We’ve been reading books, of course. Gavin picked out a novel from the library that he says is good called The Mapmaker’s Sons by V. L. Burgess. He also borrowed How To Train Your Dragon, Book 1 by Cressida Cowell. Lilah is reading The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.
Lilah and I built a canoe and teepee fort with her set of fort building pieces.
Then we had a tea party inside it.
We went to a women’s gymnastics match at the university with my dad
and Lilah’s practicing her own gymnastics in a slightly more challenging class now. Here she is doing a handstand on the beam and then she practiced a round-off dismount.
We all played Civilization on the computers together.
Gavin and I played a game of The Castles of Mad King Ludwig. It’s really quite a good one for kids with longer attention spans.
Lilah watched Song of the Sea again, one of her favorites and mine too.
I baked some oatmeal chocolate chip cranberry cookies and we all ate them.
We pulled out our marble maze pieces and built and experimented and gasped as the cats knocked our creations down and then built them again.
Gavin got out his master builder books and has been making and remaking various different things with his Legos. Today he built a drawbridge that moves up and down.
Lilah made a horde of adorable paper cats and angels and cat angels. She even decided she wanted to make a chain of them and figured part of the process out and asked for help with the rest but did it all herself.
Gavin’s been working more (in tiny bits) on his book.
He and I spotted a bird up close in the parking lot.
The kids made a few different automatons from a kit that came in the mail as a gift. They were fascinated.
So I introduced them to the Strandbeest, amazing huge automatons made by Theo Jansen, and they were even more fascinated. If you haven’t come across these already, you’re in for a treat!
Lilah and I have been hula hooping and working on new tricks.
We went to the natural history museum and learned about DNA and watched videos about Native American history and culture. This was the first time that the DNA has sparked Gavin’s curiosity apart from solving the puzzles they have out in the area. He looked carefully at a display of all the protein pairs in human DNA compared with about twenty other animals and then we talked about how two strands fit together and apart again, creating the spiraling shape.
The kids reconnected with some old friends at the museum who we haven’t seen in years and who play a computer game Gavin and Lilah like so they have been playing a bit together now and then and having a lot of fun sending “letters” to each other and showing off their in-game creations.
I have been thinking a lot about parenting with empathy and reading many articles about how to support kids when they feel anger, in expressing and feeling and then moving forward and if helpful making things right with others.
We’ve been chatting and dreaming about where we’d like to visit this year; Southern Utah, California, Arizona are on the table.
I talked a bit to the kids about yoga and mindfulness and we practiced a few very short meditations together. I found mainly bedtime meditations for kids and I am hoping I can find some more that involve both movement and relaxation and are a little more playful.
We read a few books about Martin Luther King, Jr. and talked about how things are similar and different than when he was alive.
I learned how to knit cable twists and made a pretty good looking hat in a color I call mermaid. Gavin put in a request for a similar one in deep blue.
Chris served on a jury for a trial the past two weeks and so afterward he talked with the kids about what he did and how things work. They were both fascinated and a bit worried about it as it was a pretty serious criminal trial.
Today, Chris was home all day so I got to take a snowy hike on my own. Beautiful!
It was a learning process, and a fun one. We downloaded an app on my phone that allowed us to look for caches nearby and then we headed up to the Capital grounds where we used the compass and map on my phone to move toward the cache until we were in the area. Then we had to use our eyes to find its hiding spot. We found two caches and tried but didn’t find a third. I think I need to do more research before heading out and we need to choose carefully. We’re hoping to do this with another family over the summer.
We played on the playground with friends before heading back here for more play, goodbyes and then soccer for Gavin and Broken Age playing for Lilah.
Broken Age is an amazing narrative computer game where you solve puzzles of various kinds and difficulties. Gavin has been playing it with his dad when Lilah does gymnastics and recently Lilah requested to play too so we’ve started another game, she and I.
Gavin had soccer games and practice.
They played Small World.
We visited the Wild West playground which is a really fun set up with local places of significance represented in a unique playground. When they got hot and tired we had a picnic lunch in the shade and I read a few pages of Castle in the Air before they ran off to play some more.
We happened upon an article about the old Wasatch Warm Springs Bath House history, which is now abandoned and in our local park so we read about it and looked at some old photos.
The kids built various things out of K’Nex. It’s fun to watch the complexity of their creations grow along with their building and planning skills.
We spread mulch over our vegetable garden. We need a bit more but it’s a good start. We haven’t tried mulch before this so it will be interesting to see how it does. I think I spotted a pumpkin sprout and possibly a dumpling squash as well this morning. Lilah was thrilled that there was a pink strawberry on one of the plants. Today it was ripe enough to pick and eat! It’s such fun to watch the changes and help nurture the plants along and then enjoy the harvesting and feasting.
