unschooling

out and about on our own

The kids got new bikes from the bike collective that gets used bikes, fixes them up and sells them or offers them to community outreach programs. The kids are now each the proud owner of a new-to-them Diamondback! Thanks so much to my sister for helping us narrow down the choices and for traveling out to check out the bikes with us! One has road tires and one has mountain tires and they are both so thrilled to be able to ride faster and with more ease. It’s been really fun taking them out as they enjoy it so much and we can go much farther and faster. We rode about seven miles with my sister this week.

We took a drive to Fish Springs to look for ghost town remnants and see the Wild Refuge (as it’s termed on a sign on the way there). As a bonus we got to drive past the geode beds, where Lilah dearly wants to go soon, and through some groups of wild horses which are amazing creatures to watch. Sometimes they come fairly close.

We didn’t see any of the old houses in the area so we’ll have to check again. We did see several blue herons, egrets, lots of redwing blackbirds and yellow headed blackbirds as well as ducks and swallows. It was a fun place to bird watch! We did spot fish in the pools as well.

We drove down to Chicken Rock. I’m not sure why it’s called that because it certainly didn’t look chicken-like. You can see it off in the background here, a bunch of tall rock pieces jumbled together.

But we went to find some abandoned farm buildings and we certainly did. One was still mostly standing though it was more of a trapezoid shape than a rectangle.  Gavin and I had a conversation about whether or not it used to be straight angles and how a building shape could change over time.

Nearby there were some huge old willows overlooking a pond. There were so many birds and we even spotted six big frogs. I used my telephoto lens to get a close up of a few guys or gals. I think they were northern leopard frogs. We found some yellow flowered violets (I’ve only ever seen white or purple) on our travels as well as some old and decrepit cattle enclosures and some big feathers.

On the way home we listened to our audiobooks, stopped to check out a few tempting spots and saw a big hawk dive straight into a juniper tree and emerge a second or two later chased by two ravens. The kids guessed the hawk was after the raven’s nest in the tree.

We are making plans to go hunt some fossils and some geodes and possibly obsidian in the near future. We are enjoying making the most out of our free days and the spring weather to go places we’ve never ventured out to before as well as enjoying time at home, gardening, reading, playing online with friends, watching the spring flowers bloom.

 

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unschooling

warrior in red

So we’ve been chasing a pictograph for the past few weeks. We had heard there was one spectacular image, all by itself, not too far from us but there is no sign, no trail and only a few clues to help people discover its location. It goes by the name Red Warrior and was created in a Fremont style and is amazingly well preserved as it’s protected from sun, people and a lot of weather as well, being on a cave wall. We’d been comparing images of nearby landmarks and following hunches and general directions which led to many fascinating spots and moments but this time, we found the pictograph! Success is sweet especially after sleuthing and lots of hard work hiking and checking every cave (which in this area means a LOT of caves).

Here’s a fossil covered with lichen we found on the way up and a view from the mountain we scaled.

We found the warrior and it was spectacular to see in person. It’s marked in dark red ochre paint, with no known other similar art in the area. Fascinating! We wondered about its origins and about the people who passed through or lived in these areas long ago. I was so, so excited to finally find it!

On our travels we spotted two ravens nests and a hawk nest. The bugs are beginning to get bad so I don’t know if we’ll make it out there again until they die down but it was fun.

On our way home we spotted two owls, a pair we imagine. The kids initially thought they were burrowing owls because the first one we spotted was similar colors and small in size. We took some pictures and Gavin identified them later as short eared owls with his books. One of them flew right over us!

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unschooling

things we do while keeping our distance

We’ve been baking and reading. We’ve made about 6 batches of cookies since we’ve been keeping ourselves to ourselves. So far: peanut butter cookies with chocolate tops, spicy hot chocolate cookies, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cranberry chocolate cookies, macaroons. Mmmmmm.

We’ve been playing badminton in the yard

Looking for early flowers and signs of spring

We’ve been visiting our sit spots from our cancelled nature classes and walking and visiting our sit spots in our own yard.

Gavin started some new chemistry experiments which I’ll write about separately soon.

Lilah has been drawing and making videos and working on her doodle crate projects. Here are a lantern and a finger knitted dragon.

They’ve been telling collaborative stories.

Gavin and Chris printed a mask. It got a little warped so they are planning to try again.

We started a family D&D night.

