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

eclectic fun in March

We’ve been baking. Brownies, cinnamon cake, cookies with two colors of dough. YUM.

Lilah’s been playing her ukelele and writing songs. I adore seeing her play and create and enjoy.

They started their own spur of the moment Dungeons and Dragons style game with Lego dragons as characters. Here are their supply lists:

The supply lists read: (Gavin) 1 medium pack, 1 ruby, 1 bag of herbs 2 loaves of fresh bread, 1 cat, 1 awesome sword, 2 gun parts, 1 gun, 1 owl hunter. (Lilah) 2 medical packs, 2 rubies, 2 bags of herbs, 4 loaves of fresh bread, 2 cats!!!, 1 sword, 1 owl, 2 gun parts, awesome bow and quiver of ice arrows.

We saw Black Violin, a musical group that was amazing! The group has two classically trained violinists, a drummer and a DJ and they play everything from classical pieces done over in new ways to contemporary music done in more classical overtones. It was energetic and fun.

 

We’re listening again to The Thirteenth Child series by Patricia Wrede. It’s such a wonderful story, a personal exploration and growth story with a female protagonist who does things her own way and learns that there are always multiple ways of looking at things.

Gavin’s been going on his own to the library several times to get books on MineCraft building.

We celebrated my Dad’s birthday and tried to help him come up with ideas for a deck or patio.

Lilah’s been drawing, drawing, drawing. Here are an owl, Lilah’s version of herself as good (cat) and evil (cat), and a cat. I’m proud and happy to know that she has thoroughly learned that if she tries drawing something and it doesn’t come out the way she likes, she can just try and again and practice instead of getting incredibly upset by her first attempt.

The kids got out their hexbug sets and built an epic track for their bugs.

Gavin saved up and bought himself a copy of MineCraft Story Mode, a game based on the MineCraft world where he gets to work through big adventures.

It’s been snowing and springing, both so we’ve been trimming some plants, planting some beets and carrots in between shoveling snow. Gavin swept the deck on one of the warmer days so it’s clear for swinging and lounging.

We’ve been talking about garden plans this year. Gavin wants to try garlic again and Lilah wants lettuce. I’ve never grown either so we’ll see what happens!

Lilah began asking for egg hunts several weeks ago so we pulled down our plastic eggs and have had several hunts. Yesterday it was warm and dry enough to hide and hunt outside so Gavin set up a hunt with 60 or 70 eggs for us to find.

We went to an RSL soccer game with my parents. It was an awful game for our team, but fun anyway.

We spent a full Saturday with Gavin’s Odyssey of the Mind team, who have been preparing for months and months for the state competition where they competed in their problem, a skit they put together, designed and performed which met certain criteria and solved certain problems and in spontaneous problems where they work together to come up with solutions to puzzles/problems on the fly. Here’s Gavin in his costume, designed and put together by the team:

He is a soldier in a Star Wars world. Here is Gavin putting together part of his team’s set:

They had a lot of fun and it was great to watch all their work over the last several months come together!

We had an egg hunt party with a big bunch of friends. The kids hid the eggs and then later found eachother’s eggs, opened them and enjoyed their spoils. We put balloons in the ones we brought and there was a whole half hour of balloon music, as the kids blew them up and then slowly or quickly let the air come out and made loud, weird and awful sounds. So fun!

Lilah has been doing silk aerial classes for a while now and sometimes Gavin joins in. She loves it! They give the kids a lot of freedom to play and enjoy but also support to learn new moves. She was recently invited to participate in a several month long prep class to prepare a routine to perform for an audience and she turned it down. Sometimes I wonder if she will regret not taking opportunities like those later on but I am happy that she feels comfortable with herself and us enough to say, no, I like to have fun but not to compete.

We started getting the local newspaper delivered. Mostly it’s me reading it, but Gavin will sometimes look at an article or two. We felt it was a good time to have a more neutral source of news than online news available in the house and especially about local issues that we can connect with more easily. The kids have been very much enjoying the crosswords, sudoku (which they learned to love from Grandpa) and comics. Most of our recent lunches have seen them both working on crosswords or sudoku at the table.

We’re at a new bend in our unschooling journey, trying to re calibrate how much to stay home, go out, meet with friends, do as a family. It seems every season we have to balance these things again, and after years I’ve come to see this as an ongoing process not an end goal I still haven’t mastered. We are trying a few new group meet ups and trying some new activities on our own and trying to find that sweet spot where we get enough time with other people as well as enough time to do the important work of being at home. The current plan is aim for two days a week at home, one just at our house and one to take trips or adventures as a family, two days for meet ups and friend gatherings and one day that can go either way.

