been picking bouquets from the yard to enjoy inside.

We spent the day in a city an hour or so away, buying a new to us car.  The kids and I spent most of the day at various parks.

We watched a favorite film, Ponyo, again.

We had a conversation inspired by a coupon saying “Save 20%” so we talked about what that means, how much 20% of $100 and $10 is and if it’s a small or large amount and if it’s worth doing.  The kids decided it is worth using.  Since it’s for the bookstore, I agree!

We visited the aviary and saw the sandhills cranes with an egg!  We got friendly with a parakeet and ran and explored and reveled.

We went swimming.  The kids have been asking about going to a waterpark and we’ve told them that we’d love to, as soon as they can swim.  So, they’ve been asking and asking to go the pool and work on learning to swim.  In some ways, this is their first Big Unschooling learning goal.  So, we went and I found some simple games to develop the skills needed in swimming and we worked on those for a half hour or so and then they went down the slide and played.  But, they both made some nice progress and I think if we keep it up they’ll happily be swimming soon, without me scaring them or forcing things along.  Woohoo!

We went to the library again, this time to try to find a specific book Gavin has his heart set on reading: Galaxy’s Most Wanted by Jon Kloepfter.  After a computer search we found it yesterday and he’s now finished with all 208 pages (the next afternoon).  Lesson for me here is: let the kids choose their own books when possible.  Wow!

Gavin asked us who the main character in Mrs Piggle Wiggle’s Farm is.  What a great question!  I am so impressed by his interest and the fact that he shows a lot of nuanced understanding, asking this because the book has a different main character in each chapter, so it’s really different than most literary situations.  So, we got to talk about how usually the way you can recognize the main character(s) for sure is by the changes they undergo, as a character.

A week after we went swimming the first time, we went again. We did more of the same little games to work on swimming skills and both kids absolutely amazed me!  Lilah is just about able to swim all on her own and Gavin is nearly there and determined to work at it.  He’s able to float now, which means totally relaxing in the water and trusting his body and Lilah is willing to put her whole head under the water to propel herself, over and over and comes up with a huge grin on her face.  I told them both they looked like dolphins and they were so, so proud of their progress.  Woohoo!

Gavin’s been doing soccer games and practice three times a week and has been working hard on his defensive skills.


Lilah’s continuing gymnastics once a week and is getting better at hand stands, cartwheels and is beginning to work on round offs.  She’s gained a lot of strength in the past few weeks and is more and more able to pull the moves off.

More and more the kids are telling me what they are interested in doing with their time, like Gavin told me he wants to do more science experiments and Lilah has been asking for time to draw (cats mostly) and color (mandalas mostly).  I’m excited about these developments, as my own reflections on learning are that it’s most beneficial when it’s something chosen and pursued by the learner (with help and encouragement often, of course).


Every day we are working on how to make decisions about our time together without conflicts, and how to deal with conflicts when they come up.  It’s a work in progress.




Up to the mountains

I’m still working on another post about the last several weeks, but here’s a story about today. After some card games (war and speed) and some Playmobil play and some puzzling this morning, we headed up to Storm Mountain for a hike.  It’s been awhile, partly because we’ve been busy with soccer and gymnastics and partly because it’s been raining almost every day lately.


The kids were getting into arguments before we left but as is almost always the case, once outside there was no conflict.  They love going on hikes where there are a) rocks to climb and b) water to play in, so Storm Mountain is always enjoyed even though the short hike up to the stream is steep.  We saw flowers and new growth on trees and shrubs.  We saw birds who frequent the stream.  The kids tried drawing with rocks on other rocks and enjoyed the different colors and textures they could make.  Lilah found bunches of what she called ladybugs but were different varieties of red beetles some with dozens of spots, some with none.


