unschooling

Snow, flowers, wind

The weather’s been all over the place the last few weeks as winter thinks about moving over for spring and then thinks again. Gavin’s been working on designing some Lego ships with moving parts. He spends time working on a concept, sifting through all of our loose bits to find the right pieces and fitting them together and reworking things when they don’t work the way he wanted the first time.

He really wants to be able to write MineCraft mods and create texture packs so this week I challenged him to find a tutorial or class to learn about that. He found one and seems to be enjoying it so far. Computer programming is something he definitely can imagine himself doing later on.

Lilah’s been baking cakes. Vegan and gluten free baking is tricky and I’m seriously impressed with her efforts. She’s baking a cake a week these days and she’s learning about how things get weird when you forget an ingredient (cake without sugar!) and how it helps to try a recipe several times with different adjustments to tinker with it and get it closer to what you were hoping for than the initial attempt. She’s having a lot of fun and creating confidence and pride in her abilities and creativity. She isn’t afraid to leave the recipe behind! Very fun and impressive! We’ve had chocolate cake with chocolate orange frosting, vanilla cake with vanilla lemon frosting, vanilla cake with chocolate frosting so far. Mmmmmmm.

We’ve been reading together and discussing, working on developing written response skills. I’ve been painting a bit and I’m trying to get comfortable with meditation and work my flexibility and strength back from my long time off of my right leg. We’re rebuilding some of our garden boxes to be deeper and a bit smaller. I can’t wait to get started planting! I’ve started a few seeds inside. We’ll see if the cats leave them alone long enough to sprout.

We’ve been going on walks near and far and doing a bit of hanging out with friends outside. We’ve been doing some closet cleaning and some kitten exercising.

Chris and I went away overnight, leaving the kids home together to see if they would feel confident being home alone together over a longer stint. We had a lovely overnight with hiking in Southern Utah and a relaxed drive through every kind of weather and the kids worked together to feel safe and connected, eating together and reminding each other of tasks. They chose to spend most of their time on their computers, playing with friends but took breaks to care for themselves and our cats and bird. I’m impressed by their responsibility and teamwork and proud of them. I think they feel the same.

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A few days in Valley of Fire

We headed down last month for a long weekend. My sister and Dave met us there. We explored rainbow canyons, hoodoos, slot canyons and big slickrock domes that curve down to sandy paths between smooth and curving walls of yellow silica sandstone. It happened to be Valentines Day while we were there and a place with pink, red, orange, yellow and white rock seemed like a perfect place to celebrate love. Lilah spent some time making sand art with all the various hues of sand she found. We squeezed and climbed our way through several slot canyons. We sheltered in a little alcove from a sudden rainstorm. It was good to explore together.

We spotted desert bighorn sheep, a zebra tail lizard, some birds and tracked bees, lizards, birds and we think, a fox.

We started on the trails and then explored out and beyond which is where most of us feel the most at home. It was beautiful, all the swirling different colors of rock and the carved shapes. We chatted about which rock formations would be good for bathtubs and cat beds and where a nice hot tub spot would be. We decided that the rock colors were probably flavored. Grape, lemon, strawberry. Mmmmmm.

We ended the trip the same way we ended the last one here, deciding we should return again to explore more.

On our drive we listened to some more of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron. We’re enjoying the story. I am particularly enjoying following the story of a dragon who believes in peace, kindness and negotiations instead of fighting to the death.

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unschooling

an afternoon at home

Gavin is working on building a custom designed hovertank made with Lego after some weight lifting. Lilah is putting together ingredients for a chocolate cake with chocolate orange frosting while singing. Later we will read more of and talk about the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH during our tea party with cake. 


Life is good.

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Cactus in January

Far South of home, in Organ Pipe National Monument, it is warm and the cactus are soaking up the sunshine. So, we headed down to do the same with my parents for a camping trip. It was lovely to be outside and not freezing, to be able to more easily spend time safely with my parents and to enjoy the sights and sounds of Southern Arizona.

