unschooling

Midsummer

We celebrated summer solstice late but very happily.

We made sun cookies with edible flowers from our garden. We used rosemary, chopped fine and put into the dough, pansies, california poppies, roses, lavendar on top of glaze colored with turmeric. Next year I hope some of our newly planted garden spaces will have even more edible flowers to use. We all enjoyed this so much that I definitely think we’ll be doing it again. Mmm.

All four of us ventured into the canyon for a flower spotting hike. We cooled our feet in the creek and explored and smelled and spotted beautiful wildflowers.

We created flower crowns and pretended we were fairies,

and we played Firefly the boardgame which Gavin deemed appropriate because the solstice is about the sun and the planets and space. We thought it was a great idea!

We read the summer story from the Brambly Hedge collection by Jill Barklem at bedtime.

It was a beautiful, delicious day.

 

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Bryce Canyon

We headed down for the weekend to visit Bryce, a first visit for 3 of us, and got to camp nearby with friends.

Our friends picked a beautiful forested spot near the park where the kids could run and roam and play. There was a lot of dancing, hide and seek, battling, games of 20 Questions, and so many other things.

Lilah won hide and seek once with this hiding spot high up a pine tree near our tent:

We ventured into the park after dark the first night for the astronomy festival. They had set up a bunch of telescopes looking at different things far from light sources so you could see so many stars, the milky way and a bunch of satellites. I spotted 4 shooting stars while we were out. We looked at Jupiter, a dumbbell nebula and the Hercules star cluster through scopes.

We went for a hike into the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon with the older kids. It was gorgeous and they enjoyed spotting wildlife and seeing the rock formations.

They especially loved watching a chipmunk who was eating a watermelon candy. It was shaped like a slice of melon and it was holding it pink side up, green side down. We watched it nibble for quite a while.

The next day we all took a short hike to a mossy grotto and a waterfall. It was easy enough for the little ones and they got to play in the water which is always fun.

The world is a beautiful, fascinating place.

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unschooling

Portland Visit

We tripped up to Oregon to go to our first unschool conference and see friends and the ocean.

The conference had so many fun activities but was kind of hard for us introverts to make connections without knowing anyone beforehand. Lilah spent most of her time in the art room, drawing, painting, making a masquerade mask,  a leather gauntlet and bracelet. Gavin spent most of his in the game room. Gavin did a self defense workshop. Chris and I got in a few hours of listening to panels and speakers as well as accompanying the kids. Most of the speaking was geared toward new or prospective unschool parents, which was  bit disappointing. It was so nice to be surrounded by educationally like minded families. Lilah was delighted to see many other kids sporting tails and ears and both fit right in with their candy colored hair. It seemed to me that if we went again, we’d do well to find friends to go with or wait until the kids are teens in desperate need of other teen group connections.

Seeing friends was fun. The kids picked up right where they left off, playing games, petting cats, swimming and putting on impromptu performances at the open air amphitheater in the Rose Garden. Chris made a new friend at the garden.

The ocean was lovely. I terribly awfully wish we lived near it. It’s my happy place, along with many other nature scapes. We dug in the sand and watched birds and crabs and spotted animals in tide pools. We also found a local shipwreck that is now part of the beach scenery at Fort Stevens.

During all of our driving hours we listened to The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman and got a good start on a new favorite: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

Life is good.

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unschooling

Earth, air & sky

We’ve been gardening. We planted an area with nothing growing, we’ve watched our carrots and beets sprout up and the strawberries start to flower. We planted lettuce and a whole bunch of flower seeds of lots of kinds. It’s fun to go to the garden store with the kids because just like the toy aisle, they are excited about everything we come across. We came home the last time with some early planting veggies, columbine, catmint, tri-colored ice plant, yarrow and phlox, purple and red pansies and seeds for chocolate colored sunflowers.

We got to go see Hamilton, which the kids both loved and have been talking about and singing about since. It was entertaining for them and even though it was three hours of sitting they really enjoyed it.

We drove out to an old mining site, Mammoth Mine near Eureka, for a rock hounding trip. We found a group that does field trips and has permission to go many places that we otherwise couldn’t because of private property concerns. So we dug through mine tailings piles and found some amazing rocks! It was really fun and rewarding! I found a book about rocks and minerals at the library and they’ve been reading through that ever since, making connections about their finds and experience at the mine site. Also, you never know what you might come across out there in the desert. We found two abandoned police cars stuffed with all sorts of things, a fridge, a couple of old fake holiday trees and a bunch of other interesting dumped junk.

