unschooling

out to the great salt lake

We adventured out toward the Great Salt Lake with friends. We stopped at Golden Spike Historic Site, where the transcontinental railroad completed it’s route across the western U.S. They brought out the two engine cars and we got to see (and hear) them driving along the tracks.

Spiral Jetty is not too far from there, out on a dirt road. It’s a land art piece that is at the edge of the lake, except with current drought conditions it’s about a half mile from the water line. The kids enjoyed walking the spiral path and looking for lizards who love to sun themselves on the dark volcanic rocks there.

The Great Salt Lake is very salty indeed there, so much so that the bottom of the lake is huge, hard crystals of salt that are tough on feet. It’s pink from the halophilic (salt loving) bacteria and very beautiful and strange looking. The pink waves and white land is so striking! I dug out a few crystals while I was walking around.

They make for sharp stepping and cuts and scrapes.

In a few places there was foam from the waves which was also sparkly with super high salt concentrations. Fascinating!

The kids enjoyed it until the salt began bothering their scrapes and cuts and stinging.

We even spotted some more wild horses!

Afterward we stopped at Willard Bay on the way home which is another part of the lake but is very much less salty so better for swimming. We washed off the salt and the kids played games in the water until it was undeniably late and we headed home.

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unschooling

strung together

There are so many moments in each day, some notable, some not. Sometimes I ponder my own memories from childhood; what I remember, how it was important or not important but still remembered. I wonder what my kids will remember of their experiences. I hope they will remember love, connection, wonder, delight, comfort, strength. I hope they will remember kissing their cats goodnight, singing silly made up words to songs we know, hugs when they are sad or scared, the excitement of spotting elusive animals and plants, the smell of sunshine in pine trees. I hope Lilah will remember how we go into the public bathroom stall together (her choice) and make funny faces or do dances or pretend our toothbrushes are hairbrushes, microphones, carrots to entertain each other while we wait. I hope Gavin will remember cuddling in our bed and looking at cute and funny animal videos together, having waterfights in the backyard and playing hammock swing tag with Lilah (one of them is on the swing, one is in the hammock nearby and they try to tag each other.  I hope Gavin will remember the time he tried black olives thinking they were mushrooms and discovered he loves olives. I hope both of them will remember becoming other people in other worlds and times for a few hours while they read a fantastic book.

Here are a few moments and hours strung together here that are memorable for me from the last weeks:

We went up to Idaho for my Grandmother’s memorial service and spent some good and fun time with family, enjoying their company and remembering my Grandma. I have so many special memories of time spent with her. A few that come the quickest are: her love of crosswords and reading, Christmas baking projects with help from overeager grandkids (me!), her weavings and her helping me with weaving and beading projects, her laugh, her beautiful white curly hair. While we were in Idaho, Lilah showed off her crafting skills and Gavin thoroughly enjoyed playing long complicated games with family. The drive was beautiful, with fields in bloom, golden and looking like they were aglow with light.

I painted a scene of the glowing fields from our drive for my dad.

Lilah wanted to go to the park and try going down the hills in our wagon. Why not?

Gavin went to a dear friend’s birthday celebration and we made plans for more time together soon.

We harvested some of the first garden bounty. Lilah’s most excited about strawberries and lemon cucumbers. Gavin’s most excited about spaghetti squash and eggplant. I am excited about all of it!

Lilah has spent hours taking her cat out in the yard on leash and harness.

We have a quail family with seven chicks strolling through most mornings and evenings and a pigeon nesting under the deck. There are dragonflies buzzing overhead every time I go out to the garden and hummingbirds zooming about. In the yard today I spotted orioles, hummingbirds, house finches, goldfinches, robins, a woodpecker, and some chickadees.

There’s been a lot of this:

We visited a local ghost town called Ophir with friends. It was a mining town and has equipment, tailings, interesting old buildings and so much to explore. They mined gold, silver and other things and we found a bunch of pyrite nuggets and some chrysocolla in the tailings.

We’ve been trying to deal with ants in the house. Ugh! They come in every summer and look for water and sugary foods. Cinnamon and vinegar do pretty well at dealing with small incursions but not larger ones. We finally hired a company who uses pet and people safe, environmentally friendly treatments to try and get it under control.

Gavin been going to a nature camp a few hours every morning this week with a good friend as well as a Harry Potter camp called O.W.L. camp put on by the county library. He had a wonderful time at both and came home as a Gryffindor, very pleased. He told us he received points for his house for having purple hair.

Lilah and I finally made it to the cat cafe, where you can enjoy coffee, tea, and cats for company, most of whom are available to adopt. It was delightful and we successfully left without bringing any cats home.

We signed up for the local library’s summer reading program. It involves a lot of reading. The kids completed it in about a week and are now doing extras. I’m so grateful that both kids love reading and will do it for love and research, not because of prizes promised.

All four of us have been playing Magic the Gathering, including a draft with the newest set of cards which Chris got for Father’s Day.

The kids hauled out a bunch of large blocks, two chairs, several scarves, the mini-trampoline, a balance beam, a few soccer balls and some other items and set up a cat themed obstacle course game for themselves. It was awesome!

We hiked up in the mountains and saw so many wildflowers! Also, we spotted deer, a moose with two very young… I need to look up what a young moose is called… calves, a weasel or a marten, and lots of chipmunks.

 

We spotted bunches of wild forget-me-nots. Here are some with a paintbrush flower. Perfection! Enjoying the connections between people and moments and nature and choosing how to weave your own life experience and story is a wonderful adventure.

 

 

 

 

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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

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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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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