All of us went to a science night at the library. They showed us a whole lot of really great experiments including this fire tornado. Lilah built a leprechaun trap for St. Patrick’s Day. We did not snare any leprechauns.

We spent several afternoons walking and scooting along the Jordan River Parkway, spotting birds and muskrats, watching the river.

Both kids worked on sewing a gift for a friend who is turning two.

The kids and I are very interested in wild foraging so I have been slowly trying to find resources to help us learn about what can be eaten or used and how. It’s slow going to find good sources. Gavin in particular is interested in mushroom hunting which I’ve never done.

I’ve been talking about and watching videos about brain development, adolescence and emotions and their purpose with the kids quite a bit, working on being more self aware and having strategies for dealing with hard moments. They are both growing so much in their understanding of the world and themselves.

Gavin’s been talking about and beginning work on designing a Lego set that could be voted on by fans and if supported enough, eventually could become a Lego set sold by the company. He was thinking about a Ranger’s Apprentice set or a Hayao Miyazaki movie set.

All four of us went to the Holi celebration Festival of Colors near us, with Indian food, colored powder to throw at others, into the air, music, yoga. We also enjoyed seeing the llamas and peacocks who live next to the temple.

 

 

Three of us went cross country skiing. It was the kids’ first time and they loved it even though we were only out for an hour and a half and spent most of our time on the flat trails. They asked to go again the next day! It’s expensive and we already had plans but I’m hoping to go again at the same place (with lots of flat areas and rentals right there) before they close for the season. It’s been years and years since I’d gone and it was really fun to go again and to introduce the kids to it. Their favorite part was a tiny hill that they could go up in a few strides and then slide down. They did that ten or twenty times at the end of our ski before turning in our gear and heading home.

We spotted the first butterflies of the season this week! An orange beauty and a black beauty!

Life is amazing!

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unschooling

a camping eclipse!

Whoa!

We headed up to Idaho, right outside of Stanley, to meet family and friends at a campground to watch the eclipse. We also got to check out lots of fun things to do while the moon was not in front of the sun. One favorite activity was learning to play Balderdash. Players make up definitions for obscure words, acronymns, movies, dates and then the made up definitions are given along with the real one, and everyone guesses which is the correct definition. It was really fun!

Chris and Gavin rafted and kayaked the Salmon River. It was Gavin’s first time rafting and he loved it! It was Chris’ first time kayaking a river and he loved it too. I didn’t go because Lilah had a negative experience recently on a rafting ride, getting too wet and cold and scared and firmly told us she didn’t want to raft. So, we listened to her wishes and hope that someday, maybe soon, she’ll be ready to brave the raft too.

We went to a nearby lake to hike, paddleboat, kayak and paddle board. There were so many fish, little and big, silver and even some red kokanee. It was our first time on paddle boards and Lilah and I had so much fun! Gavin enjoyed the kayak more and Chris preferred that too.

On one visit we took a speed boat across the lake to hike the other side. We found a lovely waterfall.

There were many natural hot springs near Stanley so we visited one at the edge of the river one evening. The spring was hot! and the river was cold! and every so often you’d find a sweet spot where the two mixed together in the right proportions, but mostly the tops of my legs were hot and my back was cold. It was fun to see how different depths and sizes of pools changed the water temperature. Gavin spent the evening on a huuuge log jam, pulling sticks out, tossing them in the river, finding treasure (fishing floats, beautiful sticks) buried in the hill of wood.

And then there was the eclipse. Incredible! Words can’t describe the experience adequately. We had breakfast and then it was time for the partial eclipse to begin. We passed out glasses and watched the moon ever so slowly cross in front of the sun from the top right edge, slowly, slowly toward the bottom left. It was warming up when the eclipse began but it started getting colder again after maybe a half hour or so and by the time the moon completely eclipsed the sun it was much colder. We checked the time and watched the progress and watched the shadows change from rounded edges to crescent shards as the eclipse got past 90%. It seemed to get murky and strange though it was still quite bright until suddenly the light was gone. It was dark enough to feel like night, though not as complete as night, similar to the darkness between twilight and full night.

We took off our glasses and saw the sun black, it’s corona red around it and surrounded by white shining light that was pointed in several directions, like we draw stars. You could see the corona moving, spitting, exploding. We could see other stars. The animals quieted. The humans did too. It was such an amazing experience it was hard to take it that it was actually happening. And then, 2 minutes and 13 seconds later, a shine, and then a burst of light out from the other side of the moon and then the crescent grew and grew into our usual round sun. The warmth returned, the usual activities of the day returned.