We went to the aviary and saw lots of birds. We watched a peacock displaying it’s feathers and shaking them to attract a female. We watched the golden eagles staring at the crows flying over and cawing. We saw a wetland plover on a nest and Lilah spotted a chick hiding under a pheasant. Lilah collected a peacock feather and even though it wasn’t one of the biggest ones she was very pleased. One of the barn owls came right over to watch us when we were very still and seemed quite curious. Gavin collected one of their feathers from the grass in front of the enclosure.

The kids have been playing games together every morning: Phantom Society, Istanbul, Above and Below and lots more. They sometimes follow the rules and sometimes take new directions together.

We tried making horchata for the first time. It’s one of Lilah’s favorite things and we wanted to try making it ourselves. We soaked cinnamon sticks, blanched and toasted almonds and rice overnight, blended and strained it, added a touch of maple syrup for sweetness and then chilled it. It was delicious.

We went out owl hunting and didn’t find any but have researched some other places to try. We did see some pronghorn antelope close on our owl hunt though.

We’ve been enjoying chive flowers… very strong flavor!

Gavin built a huge, three tiered race track out of Lego for his toy cars. I didn’t get a picture of the finished track before it got smashed, unfortunately but it was really amazing! Here it is in progress:

Gavin recently ordered a kit to make your own chewing gum. He made cherry and grape flavors. It was a sticky process!

We’ve been working on terracing a hill in our yard with huge cement blocks, lots of dirt and lots of sweat. Gavin’s been helping bring up blocks as they have to come up a lot of stairs from street level, one by one. Lilah’s been helping spread out the dirt that I’ve carted up and dumped. We all picked out some flowers for the lowest level which is all done and planted them together.

Lilah’s been fort building and today Gavin got in on it too.

She’s also been sewing some pouches for holding precious things for herself and everyone else in the house.

Gavin and Lilah have been working on designing some nature based Lego creations for a contest by a local arboretum. He’s started a barn owl and a park with trees. She finished an orange pansy.

Lilah made some origami pinwheels on the fly, her own creation with no instructions or guidance. They even spin when she blows on them!

 

There’s a brand new women’s professional soccer team in town and we are fans! Go Royals! We’ve been to several games now and it’s so great for both kids to see women out there doing amazing things. Lilah’s favorite player is the goal keeper Abby Smith who we get to see up close from our seats often.

Both kids have been interested in dying their hair for a while now. This week they asked again so we picked out some colors and went for it. Gavin chose aquamarine and Lilah chose purple. We just did a test strand of Lilah’s so far but we’ve got plans to do the rest soon. Gavin’s came out great!

We’ve also been doing a lot of hanging out with friends. Since the weather has been lovely we’ve been meeting in parks and wild areas lately. It’s such a great feeling to be out in the sun, surrounded by plants and animals and smell those lovely earthy spring smells. All the better to do it with friends!

Lilah’s been wanting to make an ears and tail set for a while. This week we took the plunge. We visited the craft store, a very dangerous place if you like crafting and knickknacks. We bought furry fabric, pink fabric, hooks, and headbands.

The next day we fired up the scissors and glue gun and made wolf ears and tail.

We celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom and dad and sister. The kids made and bought beautiful things to give me but what I really care about is that I get to have them in my life. As I venture through my own motherhood journey, I have learned and am learning more about what it takes to be a parent, all the love and excitement and fear and time involved and have so much more understanding and appreciation of my own mom. It’s not an easy thing, but oh, so full of joy.

We got to have our annual Snowball fight with flower snowballs, since they were ripe. It’s very dear to all our hearts and the kids desperately want us to have our own “Snowball Tree”.

Here’s Gavin’s finished owl Lego sculpture:

We got together with friends to look at bacteria we grew in cultures from our bodies and houses with microscopes. We took samples from our hands, our cheeks, our toes, our sink, a cat’s paw pads, a moldy strawberry. It was fascinating to see what grew up close! Some of the bacteria were smooth looking, some furry, some were much smaller and bigger.

We went out to see birds near the Great Salt Lake. It was a really lovely afternoon!

All is well.