We hiked and chatted and ate cold s’mores (because we couldn’t have a fire there).

We read and watched birds and walked miles each day to and from the bathrooms. The campground had one set of bathrooms open one day, the other the next so sometimes it was only a short walk but other days it was a bit farther and with multiple trips, we racked up the miles!

We watched the rain transform the desert and just as quickly disappear.

I took pictures of plants and used iNaturalist to identify them. I tried to take some of birds too and got a few but the funniest moment was when I got a picture of half of a birds beak with an almond in it, after the bird almost completely avoided my shutter.

We found old mines and beautiful rocks.

We joked and snacked and admired the big views and the details.

Life is good.

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unschooling

December

We found a frozen waterfall in the hills in our neighborhood. It was lovely. We might go hunt other frozen waterfalls now that we’ve had a taste.

We’ve been working in the elf workshop, dreaming up and hammering together gifts for friends and family.

We’ve been going on walks, nearby and a little further out, with and without Juniper the cat.

We’ve been reading a lot. Gavin is working his way through The 13th Paladin series and Lilah has been working on reading the Snow Like Ashes series. I’m trying a few books at Gavin’s suggestion and keeping up with my library books in digital format. We’re listening to The Trials of Morrigan Crow series in the car, refreshing our memory of the first two in preparation for listening to the newest one.

The kids spent an hour on a walk one day coming up with a plan for a video game that was food themed. Lilah created a kingdom inside with an Alice In Wonderland focus and Gavin was working on a Pizza Factory basement level. It was so creative and fun and they put a lot of experience and thought into it together, just for fun. I was struck by how in this case, computers and games inspired creativity for them rather than stifled it.

We baked spritz cookies, vegan and gluten free for the first time. The kid enjoyed watching the shapes that come out of the strangely decorated plates and Lilah helped decorate them. I had to adjust the recipe on the spot as it just wasn’t working, not coming out properly, or holding together as well as not sticking to the baking sheet but with the addition of a bit of aquafaba they were working like they should.

The kids have both been working on their typing through a program called TTRS which is fairly enjoyable and they are making good progress! It’s a good thing to work on while at home more than usual.

Gavin is working on learning about the code language Java. He’s trying out Codecademy.com this time. Right now he’s working on running a lemonade stand in his course.

Lilah’s been spending a lot of time drawing. Here’s one of her latest creations.

We went snowshoeing in the mountains. There hasn’t been enough snow lower yet to do much snow play but we went up higher and found some nice fresh white stuff coming down and enough already there to play in. We found some cozy spots under the pines and spruces that felt like hideouts and wove between the trees and the stream where the kids enjoyed pushing bits of snow into the water and watching them tumble and very slowly dissolve. We spotted some rabbit and squirrel tracks along the way. Another day we went again with my parents and sister and Dave. There were fewer squirrels spotted but we did find a snowwoman.

We played the card game B.S. with they kids, where you bluff and call others bluffs. We ended up playing about 6 games because they enjoyed it so much. It was fun and we all laughed a lot.

On the winter solstice we took a walk and decorated some trees with dried orange ornaments that we’ll take down later.

We celebrated the holidays on Zoom this year due to the corona virus pandemic. It’s gotten worse here in Utah during the colder months and the holidays so getting together in person and inside is just not a smart move. So, we had a call with the local crew Christmas Eve, the Johnston family on Christmas and the Reynolds the day after. It was so good to see faces and hear voices of loved ones but so unsatisfying when I really want to be there and be able to hug people. We made a big batch of spritz cookies and molasses cookies and delivered them to my sister and my parents earlier to munch on while wrapping and unwrapping and zooming. We took a socially distanced walk in the hills with my sister, Dave and my dad after the calls on Christmas evening and looked out over the city, watched the sun set and the stars appear.

