unschooling

old & new

We met some friends for sledding. It was hard packed but beautiful. We all had a good time. Lilah found a downed tree over the creek and made her way across it. I found some elk prints.

We snowshoed on several recent warm winter days.

We started reading Divergent together, to discuss and relate to. It’s fascinating to all of us so far. We’ve been visiting Grandma and Grandpa on Sundays to hang out and usually to play a board game.

Lilah and I were doing silks classes but have stopped until it seems safer to be in a room with a bunch of people again. We’re trying to work on our splits and chin ups in the mean time.

Here’s some interesting ice I found on a walk.

Things are ever changing into something new and rearranging in familiar patterns. As my kids and I say to each other often, there is always another way of looking. (This points back to one of our favorite book series, Frontier Magic.) I like looking. Looking can be just as creative and important as creating. In fact, it is a form of creation.

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unschooling

still

Sometimes it seems like time has been paused for a really long time. So many things have been paused while things keep moving along, full speed ahead. We’re still going on adventures, around the house, around the city and state. I haven’t updated in a long time. It’s been hard lately, worrying about getting sick, passing illness along to others, risks and responsibility. We’ve been doing some things and foregoing others as we think is right but it’s hard to be living under that cloud that covid has been hanging over our heads for so long now.

Halloween came and went. We did some carving at Grandma and Grandpas and we went trick or treating with friends this year, which was really fun.

Lilah has been drawing a lot and writing stories. Gavin’s been working on 3-d printing, engineering projects and coding projects.

We’ve been getting outside for classes, walks, adventures of all sorts. I have learned to start a fire from friction with a bow drill kit I made, transfer it to a nest of kindling and blow until it ignites. There’s been lots of hikes, tree climbing, trap setting (or trying; it’s so, so hard!), and some snowy adventures.

Gavin built us a beautiful advent calendar of his own design with Lego to count down to the winter solstice. Lilah drew pictures of her friends to give them for the holidays and I’m hoping she will do one of the four of us soon! Gavin printed some really neat geometric ornaments to give.

Our winter solstice hike near home to decorate a tree with orange slice ornaments for the birds was good.

We went up to Lakewood for Christmas this year, masked, vaxxed and testing twice a day. It was so good to be with family, but hard that it can’t be as easy as it used to be. We missed those who couldn’t be there.

We got home just in time for a visit with Chris’s parents. We talked and played games and on New Year’s Eve we went to Evermore, a fantasy park with quests and costumed characters. It was cold but fun.

Here’s another new year already! I look forward to the many more good moments it will bring. Juniper and I are enjoying watching the lettuce grow in my new Aerogarden hydroponic grower and she already taste tested it. I’m still waiting.

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unschooling

Lilah is fourteen!

Lilah celebrated her birthday three times. Once with family while camping amid the fall leaves. Once with the four of us and the cats. Finally with her friends over for a playdate and sleepover with her bestie.

We put some crepe paper up around the campsite and a happy birthday banner on the tent and my mom sprinkled rose petals around the benches after dinner. We ate red velvet cupcakes that Lilah had made and she opened some gifts. Then we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores.

We spent her birthday morning at home, working on projects then she and I went on a wild walk hunting geocaches together. We found a handful and it was really fun looking for them and leaving our names in the logs. Later we got her favorite for dinner, fried rice, and we watched The Secret of Kells together, a gorgeous animated movie based on Irish scenery and the illustrated manuscripts.

A few days later we had friends over and they played with bamboo in the yard and nerf guns and ate pizza and cupcakes. Then most of them went home while her best friend stayed over and they stayed up very late giggling and playing with the cats and were up early to do more.

She’s gotten taller this year. She adores all animals, loves to be outside, loves to move. She spends a lot of time reading, drawing and listening to music as she goes about her days. She has just become interested in creepy things in the past few months. She has her own colorful style and she is excellent at fake angry glares and giggling. She loves her friends, stories about animals, climbing trees, dressing up and making things. She’s our resident cake baker. She’s such an awesome person and it’s so much fun to see her make her way through life!