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unschooling

a week in early spring

Lilah’s been playing her ukelele.

Gavin’s been doing chores to earn money for Lego. Here he is cutting down and getting our old bamboo ready to put into the yard waste bin.

Lilah built a dinosaur out of Lego. It’s pose-able and can open and shut it’s terrifying plastic jaws.

The kids worked hard on their “MineCraft Live” game, creating rules, world, background and very detailed characters, drawn in the square form of MineCraft. Can you tell which is Lilah and which is Gavin? Lilah’s character has red hair (like her) and cat ears and tail (which she often does too) and Gavin’s character has special armor (which he loves designing and researching) and long hair one one side (like his).

We went to a farm to see baby animals and ended up watching a goat give birth to three babies as well as feeding goats and calves and Lilah was patient enough to hold still with feed in her hand for a good two minutes until some chicks were brave enough to eat from her palm. The kids also got to bounce and go down a huge slide with friends.

The fruit trees are blooming and it’s alternately 70 degrees and sunny and then snowing. Ah, spring in Utah is so variable!

We celebrated my mom’s birthday with a scavenger hunt in teams because my mom is amazing & therefore has amazing birthday wishes. Lilah and I were a team and we sent lots of silly pictures of our hunt to my mom.

The kids pulled out the Ed Emberly drawing book and spent hours putting pieces together into fun scenes.

Gavin made some hash browns from scratch. We were out of pancakes and he did not want cereal.

Lilah’s been using perler beads to make bubble wands.

We started a family Never Winter nights computer game campaign. It’s been fun so far.

We went cross country skiing for a second time. It was still very hard, very fun and very expensive. We will definitely go again lots next season but in the mean time I will be trying to figure out if we can find some used equipment to buy so we can save some money on rental fees.

Gavin did some crystal growing.

We took a hike up to one of our favorite spots and saw glacier lilies!

Lilah did some circular weaving.

Life is great!

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big rock candy mountains

We got the chance to head down to Southern Utah this week to relax, hike, explore and enjoy a few degrees warmer weather than at our home. We visited Capitol Reef and Fremont Indian State Park. Big Rock Candy Mountain is an actual place that we drove through on our way around and about and when you see the colors and textures and beauty of the surroundings nearby, you can see why.

Capitol Reef is full of amazingly beautiful rock formations as well as historic Fruita, an old fruit growing town. We stopped at the Fruita school house and blacksmith shop and spotted happy deer living in the orchards and big marmots chewing grass in the picnic area near the river.

We spent a lot of our time exploring slot canyons, which I particularly love and have apparently passed my love on to our kids as they requested more and more slot canyon hikes. We also hiked some of the scenic narrow, but not slot canyon narrow washes that are easily accessible in the park. The kids are strong and energetic enough to hike about 5 to 6 miles total in a day now which lets us explore some areas that we haven’t been able to reach before. (We go fairly slowly and make a lot of stops though, to allow the kids to rest and to enjoy the scenery!) We went up Capitol Wash through the narrows, past the historic pioneer register and up to the tanks. We even happened upon an arch when we hiked a little way off trail to find a place to sit and eat our lunch.

We hiked up into Cottonwood Wash to some beautiful slots. Gavin did some photographing which is fun to witness both the process and the outcome. My favorite is the one where he had Lilah put her hat with the pink tentacles so it was just peeking out from behind the rock.

In between hiking we played Power Grid, worked on puzzles and had a few egg hunts. There was a rabbit that liked hanging out right next to the place we stayed.

 

We hiked through Grand Wash, exploring some of the offshoot canyons, spotting petroglyphs and spotting geodes left and right in the wash. The kids are fascinated by rocks, especially crystals and fossils so we were enjoying spotting geodes, both closed and some open ones lurking everywhere. They often remark on the minerals or formations of rocks while we are out, wondering if the red rock is full of iron and the purple manganese, the greenish could be lime stone. They got bracelets on the trip with mini compasses on them so they were comparing their compasses to the car’s compass as we drove and looking at which direction were were heading on trails as well as wondering if iron in the mountains was affecting their compass readings.

We have plans to do more rock hounding as it’s fun, fascinating and gets us outside and into new places. I need to find more local resources and get us some better tools. I wish we had our own rock saw so we could slice some beauties open without having to go somewhere and have someone else do it.