Gavin and Lilah are so tall now that Gavin is less than an inch shy of me. It’s a really weird but good experience to look at your kids grown as big as you. Gavin and I are sharing a flannel shirt we like. It’s weird to think that they will have grown so much during these months (years) of isolation that when we are able to see people again there will be a huge difference in their sizes.

We headed out to Utah Lake to see the ice there. It gets windy enough that often there are ice pushes, where ice is broken into shards and blown up toward or onto the shore in drifts and piles. It made for some beautiful textures! We walked out on the ice where it was thick and solid and we saw some raccoon prints in the ice. We discovered that rocks skidding across the ice there makes lovely exciting sounds too. When it gets colder the whole lake freezes and you can walk all the way across. Maybe we’ll get that chance sometime.

I’m anxious to tie dye and ice dye again. We didn’t do much this last season because of my knee injury so I am really looking forward to playing with the colors this spring. I’m working on listing the rest of the items we have already made in our Etsy shop PossibleOctopus so we will have room for more come warmer weather.

We are working on a new time organization method for our family, where we each set goals for the week and then check in about how we’re doing on those. We are hoping to help the kids practice taking responsibility for their own time, projects and goals more by giving them support in practicing those things. So far we’ve only just begun but it is exciting to hear about what things the kids want to accomplish or spend time doing.

The world is not puddle wonderful but icy wonderful here, at the moment.

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hundreds & millions of years ago

We spent a day heading out to a ghost town in nearby Wyoming. It was easy to get to but completely abandoned except by the cattle roaming around. There were a bunch of structures still standing which was fun to see and there were the preserved/rebuilt remains of some huge charcoal kilns nearby. The kilns were built in 1869 for creating charcoal for stoves and forges.

The river nearby was lovely and we explored a bit there too, spotting a muskrat emerging from below an ice roof into the running water.

We went for some walks with my parents, one out at a bird refuge. The birds were a bit scarce, a few hawks, some water birds, a heron, but the time together was treasured. There was ice on the stream and we discovered that if you tossed rocks on top, they skittered, making the most amazing sounds.

At a new bikepark, my sister showed us around. The kids each tried several areas and had fun, and I successfully got on and off of my bike for the first time since my accident. It felt good! I wasn’t ready for the challenging bits though so I walked around and watched mostly. It started snowing after a bit and it seemed really strange to be riding in a dirt park while it was snowing. They tried some hills and we explored different areas in the park.

Down south a bit, the three of us set out to find fossils. It took us quite a bit of driving up and down to figure out where to park and how to access the area we wanted to explore but eventually we succeeded, braving some chilly winds as we made our way to the more sheltered mountain behind the lake. We spotted bones, and then we found fossils. Some really amazing areas, with different kinds of creatures who lived in the ancient sea. We think, after some research, we saw some horn corals, bryozoans and clams perhaps.

We took our new kitty named Juniper on a walk. She has been such a joy, bringing each of us comfort in times when we miss our other people. She is a sweetheart, loves attention and is quite gentle. She has purring down and practices often. She’s also a bit of a mischief maker, which suits us just fine. She loves to try to sneak our food, to dig into the trash and….

A favorite fall game lately is trying to catch a falling leaf. On this walk, we all won after many attempts!

We explored a few new hiking trails and found some fun spots and beautiful sights.

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to see the sea

We drove out to Mendocino with my parents to visit the ocean. We stayed in two cabins next to each other on a natural preserve, filled with trees, ponds, plants and animals. It was lovely and we spent a bit of time exploring the preserve, but what we really wanted to spend most of our time doing was going to the beaches.

We explored several different spots nearby, each with their own attractions.

One day we watched a whole lot of jellyfish drifting and spinning in the water from high bluffs.

We scrambled up and down bluffs, played in the sand, sat and watched the waves and the seals, went looking in the pools.

In the tidepools we spotted sculpin, sea urchins, crabs of several kinds including one munching on a squid, anemones of several kinds, ochre stars, snails of many types, bat stars, six-rayed stars, a leather star, a sea lemon nudibranch.