unschooling

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

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

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.

We admired some impressive blowholes (areas where the ocean has worn away tunnels in the rock and creates huge splashes or eruptions of water when the conditions are right), arches and caves.

Back at the cabin between ventures, this is what downtime looked like.

The kids rolled and threw a bunch of driftwood into the waves and watched the pieces move with the tide.

We collected some shells.

One day we took a sea cave kayaking tour.

On our last morning in town, we went to the beach one last time. Chris and I watched the waves while the kids created a landscape out of sand, rocks, feathers & shells while telling stories about characters they’ve created.

I’m so grateful.

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unschooling

camping at Red Canyon

We went camping with my sister and her boyfriend and my parents down by Flaming Gorge. It was so lovely to get outside for a few days.

We walked (and some of us climbed in crevices) along the edge of the gorge.

We took a hike in the forest to a lake and spotted deer and elk (and maybe a fox) prints on the way. I walked two miles on a trail with rocks and mud and logs and hills… a first for me after my surgery. I had just gotten permission to put my full weight on that knee about a week before our trip so it was perfect timing!

We read in hammocks and chatted with family.

We took a raft and kayaks down the river. It was Lilah’s first time on a raft and she really enjoyed it. Gavin loved it too!

We spotted kokanee salmon swimming upstream, bright red and orange.

Lilah worked hard on her fire starting and tending. With some help she started two fires with a fire striker and some cottonwood seed fluff and lint. She got quite frustrated but kept at it and was eventually successful.

We roasted marshmallows and spotted shooting stars.

We spent the last evening around the fire finding animals and other picture in the flames and coals. There were several alligators in there.

On our way home we listened to an audiobook called The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It was an excellent listen, young adult fiction about race relations in America today.

It was a beautiful few days.

 

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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

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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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.