We spotted so many lizards, birds and this hummingbird moth.

We drove out on Burr Trail through the Waterfold Canyon and it was an amazing drive. I was drooling over all the amazing rock formations, washes and canyons to explore. We spotted deer as well as a herd of cows and their cowboy along our way. We made it out to a fairly remote spot where we had lunch up on a huge rock bench before heading out to find Headquarters slot canyon. It was a fun, pretty easy trail through a deep dark beautiful red wash up into a slot that was one of the narrowest I’ve been in. We spotted lizards galore and Lilah even saw this huge beauty, around a foot long!

I loved noticing all the dried flowers from last summer, now a beautiful gold color decorating the edges of the trail, waiting for the rains to cover them in green again.

Fremont Indian State Park is a fairly small park but is full of amazing remnants of the Fremont Indians who lived in the area long, long ago. Unlike many of the other native peoples who lived in our area, these groups lived in homes underground. They came upon a huge collection of ancient homes and artifacts when they were clearing the area to build a road through and from that discover the museum and park came to be. There are thousands of petroglyphs, right next to the road, right next to each other, utterly fascinating and awe inspiring, also lots of other artifacts and an ancient granary you can see into and an underground home you can climb down into and explore. We also visited the labyrinth, a spiral that isn’t really advertised or well marked that you have to just happen upon while wandering in the park. It’s created with the local lava rock and stumps of old trees put together oriented to the four directions and really fun to walk into and out again, contemplating the mysteries of life now and for people living thousands of years before us in ways we may never fully understand.

On this trip we ended up talking a lot about graffiti, petroglyphs, historic markings, what constitutes damage and what doesn’t since we saw all of those things plus a little girl drawing on small rocks in a remote wash as well as a grown man trying to throw a huge soccer ball sized rock into a hole in a protected canyon rock wall, near historic markings. (The impact of the girl will be small, easily erased and not seen by many. The impact of the man will be possibly quite damaging to an area which hundreds of people walk by to admire the scenery of said rock wall every day.)

As we drove through the park and there and back we listened to The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill and Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. I love exploring new books with the kids. They eat up most everything we listen to and often the stories and concepts are things they use in their imaginative collaborative story play.

 

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eclectic fun in March

We’ve been baking. Brownies, cinnamon cake, cookies with two colors of dough. YUM.

Lilah’s been playing her ukelele and writing songs. I adore seeing her play and create and enjoy.

They started their own spur of the moment Dungeons and Dragons style game with Lego dragons as characters. Here are their supply lists:

The supply lists read: (Gavin) 1 medium pack, 1 ruby, 1 bag of herbs 2 loaves of fresh bread, 1 cat, 1 awesome sword, 2 gun parts, 1 gun, 1 owl hunter. (Lilah) 2 medical packs, 2 rubies, 2 bags of herbs, 4 loaves of fresh bread, 2 cats!!!, 1 sword, 1 owl, 2 gun parts, awesome bow and quiver of ice arrows.

We saw Black Violin, a musical group that was amazing! The group has two classically trained violinists, a drummer and a DJ and they play everything from classical pieces done over in new ways to contemporary music done in more classical overtones. It was energetic and fun.

 

We’re listening again to The Thirteenth Child series by Patricia Wrede. It’s such a wonderful story, a personal exploration and growth story with a female protagonist who does things her own way and learns that there are always multiple ways of looking at things.

Gavin’s been going on his own to the library several times to get books on MineCraft building.

We celebrated my Dad’s birthday and tried to help him come up with ideas for a deck or patio.

Lilah’s been drawing, drawing, drawing. Here are an owl, Lilah’s version of herself as good (cat) and evil (cat), and a cat. I’m proud and happy to know that she has thoroughly learned that if she tries drawing something and it doesn’t come out the way she likes, she can just try and again and practice instead of getting incredibly upset by her first attempt.

The kids got out their hexbug sets and built an epic track for their bugs.

Gavin saved up and bought himself a copy of MineCraft Story Mode, a game based on the MineCraft world where he gets to work through big adventures.

It’s been snowing and springing, both so we’ve been trimming some plants, planting some beets and carrots in between shoveling snow. Gavin swept the deck on one of the warmer days so it’s clear for swinging and lounging.

We’ve been talking about garden plans this year. Gavin wants to try garlic again and Lilah wants lettuce. I’ve never grown either so we’ll see what happens!