Chris started an adult D&D game by message service.

We’ve been doing some yoga, hula hooping and Just Dance on the wii, trying to stay active.

The kids and I have been practicing our fox walking skills and tracking skills. One afternoon at the cemetery we fox walked carefully enough to get within about twenty feet of a bunch of deer.

We’ve been visiting some of our most secret wild spots and trails so we can enjoy sun and birds and fresh air but not with virus risks.

We looked up on our walk and saw this nest! A hawk flew from it right overhead and it was beautiful. The nest was probably about 3-4 feet across. Huge!

We even found some pretty neat fossils on one excursion!

We have had video calls with my parents and sister and chatted for a couple of hours. Those were really great, not as great as actually hanging out in the same room but still fun.

I’ve been taking my tea out to the porch or deck to enjoy the birds and sun and spring air. I’ve been using iNaturalist and guide books and internet sites to identify plants and animals on our adventures. I’m still finding things to admire wherever I am.

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unschooling

new abnormal

We’ve been struggling with the new corona virus situation. We are incredibly lucky so far, as Chris’ job seems mostly stable and they are working hard to keep it that way, we have a lovely yard we can go out in and enjoy, one of us has time to be with our children instead of working at the same time, we have health insurance, we are in a state where there is easy access to the outdoors far from other people. We have so much to be grateful for! But it’s also been hard. I’ve been worrying about my parents, other family and friends who would likely have a hard time if they contract covid19. We have had to cancel so many fun things we were looking forward to: vacations, spring celebrations, birthday parties, coffee dates, etc. We cannot safely see our friends and for the time being are trying to stay away from my parents to keep them safer. It’s made us feel sad and angry and worried and disappointed and just depressed. The kids are having a really hard time not seeing their friends. We try to get them together online when we can so they can play and chat. That helps a bit. Here’s some of what we’ve been doing with our time.

We’ve been reading a lot. Lilah is rereading a favorite called Nimona and Gavin is reading Flamecaster. I’m rereading The Glass Sentence series.

We’ve been playing board games and gardening. We tried a new game called Ravine which is cooperative and as a group you try to survive after a plane crash by using survival skills. It’s really fun and not too long so we played it four times on afternoon. We set up our badminton net in the yard and have been enjoying that when it isn’t raining.

Lilah made a window star and we delivered it to my parents to brighten their view.

Lilah’s been working on a unicorn hand puppet, sewing it together bit by bit.

Gavin’s been working on his D&D project he’s hoping to run in the near future and working on 3D printing designs.

We are trying to figure out how to run our interrupted D&D game online and get the kids together virtually for that next week.

We had an early egg hunt in the house.

We planted carrots, beets, swiss chard, lettuce and artichoke seeds. I have some radish seeds on their way.

We’ve been going out to remote nature locations to hike, explore, and adventure far from other people. We bring food, toilet paper, gas so we don’t have to stop anywhere except our destination.

We hiked up a ravine at the canyon one of our nature classes usually meets at and explored there and visited our sit spots.

We went to an old ghost mining location called Silver City and admired all the old building remains and knickknacks scattered in the area. Gavin even found what’s called scrip, which is mining currency tokens, only good at the company store. This one doesn’t list any denomination though it says PAY DAY on it.

We headed further out to an area called Devil’s Playground where the rock formations are amazing. There are lots of hollow boulders and bubbled rocks to explore. There were even a few very short slot canyons between huge boulders. We saw many deer in the area and some antelope on the drive.

There’s a lot of beauty and good all around to be spotted, if I’m looking.

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books, unschooling

following the flowers

For the past several years my parents have made a trip to see the spring bloom in Arizona or Nevada or California, which happens much earlier than it arrives here in Salt Lake City. This year three of us got to tag along. We went down to Tucson where the hills and mountains had lots of blooms and more sunshine than Utah right now.

We explored Saguaro National Park, where we saw many kinds of cacti, penstemon, mallow, and other wildflowers, Lilah played the barrel cactus,

And Picacho Park with lupine and poppies and many other flowers,

And Catalina Park where we got caught in the rain and hail on our adventure and had to cross a river several times. It was pretty exciting! Here’s some purple owl’s clover. Someone joked on our hike about having ice cream later and Gavin was truly excited about the idea even though it was cold and we were wet so after dinner that night he and my dad headed out to bring back an armload of ice cream and sorbets for all of us to enjoy!

