unschooling

ghost towns

Today we headed out on a ghost town adventure.

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I did some research and picked a few closer ghost towns, packed water, snacks, lunch and we were off. We drove out first to Mercur, Utah. It was a mining town as many Utah towns were. When we got there though, it was gated off and there was no entry. Boo! We noticed some fencing up a hill a little way our side of the gated area so we walked up to check that out. We found lots of remnants of people spending time there, a nest in the fence, lots of exciting rocks and lots of deer bones. A little further up we saw a fresh deer leg, thigh chewed off the bone. I think the big cats must have taken the rest off to eat privately. Lilah was thrilled to find some purple glass and pottery shards scattered about.

After that we headed down and found the Mercur cemetery.

There were quite a few fenced gravesites and several that were just roughly indicated by rock borders. Most of the headstones were gone or in terrible shape.

Next we headed out to find West Dip, nearby. We had much better luck there but it has been used for dumping and graffiti and lots of shooting practice unfortunately. It was still fascinating and the kids were definitely interested in the trash as well as the old town remains but I was put off by hundreds of shell casings and food and drink refuse everywhere. My favorite part there was the sage brush growing on the roof of the building remnants. We saw a few lizards and some swarming crows but we saw no one else today aside on our explorations. The kids decided it would be hot and hard to live in a place like Mercur or West Dip.

As we drove out we saw something off the road and stopped to check it out. It turned out to be a mine shaft, going down further than light would go in the afternoon. The kids were fascinated and we crawled out on the (very solid) grate to get a good look.

Then we headed toward Utah Lake to find Mosida, another ghost town. When we got there it was gone. Nothing left at all. They are farming and building condos there. It was disappointing but did teach us that ghost towns are few, precious and fleeting and that we need to find more updated resources before driving hours to find nothing left. I did manage to find a great site and I think I’ll be cross checking any other info with that from now on.

I can’t wait to head out again, but the kids want to go rockhounding and ghost town adventuring in one go, so that will be our next challenge. I’ve heard Topaz Mountain/and Topaz Internment Camp (where Japanese were taken during World War II) are still a great place to explore…

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Hearts and Flowers

There was more pop bead and K’nex play.

Gavin got out his Lego master builder set.

The hexbugs came out and were built and raced with and they went to Hogwarts.

We watched and listened to Weird Al Yankovich’s Word Crimes song/video about misuse of the English language.  I’m in complete agreement on the topic of saying, “I could care less.”  That’s bothered me for decades now.  The kids found it amusing and we got to talk a bit about some common mistakes that are made.

We checked out some pictures of sociable weaver nests – huge structures built by African birds who work together to build what is essentially a bird condo, with individual nests with separate openings are joined inside one large nest structure.  Fascinating!

“Webervogelnst Auoblodge” by Harald Süpfle – photo taken by Harald Süpfle. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

 

Gavin received a letter today from a friend he hasn’t seen in months.  He was so thrilled!  It asked two important questions: Did he want to be pen pals?  and Can we have a playdate?  The answer to both is of course, yes!  I’m quite excited to both rekindle the boys friendship and to encourage writing.  The best part of the pen pal suggestion is, both boys are slow, frustrated writers, so they will be a great match.

We strung up some of our paper hearts to decorate for Valentines Day.

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The kids were happy to put them up and begin talking about what they’d like to do to celebrate.  I’m thinking maybe some cookies with pink and red colors, some hand made valentines and…?  We’ll have to do some more dreaming together.

 

After lunch we went to the Museum of Natural Curiosity.  We climbed and slid and played with drum machines and melody makers.  We spent quite a bit of time making drum loops and melody loops, trying faster and slower tempos, different sounds, different drums, patterns.  Here they are, creating music.

We were bandits and stole dollars from the bank and then gave them to some customers outside the bank.  We explored the magic shoppe and learned some new tricks.

We zip-lined and spun and explored the outdoor nature playground.

Then we headed home for a bit of a Harry Potter movie, dinner, reading, cuddles, songs and bed.

The morning brought more hex bug play.

We finished the craft flowers we started a while back.  The petals were painted in carefully formed wire pieces previously and today they wound them around a stem, added leaves and then wrapped green paper around to make a stem.  Gavin says his looks like a tulip.

I discovered a short video about how dogs smell and interpret the world that I shared with the kids.

 

Lilah and I boiled water and stirred in (lots and lots!) of sugar to begin growing sugar crystals.

