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

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

99 degree days

We’ve been at the pool, working on swimming strokes together, as well as going down the water slide there. We’ve been going to the water parks too. It’s good to cool down when it’s hot outside.

They’ve been reading oh so many graphic novels and we got some fun math books to check out.

We’re working through a puzzle I got for my birthday with lovely depictions of the constellations on it. The kids and I have had several discussions about constellations and horoscopes as we look at the pictures on the puzzle. Lilah decided she doesn’t want to be a Libra. She’d rather be something that has an animal representation.

We went to a new place in the mountains with friends called Cataract Gorge, an area full of waterfalls that’s several miles down a very rocky dirt road that felt pretty exciting as we were bumping up and down. The kids played for hours in the water. Gavin hauled driftwood around to create bridges, docks, an aircarrier and a huge ship with lots of customizations (smaller sticks tucked into nooks in a large log). The waterfalls were beautiful too.

We met a new bunch of people for a Magic the Gathering club and were disappointed. The kids were mostly too young to really be able to play and the kids that were of similar ages we didn’t hit it off with. I am so disappointed about this as I was really hoping it would be a good regular activity with a group of peers for Gavin. I am considering other options for providing Gavin (both of them) regular time with kids close to their own ages.

Lilah started a Makerspace class, where she does tinkering projects. So far she’s made a nametag with LED lights as eyes and is working on a notebook.

She also tried an aerial arts class, where she does acrobatics on long silk pieces hanging from the ceiling. She loved it so much and we’ll be going back often.

We’ve been enjoying harvesting from our garden. This week we picked two green beans, a jalapeno, a pink banana squash, several small pumpkins, cherry tomatoes, a zucchini, a handful of eggplant of various types, a bunch of lemon cucumbers and some basil and Thai basil. Yum! Lilah and I like to check the honeydew and golden melon progress every few days. The biggest melons are about the size of a kids football now. They are less fuzzy than they were. Lilah built a support for one of the honeydews that was dangling in mid air with some sticks and a rock.

Gavin’s been working on some coding, in a new class and on codeacademy.com. He really enjoys solving puzzles and is enjoying messing around with html and css. He says he likes css better because he’s interested in customizing things.

We listened to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl while driving. Such fun! The kids have heard them before but didn’t remember them well. I always have adored how Charlie Bucket’s grandparents have matching names: Joe and Josephine, George and Georgina. So much amusement in those stories.

Lilah’s been working on learning to play the chorus of Let It Go from the Disney film and a song from Moana as well as refining her Yellow Submarine on the keyboard. She’s getting quite good!

Gavin’s been building and rebuilding a Lego Mindstorms robot and then programming it to do different things. It’s huge and very complicated and he’s spent hours working at it. He’s really enjoying working on it.

I’ve been painting a bit. I love it! It’s time consuming but I absolutely love every second even when I despise the results. It’s hard to find the time but oh, so important for me to enjoy, for the kids to see me doing (since it’s one of my big life goals, to make art) and then sometimes they join in either just watching and chatting or sometimes painting too.

I learned back in college that when I make art, most of it is destined for the garbage can. I don’t mean I hate it, though sometimes I do, but I mean it takes a lot of practice, of experimenting, of quantity to create a little quality art. And it doesn’t bother me at all now. Long ago, it really did! Now, I just enjoy the process and enjoy those projects that I value the product too. It’s the making that matters to me. I hope the kids enjoy the making in life too.

Here’s my latest work in progress. I’m still struggling with the texture of acrylic on canvas, but I’m enjoying the struggle.

Here’s Lilah’s latest painting (of a cat, naturally).

 

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moving right along

We’re on the go. We stay home. We have sloooow days full of reading, bird watching, crafting and baking. We have long days full of of park play with friends, holiday celebrations, library classes, working on the garden and yard, bird watching, cleaning. Here’s a peek at some of our recent moments.

deer visitors

garden raised box creating, filling, planting (we’re still in the midst of this project!)

iris admiring

reading and balancing

admiring seedlings and nature’s workings

selfie with a new Lego dragon toy

helping each other

may day faire with friends

mowing

cat photography by Lilah

It’s all important and it’s all good and so much of it is fun.

 

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unschooling

another week of living, loving, learning

Gavin read poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein to Lilah. He stopped to eat a bite of pancake and Lilah immediately requested he read more.

Lilah and I made some fairy wings and skirts for our May Day event.

We tested out a new giant bubble recipe.

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May Day/Beltane festival with our unschooling group including fairy and knight dress up, boffer weapon making, sidewalk chalk drawing, flower crown designing, may pole dancing and singing. Lovely!

We’ve had friends over for Lego building and restaurant pretending and snack eating.

I dug holes for some lilacs to create a hedge in our back yard and dug up the garden in anticipation of planting vegetables.

Gavin and I played Chess.

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Lilah saved up for a new Lego set and the kids put that together after a great discussion about how Gavin could help but in a way and amount Lilah was happy with.

We saw the first oriole of the year and put out nectar for them.

Gavin and I made a boffer sword (foam covered for play without injury) so he could meet friends who had boffer weapons for a battle at the park.

A new tinker crate arrived and the kids put together an earthquake table and buildings to test on the table with much gusto.

Lilah drew a lovely cat.

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We watched documentaries about owls and hummingbirds.

