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

favorite winter things

We’ve been reading chapter books, graphic novels, picture books, novels, read alouds, and audiobooks. We just enjoyed The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

We’ve been practicing cursive for those who find it appealing (Lilah),

Puzzling a cat puzzle,

Going to see the local gymnastics team compete, enjoying waving pompoms to cheer them on,

Playing with friends,

Taking winter walks,

Practicing Aerial silks and hammock tricks,

Game playing: Blokus, Cobra Paw, Exploding Kittens, King of Tokyo, Power Grid, Sid Maier’s Beyond Earth to name a few,

Gift making and hunting,

Enjoying new treasures,

Cookie baking and decorating.

We made soap, which was a fun new project. We tried the melt and pour kind and it was a bit tricky but we figured out how to make molded soaps with smaller soap shapes inside, marbled soaps and we added some home-grown lavender and rose flowers to a few. The kids have requested to do this again.

There’s been Dungeons and Dragons playing,

Finger knitting and crocheting. Look at this beautiful scarf Lilah made for me!

We tried making ice lanterns and ice orbs for the first time to celebrate the winter solstice. Next year we’ll know how to do it better. The lanterns were gorgeous when lit up with candles and stuffed with natural things we collected from the yard and the park. The ice orbs didn’t quite freeze all the way through. The lanterns did freeze but we didn’t leave enough space to create thick enough bases so they were fragile.

We spent time working on the second chapter of Gavin’s book that he’s been writing on and off for a year or two now. Gavin got another big section finished and is happy with it. I’m happy to see that it’s ever so slowly becoming easier and he needs ever so slightly less support.

We’ve been making pom poms and cutting paper snowflakes.

We got to visit with family in Idaho and Washington. There were lovely conversations, meals, games played, explorations and hugs.

We visited a Jim Hensen exhibit and that has sparked a week or two of watching The Dark Crystal and The Muppet Show as a family.

The kids tried archery for the first time! They both enjoyed it.

Lilah and I’ve been painting,

And drawing and cutting and gluing and taping and coloring.

 

Gavin made a map for a skit he’s participating in, to use as a treasure map.

We went ice skating with friends, with much twirling and even some backward skating.

Life is good.

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books, unschooling

hot summer days

The kids harvested a mystery squash, a few cherry tomatoes a pinstripe eggplant (variety chosen by Gavin) and a giant zucchini from the garden. We poked in the boxes and saw so many good things growing and changing.

Dragonflies are zooming over the yard every day around dusk.

Hummingbirds are frequenting our trumpet vine, butterfly bushes and feeder. They visit often when we are out on the deck eating.

We went to a water park with friends, another just the three of us.

We visited another friend’s house for crafting and play time.

Lilah went to gymnastics, working on handstands and vault.

We read sooo many good books.

We had a game night with the scout group at our house. Gavin played Magic the Gathering, Arena of the Planeswalkers. Lilah made up a Pokemon game with stuffed animals who evolved and made loud shrieking and growling noises. Chris and I played Dominion with another group. The deer came into the yard and were admired by our human visitors. It was a fun evening.

Gavin and I (and sometimes Lilah) have been practicing yoga together. He wants to gain strength and flexibility and he likes spending time with me that way. He asked tonight who the first people to do yoga were, so I think we’ll do some researching together to find out more about the beginnings of yoga.

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unschooling

around home

Here are a few moments from our week:

Gavin searched for new computer games to play. He’s interested in other things like Plants vs. Zombies or MineCraft. He loves to play Civilization so maybe we’ll look for games in that vein.

We tried a new recipe for peanut butter chocolate bars few days ago. It’s not quite what we hoped for so we tried another today. It was the right taste but a little too gooey, so next time we’ll try it with more crushed rice crispy cereal in it.

Lilah put the harness on Luna and then on Star. Neither of them liked it much. She read more of her book about clicker training cats.

We walked to the library in the rain to return a handful of books and check out several new armfuls of books plus a dvd called The Secret Lives of Cats.

A deer left a gift in our backyard, an antler was sitting by the rose bush today. We did a bit of research and found it’s shedding season, when the deer lose their antlers for the year and begin to grow new ones.

We all watched a video of a bald eagle chick hatching.

We made sushi and the kids did a ninja course with friends.

Chris read Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk to the kids.

We’ve been working on getting the garden area ready for raised boxes by digging and tilling and pulling out rocks, boulders and so much glass. Here’s some of the various “buried treasure” we’ve unearthed:

I did a huge amount of research about covers to keep the deer out of our raised garden beds. Also, we ordered SO MUCH DIRT to fill our new boxes. The kids were amazed dirt costs so much.

We made brownies and played Race For the Galaxy.

Gavin and his friends swapped MineCraft videos to watch, places to download mods and ideas for making their own character skins.

We played outside with cut bamboo.

We watched the deer visit, rest and munch in the yard.

Life is sweet.

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unschooling

Snow Canyon with friends

We camped this weekend in Snow Canyon. It was beautiful, though a bit less rain would have been nice.

We hiked and explored in Snow Canyon, in red sand and petrified dunes and twisting trees.

We played card games huddled under the awnings of the trailers during the rain storms.

The kids biked and scooted and dug in the sand and played soccer and found secret hiding spots.