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unschooling

Lately

In the past little while we’ve started our school year again. We are doing Making Tracks again, a nature and survival skills class. Here Lilah is working on making cordage.

And here Gavin is explaining to friends the steps to holding and twisting the material.

Here’s some of the cordage we were working on up closer.

We are reading books and discussing them with the help of Brave Writer. Lilah is doing art, on her own, with Makercrate and through classes on Skillshare.com. Gavin is working on improving his driving, engineering with Eurekacrate, his own projects and classes on Skillshare. We are using Brilliant.org for math this year as well as games, logic puzzles and Khan Academy.

We are also going adventuring, picking raspberries, playing with the cats, tie dyeing, doing aerial silks, baking, gardening, hosting D&D at our house, and getting together with friends as well as playing and chatting with them online regularly. Whew! Here’s one of our latest batch of ice dye/tie dye that I particularly like.

Chris has done an outstanding job of running D&D. We all enjoy it so much! He puts so much effort into it: researching and planning story and encounters, creating magical items for each character, printing days and days on our 3D printer to create the players’ characters as well as all the creatures and beings we come across, finding music and sound effects to heighten the experience. He even has scented candles to set the mood. Think leather and pine, not vanilla jasmine. The kids LOVE getting together and playing their characters and just goofing around. It’s been so wonderful! Here’s one of the creatures we’ll be fighting in the game soon. Chris printed it and I painted it with his advice.

It’s been a weird and hard few years with the pandemic and managing both our own safety as well as trying to maneuver through relationships with other families some of whom have very different outlooks and practices during the pandemic. I think we are finally finding what our new baseline looks like, which is quite different than it used to be but not what I stayed up at night worrying over either. We have found a group of families who are operating under the same set of understandings about the virus that we are and are getting together with them and limiting our time with others but still trying to maintain friendships. The kids have really struggled with this, as have I but we are finding ways to show people we care about them even when we cannot do things the way we all really wish we could by getting together wherever without masks.

Here we are adventuring in the Uintahs where we found a few rainstorms and sheltered under the pines and found many colored mushrooms. Lilah and I tried some handstands and bridges and I admired the way the fallen pine needles made swirling patterns in the quiet stream, following the patterns of the water.

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unschooling

Gavin is sixteen!

We had a family celebration at our house, complete with a chocolate cake with raspberry and chocolate frosting made by Lilah, our household baker, decorations my sister helped me pick out and put up, and family fun out in the fresh air. We had his favorite, lasagna for dinner.

He’s surpassed me in height just in the last month or so. He’s learning how to drive. He’s good at making hash browns. He has a laugh you can hear across a house. He’s practicing lego builds like the Lego Masters show. He’s playing Rainbow Six Siege, MineCraft Dungeons, Magic the Gathering, Beyond the Sun. He loves his friends, games of all kinds, fries, cats, sci-fi, steampunk, costumes. He’s got plans to build a shield that has moving parts, to build a new MTG deck, to get his driver license and go see his friends, to create and print creatures and blocks with the 3D printer. He is an amazing kid and it’s so fun to watch him go!

We had a party with friends at a fun center with laser tag, go carts, bumper cars, climbing walls, mini golf and more. The kids spent most of the time doing go karts, laser tag and climbing. They had so much fun! It was a lovely night to get together and play after not nearly enough of that for the past year. It was a really great night and the kids are so kind, supportive and enthusiastic about their friendships. It’s beautiful.

Happy Birthday, Gavin! We can’t wait to find out what adventures await you this year!

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unschooling

Eagle Eye & Camouflage

In our nature classes we’ve practice using wide angle vision like animals do to observe ourselves and what’s around us more fully. One way we’ve done it is in a game where one person (the eagle) closes their eyes and counts to 100 while everyone else hides in plain sight. Then the eagle looks for people, using wide angle vision. After they have found all the hiders that they can, they hold up a number of fingers and finally tell everyone still unseen to come out. The closest person who remained unspotted AND who saw the number wins and is the eagle for the next round.