Gavin mowed the lawn in order to save up for a Lego set he would like.

We planted most of the garden. The kids picked out potatoes, corn, chiles and helped plant those. I also planted tomatoes, eggplant, squash of various kinds, tomatillos and lemon cucumbers. Still to be put in are carrot seeds.

We met friends at the farm and enjoyed antique machinery, climbing trees, animals and a large pile of hay bales for a slide.

 

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Doing

We have been

painting,

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drawing,

playing with and caring for a new kitten! A kitten has been Lilah’s fondest wish for years and so after much deliberation we decided she’s at a great age to become a pet care taker and to form a really wonderful friendship with a cat. We told her at her birthday party that she could adopt a kitten. She chose Luna Lovegood, and has been playing with her, feeding her, taking care of her litter box and making beds for her in the doll house. It’s been so much fun to watch them together and to have a kitten in the house. Luna seems to love her new home and we love having her here.

We have been celebrating Lilah’s birthday!

And celebrating more with a tea party in the park with friends.

We have been reading,

hiking,

rafting on a lake which was fun until it was scary and then new plans to try a different way were made,

Gavin’s been trying some photography,

and so have I. Here are a few shots I took with the fall leaves in a pool, and reflections of the trees and myself that I enjoyed.

We have been swimming,

noticing the return of some autumn birds and filling up our bird feeder with seeds,

planning costumes,

building (here is a door with hinges built by Gavin)

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playing soccer,

playing Minetest and Minecraft (Gavin did lots of chores to afford his own account to play Minecraft)

watching short animation videos. We recommend this: Fresh Guacamole by PES.

We have been visiting Logan, Utah to see an Australian Aboriginal paintings exhibit at Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art,

watching part of the Democratic Debate and Gavin asking questions about politics, following up with research about the 2 major parties in the U.S. and an article on Time For Kids summing up the Democratic Debate.

picking tomatoes, tomatillos, jalapeños and Thai chiles in the garden for chili making (with gloves for protection from chile oil for Gavin).

We have been gathering with other unschoolers for an afternoon of spooky (and less spooky) science in the park.

They made glittery slime, stewed a brew in a cauldron, mixed colors, watched some dry ice bubble fun, watched various kinds of mentos and coke experiments and Gavin set off a really wonderful water and air rocket.

Every day is a good one, even the ones with hard parts. I’m glad to be able to watch my kids maneuver through their days and help if they want it and sit back and enjoy when they don’t (and share my own discoveries and interests when they are open to that, of course.)

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locations & destinations

We went geocaching for the first time!

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It was a learning process, and a fun one.  We downloaded an app on my phone that allowed us to look for caches nearby and then we headed up to the Capital grounds where we used the compass and map on my phone to move toward the cache until we were in the area.  Then we had to use our eyes to find its hiding spot. We found two caches and tried but didn’t find a third.  I think I need to do more research before heading out and we need to choose carefully.  We’re hoping to do this with another family over the summer.

We played on the playground with friends before heading back here for more play, goodbyes and then soccer for Gavin and Broken Age playing for Lilah.

Broken Age is an amazing narrative computer game where you solve puzzles of various kinds and difficulties. Gavin has been playing it with his dad when Lilah does gymnastics and recently Lilah requested to play too so we’ve started another game, she and I.

Gavin had soccer games and practice.

They played Small World.

We visited the Wild West playground which is a really fun set up with local places of significance represented in a unique playground.  When they got hot and tired we had a picnic lunch in the shade and I read a few pages of Castle in the Air before they ran off to play some more.

We happened upon an article about the old Wasatch Warm Springs Bath House history, which is now abandoned and in our local park so we read about it and looked at some old photos.

The kids built various things out of K’Nex.   It’s fun to watch the complexity of their creations grow along with their building and planning skills.

We spread mulch over our vegetable garden.  We need a bit more but it’s a good start.  We haven’t tried mulch before this so it will be interesting to see how it does.  I think I spotted a pumpkin sprout and possibly a dumpling squash as well this morning.  Lilah was thrilled that there was a pink strawberry on one of the plants.  Today it was ripe enough to pick and eat! It’s such fun to watch the changes and help nurture the plants along and then enjoy the harvesting and feasting.

We puzzled.

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We read more of Castle in the Air.  It’s a delight.

We met with other unschoolers at a new to us park in Ogden called Ogden High Adventure park.  It was full of ropes play, spinning things and other challenging equipment, plus there’s a river flowing right behind it.  What a fun park!  I’m going to play more on it next time too!

Lilah counted up the money she’s earned (with my help) from doing chores and then when we went to Target, she bought herself a Lego Hero Factory set.

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We visited the aquarium.  It had been quite a while so that was fun.  Gavin particularly likes the river otters and Lilah enjoyed seeing the caiman alligators.  I always like the cuttlefish and octopus especially.  The penguins were all nesting and we watched them carefully picking up small stones and carrying them to their nests and arranging them while their partners lay on the top of the rock nests.

We met up in the canyon with other unschoolers for “Forest School”, which was a bunch of families meeting in a forest meadow and exploring and we scouted a creek and found bones and climbed rocks and hauled a rusty car hood over to make a bridge.

And in between all of this, reading and story making and researching and experimenting and hula hooping and painting and giggling and cuddling and cleaning and negotiating.  It’s been good.

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