We ventured into nearby Zion National Park for a day and went to weeping rock and then far out to where less people and trails are, to the Many Pools area. There had been so much rain recently and the snow is still melting so the pools were bigger, more and there were streams between most of them this time. We didn’t spot any frogs or tadpoles but it was overcast so much harder to see the bottom of the pools.

It was early for wildflowers still but we saw a few paintbrush and other flowers like this desert sage blooming already. The kids were smelling the leaves of various plants and deciding if they liked the scents or not.

We also spotted ravens, cottontail rabbits, songbirds and a few lizards.

The kids saw lots of sandstone and volcanic rock and were quite interested in how it’s formed and how different the volcanic rock is, smooth, rough, bubbly, pockmarked.

We all went out to dinner one night and Gavin lost his first baby molar! He was quite surprised.

On our last afternoon a few of us stayed later and found the lava tubes and climbed down into the caverns and then back out. It was really neat! We took flashlights, lowered ourselves into the opening and then descended into the dark tunnels and caverns below. It was dark down inside the caverns. We came out of a different hole nearby when we were done exploring.

Here’s the entrance we went into:

Someone on the trip asked Gavin what his favorite part of camping was and he answered, “Going new places that I’ve never been before and exploring.” His least favorite part was, “Being away from my computer.”

I asked Lilah the same thing. Her favorite part was, “Being with our family is most of it. Also exploring and climbing on rocks.” Her least favorite part was, “Getting in freezing cold water.” She kept walking in the wet sand after the rain and checking the temperature of puddles.

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unschooling

at the moment

At the moment there’s a Dominion game happening with a set of cards Gavin selected from three different sets. Pirate Ships are involved, of course.

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There’s also a playdate happening with the girls creating a Pokemon battleground. It’s complete with decorations, color coordinated props and much discussion of abilities and preferences of Pokemon from the game, tv show and also some Pokemon newly invented in our house.

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unschooling

hearts and brains

This week we’ve been making a lot of Valentines Day preparations.

We built a heart shaped box for Lilah and decorated it and decorated a MineCraft creeper box for Gavin. Lots of hot glue was used to make the heart box and we all helped paint different shades of green squares onto Gavin’s creeper box.

Gavin made Valentines to hand out to friends

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and so did Lilah. She made fortune tellers, decorating each corner, and making up several fortunes to include:  you will laugh and will not stop, you will fall in love with a cat and a cat will fall in love with you, you will become a king/queen, you will turn into an icicle, you will transform into a cat, you will eat a lot of candy and not get sick, you will fly on a balloon, you will get eaten by a tiger.

We’ve been talking a lot about the government and elections and how things work, who some of the people in our local government are and some in our federal government and how they got to those roles. We all participated in a Utah March for Refugees to demonstrate our support of refugees and our local city’s stance on people coming here from other countries.

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We went ice skating.

Lilah was so fascinated by sign making for protests/marches that she made her own sign a few weeks back. It reads, “Cat’s are better then dooog’s.”

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We’ve been hanging out at home, playing, too.

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We had a pirate themed play day at our house with friends including dressing up, a scavenger hunt, treasure finding and lots of other play. **Photo of all the kids dressed up by my friend, Teri.**

Gavin made his own hunt for the little ones after finishing up the one I prepared for the group and they were so happy.

We’ve been reading The Wolfling by Sterling North. The kids are really enjoying it.

We spotted cedar waxwings in our yard and watched them eating berries from the mountain ash and apple remains and juniper berries along with the robins and starlings.

The kids are rereading the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi on their own and together.

We went on a Valentine delivery run about town and the kids put Valentines for friends we don’t see often into their mailboxes.

We spotted bulb shoots coming up outside our kitchen windows and were very excited to see them and keep watching to find out what kinds they are and watch them grow!

We went to an aquarium with lots of opportunities to feed animals and the kids enjoyed it but I was not happy to see their really small enclosures and think of all the stress that being handled all day must cause the animals. We all decided after talking afterward not to go back. Feeding the parakeets was really fun though.

We’ve been watching the big hawk that sits on a post near our yard.

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We went to a Valentines Day party with lots of unschooling friends and the kids loved roaming about in groups, especially enjoying the bouncy balls that Gavin’s Valentines had on them.

I’ve been painting sometimes in the evenings. I am so thrilled to be making and motivated by the challenge of trying a new medium: acrylic paint.

We roller skated and the kids played arcade games, trading in their tickets for a best friends forever necklace that splits into two necklaces. They put them on immediately. They really are best friends and I’m so grateful for their enjoyment of each other.

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We went up to the Veteran’s Medical Center to give out Valentines to veterans. The kids were not comfortable giving them to people so I handed them out and then when we were done the kids covered the chairs in the waiting room with Valentines and candy.

We went to the park with friends and climbed trees and explored and hung on bars and talked.

The kids have been spending quite a bit of time playing Roblox and MineCraft on the computer together and separately but next to each other. Even when they playing different games they are chatting about things together.

We went to play at a friends’ house. The kids played all afternoon and the moms worked on craft projects. I’m trying needle felting for the first time ever. It’s pretty fun and I think the kids and I will try making some little critters together.

 

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