After talking with friends upon our return home, many of them watched the partial eclipse, not realizing how amazing a total eclipse really is, or not realizing the difference between a 98% eclipse and 100%. It made me so glad that we were able to realize what an opportunity we had and grab it. It was utterly amazing.

We listened to much of Patricia Wrede’s Lyra series on our way to and from the campground. It’s a fun series though I wish the narrator was a little more sensitive to context and emotion in the material. We arrived home to love from the cats and the first lemon cucumbers ready for picking, some cherry tomatoes and several squash including a pink banana. I love squash and am so excited about our squash plants this year but it may be quite a challenge to figure out how to store and eat all of it.

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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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art, unschooling

a few memorable moments from midsummer

We watched a quail family wandering nearby

and deer visiting

spotted tiny pumpkins and melon flowers, growing apples

picked apricots to give to Grandma

went to the library and came home with an armful each

played badminton

met friends at the waterpark

found this flower in the yard and wondered what kind it was

brought friends home for air-conditioned playtime

helped clean our old house to get it ready to sell

found that squirrels love apricots and honeydew tendrils, researched deterrents, found that predator urine may keep them away, or not

made cat memes

 

watched our grapes get bigger

saw a new kind of dragonfly

read so many books

went hiking with friends and on our own

made popsicles

tried blueberry lemonade

made a new Magic The Gathering deck with dad, then tested it

Gavin went to several teen/tween night games, where the kids organize things like capture the flag and go do it without adult supervision

went to Disneyland with Grandpa

visited the beach

went on a quick whale watching trip and saw a tangled humpback that the rescue team was working with and a non tangled humpback diving and breaching

celebrated Gavin’s 12th birthday with cupcakes, board games, Legos, and lasagna

sold a house

went to a friends play (The Three Musketeers)

went to a friends aerial acrobatics performance

(Lilah requested aerial lessons immediately upon hearing we were going)

found a new favorite graphic novel series (5 Worlds by Mark Siegel)

tried out some printmaking with a Tinkercrate set

built some new moving Lego machines and watched them wheel themselves around

 

Life is full of goodness.

 

 

 

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books, unschooling

welcoming a new year

Today the kids watched Kulipari and Yo-Kai Watch,

played MineCraft while I patched some holes in walls at the other house in preparation for more painting over there.

We enjoyed lots of recently gifted wonderful things. Gavin built a robotics set,

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we worked on a puzzle,

Lilah worked on her latch hook rug set, and her painted bowl kit,

I made deodorant with a bit of help from Lilah,

both kids started on new books: The Haunting of Falcon House by Eugene Yelchin and When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin.

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Lilah made cards for all three cats wishing them a happy New Year,

we played Imhotep,

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we played Ugly Sweaters,

we stepped outside and saw an owl on the post right outside the house! We took some pictures but it was dark and so they are not the best but it was so exciting! Maybe we’ll get another chance. Gavin remarked upon seeing the owl, “I love our house.” Me too.

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We had a curry buffet for dinner and tried some new Indian and Nepali dishes followed by Chris reading Harry Potter and Eragon books at bedtime, cuddles of kids and parents and cats and I sang some songs to finish the night.

 

 

 

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unschooling

lately

science project day at the park, exploding capsules, dry ice bubbles, chromatography and lots more

 

more pumpkin patch fun with friends (slide photos taken by my friend Teri)

celebrating Diwali at the Hindu temple with music, dancing, rangoli (chalk painting) and good food followed by fireworks

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creating Halloween costumes: Minecraft black and orange cats

carving pumpkins with family

at the park

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collecting leaves and punching leaf confetti with fancy hole punchersimg_3295

holding snakes and other reptiles with friends at a Halloween party

picking apples in our yard with a long armed picker

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sorting jelly beans (thanks Gma and Gpa!)

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night swinging

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game playing (new favorite this time: Above And Below)

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hike for me (with bonus elderberry picking & subsequent cordial and syrup making)

bookshelf assembly with Dad and decorating for Lilahimg_3343

silly dinnertime fun watching reflections in the window
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supermoon through our skylight lit up the hallwayimg_3348

phone for the kids to share means lots of cat & owl photos and videos, and lots of texting

img_3351the texts are wonderful and fun, especially so if I am not in the room with them and get to decipher who is writing to me at any given time. So far, I’ve been right about which kid I’m texting with.

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park time (I read some poems to the kids and then Gavin picked up the book for more)

civilization (Gavin is playing as China and Lilah as …)img_3354

an epic story being acted out, and then they realize they are being documented and give me a pose

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