One rainy day we spent at the Biospere II, a place where they have and are still running many scientific experiments in controlled biological environments. It was fascinating and I’m glad that Gavin and my mom decided on something so fun to do on a not so great hiking day.

 

It was lovely to spend time outside (while not so cold) and to admire flowers and birds and to just enjoy time with my parents.

Pretty much as soon as we arrived home we had to face the realities of this changing corona virus situation so I am very grateful we had this time with family.

With all of our driving time, we listened to the second book of Tomi Adeyumi, Children of Virtue and Vengeance which was fantastic and also Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons by Ashli St. Armant.

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unschooling

snow days

We’ve been snowshoeing and cross country skiing, most recently with my sister and Mom!

We’ve been sledding.

We celebrated the New Year with Chris’ parents who came all the way out to see us!

We’ve gotten back into the ninja class and our nature classes. Here we have Gavin doing the spider jump/climb, Gavin running up the curved wall, Gavin swinging on the giant wheel, then Lilah swinging from the smaller wheels, Lilah doing the spider jump/climb up to the bar at the top, Lilah hanging upside down.

It’s been snowy and cold out but still beautiful. I have been enjoying getting out, even though it’s hard to get motivated to get out the door unless we’ve made plans. So we’ve made lots of plans to get out!

We’ve been tracking animals by looking at prints in the snow. Here are tracks from a rabbit, tunnels from a vole, another vole track that looks like it just leaped into the snow and made a print of itself before tunneling away, a deer print and a squirrel print.

 

We’ve been reading The Complete Farside and the Wings of Fire books.

We’ve been looking at the golden ratio in nature and drawing it with our compasses.

Gavin’s been working on setting up a raspberry pi with camera on his 3D printer so he can watch and adjust it remotely.

Lilah’s been drawing a portrait of her new Dungeons and Dragons character, a deer ranger character.

I’ve been dreaming of sunshine and warmth but enjoying the sparkling snow and the quiet of winter.

 

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unschooling

December things

We’ve been going to our nature class:

trimming and planting willows,

working on bows and bow drill kits,

throwing sticks at targets,

looking at animal tracks in the snow,

working on a shelter made with sticks, leaves, reeds and more leaves & other outdoor fun.

 

We’ve been hosting Dungeons & Dragons,

reading,

doing yoga,

playing & story telling,

 

working on special holiday projects,

going to aerial hammock classes (Lilah & I),

playing games,

baking cookies,

spending time with friends.

Here’s a painting I finished for Chris for the holidays of the Egyptian goddess Isis.

Today we went snowshoeing in the mountains. It was the first time for the kids and they loved it though we’ll make sure we bring hand warmers and hot cocoa next time. I brought my macro lens and took some close ups.

 

The world is new again, every day, and I’m so grateful to be here and see.

 

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unschooling

To St Louis and St George

We flew to St. Louis so Chris could go to a conference and a work meet up. The rest of us explored some of the city.

The old buildings and big parks were beautiful. The city was very friendly and relaxed feeling. We went to the science center, planetarium and the zoo, all in a huge park together.

When Chris had a free day we all went to the city museum which was by far our favorite place, a huge building converted into art and an endless playground, much of it made of recycled building or factory materials. It had so many fascinating details as well as climbing and sliding opportunities everywhere. Even the birds enjoy it!

 

It truly was amazing and the kids were quite sad that we couldn’t go again while we were there.

Chris and I got to go meet with a bunch of his coworkers in the evenings and that was really fun! He works with great people.

We flew home, went to nature class and then drove down to St. George to meet my parents and sister for a few days down there.

We hiked a lot, went to a botanical garden, explored the ruins of an old mining town and the museum there and celebrated Chris’ birthday. There was an old charcoal kiln to see, along with a fascinating mining town museum. We found a hike that had a section where you hold on to a rope mounted above to traverse a big rock with footholds, some of them made by native peoples ages ago. It was very challenging but fun.

 

We ended our trip to Southern Utah with some dinosaur footprint spotting. There are so many in the area you probably walk past them all over but this one was marked for us just next to the trail.

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unschooling

Lilah is 12!

Lilah’s birthday was celebrated happily with both sets of grandparents and my sister at our place. She picked out a special red sequin dress for the occasion and paired it with a red velvet cloak though she took that off pretty quickly so she could do handstands. She requested root beer floats and brownies. We had a lovely afternoon playing and chatting together.