We read more of Castle in the Air. It’s a delight.
We met with other unschoolers at a new to us park in Ogden called Ogden High Adventure park. It was full of ropes play, spinning things and other challenging equipment, plus there’s a river flowing right behind it. What a fun park! I’m going to play more on it next time too!
Lilah counted up the money she’s earned (with my help) from doing chores and then when we went to Target, she bought herself a Lego Hero Factory set.
We visited the aquarium. It had been quite a while so that was fun. Gavin particularly likes the river otters and Lilah enjoyed seeing the caiman alligators. I always like the cuttlefish and octopus especially. The penguins were all nesting and we watched them carefully picking up small stones and carrying them to their nests and arranging them while their partners lay on the top of the rock nests.
We met up in the canyon with other unschoolers for “Forest School”, which was a bunch of families meeting in a forest meadow and exploring and we scouted a creek and found bones and climbed rocks and hauled a rusty car hood over to make a bridge.
And in between all of this, reading and story making and researching and experimenting and hula hooping and painting and giggling and cuddling and cleaning and negotiating. It’s been good.
We haven’t been on our favorite hike up Storm Mountain since last fall but it’s been so nice that we ventured up today!
We also played with Lego elves sets, started reading Island Of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell and Lilah made me feel so special and loved by making me a necklace with pages that read: Mama, I love you to the moon and back, I love you infinity and beyond, etc. Am I lucky or what?
After lunch we headed up the canyon. It took us an hour or so more than it could have to leave the house so I was feeling grumpy by the time we left but when we got up there and breathed in the piney air and felt the sun on our skin I felt great. The kids were very excited to get to the stream where they love to climb, but it’s a steep path up.
We made it with a few short stops and they spent the next quarter of an hour throwing rocks into the water and watching them splash. After that we had a snack on a sunny boulder, discovered a rock that drew colored lines on other rocks, collected sparkly rocks and arranged them on the boulder, we continued up, climbing, splashing, leaping, balancing. We even tried putting some snow balls into the icy stream and watching them float down over waterfalls.
It was so wonderful to be there and watch both kids reveling in the challenges and explorations of the mountains!
We played with MadLibs and were all enjoying it very much until Gavin wrote something wrong twice and there wasn’t space left to fit it in and got really upset and decided to take some time on his own. I am happy that he’s beginning to develop strategies to use to deal with situations he’s having difficulty with.
They built with Gavin’s physics set.
They built with Magformers.
We played at the park.
Lilah and I did some yoga.
We tried a new kind of flour in gluten free bagels: cassava (which is the same thing as tapioca except it includes the whole root).
Bagels have a lot of steps. When we put them in the simmering water with sugar, they dropped the bottom and then slowly floated up to the surface. Gavin tasted the water, realized it was sweet and asked if it was the same as what we put in the hummingbird feeder. I told him, “Yes, pretty much except that doesn’t have flour from bagels in it.”
The kids each sprinkled their own bagels with poppyseeds, then we put extra cornmeal and poppyseeds on some and left a few plain.
They came out a bit gummier than I’d like, but everyone else was pleased. I’ll try without psyllium husk powder next time. This time I added it in case they started coming apart in the water, like they did in our last bagel making attempt.
We watched Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind together. It’s one of our favorite Hayao Miyazaki animated films. Lilah is very drawn to the main character who works to bring peace, understanding and respect of all living things about.
All four of us walked over the local school playground, kicked the soccer ball around and played on the playground.
The kids and Chris went to scouts and made kites and crowns while I had some time on my own. It was good for everybody.
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 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 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.
Gavin built with Magformers while Lilah and I made waffles.
After breakfast there was a game where they walked round and round the room while going imaginary places.
We read a few articles about the eruption of Mount Ontake in Japan. Then we looked at a video of a fish with a transparent head on National Geographic’s website. “I can see it’s brain! And it’s eyeballs are moving!”
There were baths and cuddling followed by several sudoku Chocolate Fix challenges together.
A lego garden was built with poison berry plants which grow berries that are red before they are ripe so people might think they are apples and eat them, then they have tiny black spots and then, when they are ripe they turn black.
We read an article for kids about Ebola and talked about what it is, where it is and how scary the outbreak is for Africa. We looked at our globe at the part of Africa where it is now.
There was more lego play.
I read a chapter of Wise Child to them and then we did some Spanish practice – animal words today.
We made some popcorn with our air popper (always fun to watch!) and read Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride by Stephen Krensky.