This year in our class we increased the difficulty by adding camouflage into the equation. The kids painted themselves with mud, sand, leaves, sticks. I did too. I enjoy participating even while the other parents preferred to sit and watch. It’s more fun for me to join in! The kids are getting good at holding still, and at hiding with the environment. In one picture below, it looks just like an empty landscape at first glance but there are at least five kids standing up from their hiding spots. If the picture was taken while they were hiding, they would probably be completely invisible.

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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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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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unschooling

Gavin’s birthday

We had a lovely family party for Gavin last week, a nice day at home on his actual birthday playing games (like TimeLine!) and relaxing and a party with friends at Willard Bay this weekend.

He wanted to swim and especially, to try the floating inflatable playground with his friends, so that’s what we did. It was a beautiful day and the water was warm. The kids and some adults enjoyed the playground and then we all chatted in the shade or played in the water until the beautiful sunset came, and then the mosquitoes arrived so we left.

There was a huge slide the kids enjoyed, a swing, a trampoline and various other structures all joined together floating out in the water. They had to swim out so here are a bunch of the kids jumping in to go out to play!

 

Here they are playing on the playground.

We got chocolate, vanilla and lemon cupcakes and we brought a sundried tomato, artichoke heart, basil pesto pasta salad to share and it was well appreciated.

Gavin was so thrilled to just get to spend time with friends and it was fun for family to get to see the crew together. I wish I had gotten a picture of him and one of his friends out floating for hours in the middle of the lake together in the late afternoon for hours but I was too busy paddle boarding. My mom, Meara and Chris got some kayaking and paddle boarding in too. So fun!

He’s fourteen now! It’s shocking (to me) and totally expected at the same time. He still loves Lego, and builds the neatest unique spaceships and other things regularly. He loves Zelda: Breath of the Wild on his new switch game system that he saved up for all on his own this summer. He loves board and card games and cannot get enough, especially anything “futuristic” or “space themed”. He tries to meet friends online as often as possible to play MineCraft or RoBlox with them.  When they can get together in person they swim or chat or fight with boffer weapons. His favorite color is blue violet, favorite food is lasagna, favorite flower is lavendar, favorite animal is owl. He reads like mad and is currently inhaling a series he started on his birthday called Space Runners. He’s an amazing, wonderful person and I am so grateful to get to spend a lot of time with him, learning together and enjoying life together, appreciating each other.

 

Such good memories to look back on and so much fun and discovery yet to come for him and for us with him! What a journey!

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unschooling

A whole lot of Holi

We celebrated the Indian holiday Holi with friends in the middle of the week at a park and then again this weekend at the Hindu temple nearby with thousands of people. Both were so much fun!

In preparation for the day with friends we tried making our own color powder and while it was interesting is was so time consuming I don’t know that we’ll try it again. It took hours to dry and then it wasn’t as colorful as we had hoped. Traditionally during Holi, a spring holiday, you throw colored powder at friends and family until everyone is very brightly colored. When you throw color at someone, it is seen as an act of love and blessing. It also symbolizes a victory of good over evil. The kids loved running around and getting messy and coloring each other.

Before the color throwing, the kids roamed the park, climbing trees and fighting with foam swords Gavin brought.

Gavin also got out his Magic The Gathering board game and happily played that with his friends for an hour or so.

There were a couple of huge hawks building nest right above us and we watched them fly overhead and bring sticks back to finish off their huge nest.

We also tried some Indian dessert recipes at home and made laddoo with chickpea flour, grain halwa with oat flour and carrot halwa. They were all quite delicious!

At the big temple, they had yummy Indian food to eat and music and dancing and a huge color throw on the hour each hour where so many people throw simultaneously that it creates a rainbow cloud for a few seconds. We try to go every year because we enjoy it so much. Lilah was thrilled that her favorite dessert, the halwa, was mango flavored this year!

 

We went home rainbow-colored and happy, twice.

 

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