Several months later because life has been so busy and full we had a handful of friends over for a dungeons & dragons tea party. It was Alice in Wonderland themed and everyone had a lovely time playing animal characters getting bigger and smaller and meeting a cheshire cat and then having tea of many kinds afterward with peanut butter chocolate cookies. Chris had help running the game from Gavin. It was just what Lilah wanted with her friends.

Lilah, at 12, loves cats. The real thing as well as pretending to be a cat and drawing cats. She loves all kinds and sizes of cats and nothing would make her happier than spotting some big cats outside one day. She loves chocolate and fried rice. She is very active, doing aerial silks, hanging upside down practically anywhere, climbing on boulders, playing on her new balance board. She spends quite a bit of time crafting and can make the most beautiful things. She loves all animals and hopes to rescue animals when she’s grown. Her favorite color is turquoise, favorite flower is lilac and favorite animal is of course, her own cat, Luna. She loves comfortable clothes, graphic novels, sequins, anything fluffy and everything cute.

She’s a wonderful, amazing person and I am so grateful to get to spend a lot of time with her, learning together and exploring together and enjoying each other.

 

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art, books, unschooling

so much goodness

We’ve started some new classes: a ninja skills class where the kids do hanging and swinging and running up walls and an outdoor education class where we all learn about animals, plants, tool making, tracking and survival skills. They’ve been a lot of fun so far in both. Gavin has made progress in ninja class on hanging onto bars longer and swinging from bar to bar. Lilah has made progress in running up the curved wall to reach the top and swinging on 10 foot diameter wheels to the next huge wheel in recent weeks.

They’ve both learned about how to make stone tools, how to construct the kindling and wood for a fire, how to listen and look to the sky to navigate and how to be good stewards of the land in our outdoor ed. class. We are beginning on making bow drill kits which will allow the kids to start a fire more easily in the winter months.

We went to an amazing dance performance called Traces including a piece by David Charon and a piece by Ann Carlson, which opened my world up a little bit. At the end, the cast welcomed kids onto the stage for popcorn and dancing. Lilah is up there on the stage, thinking about dancing, which she eventually did. It was really special for the kids.

We’ve gotten out for quite a few hikes. One of the most recent was mainly to pick elderberries and the kids were a huge help spotting and picking them and in one case carrying them across a log eight feet above a stream! I made some elderberry syrup for the coming cool months. It’s this amazing magenta color.

We took a quick trip back to California so Chris could speak at a conference there. The kids did lots of bodyboarding and we found some shells and some critters. We found a spot where there were hundreds of washed up sea urchin spines right at the edge of the water, washing in and out. That was exciting. Lilah and I spotted something we initially thought was trash, stuck between rocks in a tide pool. It turned out to be a spiral shark egg case. We looked it up and it belongs to a horn shark. I wish I had gotten a picture of it but I was too worried about getting it back where it belonged once we realized what it was.

Then we met my parents and went to a beach with them for an evening and then spent the following day at the Monterey Bay aquarium, an amazing place. It was really a lot of fun and special to be able to go to the ocean with my parents.

We went on a trail nearby to an abandoned mine town called Bonanza, which interestingly has a lot of buildings still intact even though it’s on a ski resort’s land. We went in a few and resolved to come back (but probably next year because skiing will begin anytime now) because there was so much to explore.

 

We’ve been doing lots of reading as usual. Sometimes in cloaks.

Gavin’s been working hard on designs in TinkerCad for a 3D printer that will be on it’s way soon. He is so excited to work with it!

We’ve been hanging out with friends as much as we can fit in. Gavin plays online a lot with his buddies and Lilah does occasionally. We also meet them at pumpkin patches and museums and up the canyons for fall festivals and so much more.  Most weeks we host a Dungeons and Dragons campaign for the kids and their friends at our house. Chris runs the game and does a fantastic job and I play and try to support the kids and Chris as they figure out how to navigate the game’s challenges. They are slowly but steadily getting more competent and comfortable in their roles as both character and player. It’s so fun to watch!

I’ve been painting some and will have two paintings in an Autumn/Spooky themed show at a local vegan tattoo shop next week. I’m a bit nervous and also feeling proud of my minor accomplishment.

Life is beautiful.

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