We spotted a snake by the stream and many striped spiders.  I was thrilled to watch Lilah excitedly discovering and interacting with ladybugs, roly poly bugs and was even moving closer to see a spider.  When she was three she got stung by an insect and was terrified of anything that wasn’t a butterfly for years.  She calmed down about it after that but was still wary, even last summer.  Today, she was friendly with those beetles.

They were discussing what kinds of trees were on the path (they remembered maple and pine but not scrub oak) and I gave them a refresher on what stinging nettle looks like because there’s a bunch of it up there.  We found itty bitty male pine cones that had fallen and we admired new patterns in the trail from all the rain lately.

They climbed and drew and dug in the dirt and picked dandelions.  I sparked an interest for the kids today in natural art by arranging dandelion tops on a rock crack and later on the kids were excited to try their hand at it.

On the way down the trail, the kids tried to hide and camouflage themselves.  Fortunately for me, they were wearing purple and blue so I found them and found them again.  Lilah was also showing interest in tracking and leaving signs of what’s ahead or behind, possibly picked up from some books we’ve been reading lately.  So, we made a cairn and we put certain rocks this way or that way to show, “I’m going ahead” or “the trail goes left”.  It’s so good to get into nature.  I love it but it’s so easy to forget or not make time for that.  Maybe a scheduled hike day each week is in order.

As an added bonus, we got to listen to Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling on our way up and down in the car.  They are hilarious and captivating, O my Best Beloved.


gardening and other physical explorations

The three of us went to the garden store and picked out vegetables for our garden and some pansies for our porch. Gavin chose some red and orange pansies and Lilah chose some dusky purple.

We finished reading Little House on the Prairie. We don’t have a copy of Farmer Boy (next in the series) at the moment so we started Hello, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty McDonald in the mean time.

Lilah went to gymnastics class where they are preparing for their meet.


We planted the pansies in little pots to brighten our porch and a geranium inside by the window.

We visited the Leonardo again.

Our Harry Potter listening in the car came to a finish as we just listened to the end of the last book so I’m looking for some new series I think the kids would enjoy hearing in the car.

Gavin began his spring outdoor soccer, practicing with his team. Lilah and I watched, did cartwheels and practiced her gymnastics routines and played with our own soccer ball.

Gavin came across a recipe for soft pretzels and asked if we could make them together. He read down the recipe to make sure we had everything we needed and decided with my help, that we did.

We weeded the garden, dug out tree roots and planted the strawberries that Lilah insisted we grow this year, and plant first. She was disappointed that we only had a few plants so I shared that trying something new in the garden is always an experiment.


They found worms and trash and roots and lots and lots of weeds. Gavin dug and dug and dug with the new kid sized shovel we got.

Lilah asked me why I was rubbing the roots of the strawberries so I explained that the roots need to expand into their new home and if they are a little more flexible, it helps.


We mixed up the pretzel dough and kneaded and rolled snakes and shaped pretzels. Then they played with Hero Factory characters until the dough was ready to go.

We slipped the pretzels into the bath, hoping they wouldn’t fall apart, like happened in our last attempt. They actually held up pretty well. I think the difference was popping them in the freezer right before boiling.

After a “tea time” with pretzels and green tea we headed off to the roller skating rink.

The kids practiced their tricks, I practiced my decidedly less exciting ones. Lilah was skating and noticed a girl about her size with covered head and long clothes (very colorfully styled hijab)and stared, then smiled. The girl had her roller skates untied and was falling. So Lilah stopped and tied her skates for her. I was very proud and happy to see her in that small moment of connection. She told me later that she’d expected the girl spoke another language but was surprised when she spoke English and so we talked about how there are lots of people here who are not exactly like us but still speak English (and have a lot more in common too.) (Photo is very fuzzy because of bad lighting and pictures while moving.)


Off to the park we went when we got home to practice Lilah’s floor routine and for a few kicks of the soccer ball before dinner. I read a chapter of Hello, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty McDonald to them while they finished up dinner, then a chapter of The Ranger’s Apprentice series in the bedroom before cuddles and songs and dreams.