Lilah began asking for egg hunts several weeks ago so we pulled down our plastic eggs and have had several hunts. Yesterday it was warm and dry enough to hide and hunt outside so Gavin set up a hunt with 60 or 70 eggs for us to find.

We went to an RSL soccer game with my parents. It was an awful game for our team, but fun anyway.

We spent a full Saturday with Gavin’s Odyssey of the Mind team, who have been preparing for months and months for the state competition where they competed in their problem, a skit they put together, designed and performed which met certain criteria and solved certain problems and in spontaneous problems where they work together to come up with solutions to puzzles/problems on the fly. Here’s Gavin in his costume, designed and put together by the team:

He is a soldier in a Star Wars world. Here is Gavin putting together part of his team’s set:

They had a lot of fun and it was great to watch all their work over the last several months come together!

We had an egg hunt party with a big bunch of friends. The kids hid the eggs and then later found eachother’s eggs, opened them and enjoyed their spoils. We put balloons in the ones we brought and there was a whole half hour of balloon music, as the kids blew them up and then slowly or quickly let the air come out and made loud, weird and awful sounds. So fun!

Lilah has been doing silk aerial classes for a while now and sometimes Gavin joins in. She loves it! They give the kids a lot of freedom to play and enjoy but also support to learn new moves. She was recently invited to participate in a several month long prep class to prepare a routine to perform for an audience and she turned it down. Sometimes I wonder if she will regret not taking opportunities like those later on but I am happy that she feels comfortable with herself and us enough to say, no, I like to have fun but not to compete.

We started getting the local newspaper delivered. Mostly it’s me reading it, but Gavin will sometimes look at an article or two. We felt it was a good time to have a more neutral source of news than online news available in the house and especially about local issues that we can connect with more easily. The kids have been very much enjoying the crosswords, sudoku (which they learned to love from Grandpa) and comics. Most of our recent lunches have seen them both working on crosswords or sudoku at the table.

We’re at a new bend in our unschooling journey, trying to re calibrate how much to stay home, go out, meet with friends, do as a family. It seems every season we have to balance these things again, and after years I’ve come to see this as an ongoing process not an end goal I still haven’t mastered. We are trying a few new group meet ups and trying some new activities on our own and trying to find that sweet spot where we get enough time with other people as well as enough time to do the important work of being at home. The current plan is aim for two days a week at home, one just at our house and one to take trips or adventures as a family, two days for meet ups and friend gatherings and one day that can go either way.

All of us went to a science night at the library. They showed us a whole lot of really great experiments including this fire tornado. Lilah built a leprechaun trap for St. Patrick’s Day. We did not snare any leprechauns.

We spent several afternoons walking and scooting along the Jordan River Parkway, spotting birds and muskrats, watching the river.

Both kids worked on sewing a gift for a friend who is turning two.

The kids and I are very interested in wild foraging so I have been slowly trying to find resources to help us learn about what can be eaten or used and how. It’s slow going to find good sources. Gavin in particular is interested in mushroom hunting which I’ve never done.

I’ve been talking about and watching videos about brain development, adolescence and emotions and their purpose with the kids quite a bit, working on being more self aware and having strategies for dealing with hard moments. They are both growing so much in their understanding of the world and themselves.

Gavin’s been talking about and beginning work on designing a Lego set that could be voted on by fans and if supported enough, eventually could become a Lego set sold by the company. He was thinking about a Ranger’s Apprentice set or a Hayao Miyazaki movie set.

All four of us went to the Holi celebration Festival of Colors near us, with Indian food, colored powder to throw at others, into the air, music, yoga. We also enjoyed seeing the llamas and peacocks who live next to the temple.

 

 

Three of us went cross country skiing. It was the kids’ first time and they loved it even though we were only out for an hour and a half and spent most of our time on the flat trails. They asked to go again the next day! It’s expensive and we already had plans but I’m hoping to go again at the same place (with lots of flat areas and rentals right there) before they close for the season. It’s been years and years since I’d gone and it was really fun to go again and to introduce the kids to it. Their favorite part was a tiny hill that they could go up in a few strides and then slide down. They did that ten or twenty times at the end of our ski before turning in our gear and heading home.

We spotted the first butterflies of the season this week! An orange beauty and a black beauty!

Life is amazing!

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