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Gavin came and helped us decide when we’d added as much as could dissolve.  It’s amber colored because the sugar we used is non-whitened.

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Gavin worked on some more Lego master builder pieces while Lilah helped by finding pieces for him.

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In the afternoon we headed up to the local living history museum, This Is The Place.  It was pretty quiet, mostly closed for the winter, but we wandered the village, took a short train ride, enjoyed some animals.

On the train tour of the village, Gavin noticed that they had a small version of the blue locomotive named Jupiter, named and painted based on the famous locomotive from the joining of the railroads at Golden Spike site.  He also checked to see how the train cars were linked together and discovered it was different than the huge old link and pin that the replicas of the old trains at Promontory used.  There was a rope in the tree and they figured out quickly what that was for.  Gavin and I read a plaque with information on all the hand-cart companies that travelled across the country to Salt Lake City, when they left, arrived, how many there were, how much equipment they carried and how many survived the journey.

We visited the boot shop and the observatory and house that was inhabited by a squirrel.  That was amusing- going in the bedroom and seeing a squirrel who shot away into the kitchen and then out the door to escape us.

They also practiced their carriage driving skills, sans horse this time.

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Playing outside

The kids played Heroica with my sister for an hour or so and then they took the dog for a short walk.

Lilah worked on some perler bead making.

Gavin helped Dad pump up his bike tires.  Then he biked while Lilah and I walked to the park where there was swinging

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and climbing

and biking on the hills

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and spotting some tiny fish in the creek that has trash in it and isn’t taken care of well at all.  But there are fish living and growing!  We saw at least ten the size of Lilah’s fingers, darting over and through the shadows.

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The kids taught me how to play “Chinese War”, a variation on the card game War, that my cousins taught them over the holidays.  Gavin got very frustrated when he was losing and decided to stop playing.  I’m not sure how to help him deal better (faster?  more easily?) with the frustrations of games that don’t go the way you wanted them to.

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Lilah and I went to gymnastics class while Gavin played Civilization with his dad.

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On the way home we passed a UPS store and Lilah asked me if we order things from UPS.  I said no, and explained how people and companies pay UPS (or USPS or…) to pick up and then deliver their packages for them.

We started a project making hearts out of paper.  It involves stapling and cutting with a paper cutter so the kids practiced their safe and effective stapling and paper cutting.  We made a huge heart but don’t think it could stay up that way so we might just string them as a garland.

I read a chapter of The Wizard of Oz to them.  We talked about what cowardly means, since we just met the Cowardly Lion.

There was coolmathgames.com play together.

They played several more hands of Chinese War, often getting really frustrated but continuing or playing again later.  It’s hard for me to decide whether and when to step in and say, “This is causing too much frustration” and whether and when to let them keep hitting the same wall and trying again.  Sometimes they deal with it alright and sometimes they get mad, yell, throw things, refuse to do anything for twenty minutes, Gavin more than Lilah as his expectations are often higher.  More and more I think I need to say aloud what I notice happening, maybe say what I would feel or choose if I were in the same position and then let them work it out.  Solving problems for others doesn’t work for kids any better than for adults.

The perler beads came out again.  A ninja star was designed by Gavin and a lace circle by Lilah.

We went to Lindsay Garden park and the kids spun on the merry go round for a long while while I used the swings.

Then we went on a short walk through the cemetery.  There is supposed to be a nesting owl who comes every year about this time but I have no idea which tree they call home.  Maybe sometime we’ll happen on an owl nest.

After lunch we watched a bit of the 5th Harry Potter movie.  We’re listening to the 3rd audio book when we’re driving around.

Then it was time for Lilah and I to pick up her friend from school.

All three kids played with K’nex, Legos and pop beads together, making up an epic tale involving ninjas, queens and magic ala Harry Potter.  There was scepter building, underwater place building, cat drawing, cafe visiting and everything else they could toss in.

In the morning the K’nex were used with the pop beads to create this home for the pop bead characters they are designing and playing with.

We took a drive out to Promontory, Utah to visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

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It was a long drive and so we were happy to get out and balance on the rails, inspect the replicas of the old locomotives, check out the large collection of tumbleweeds hiding behind the railing at the visitors center and admire various old tumbling down buildings (more me than the kids).

The actual gold spike was not at the site, it’s at Stanford University, but they had a replica there.  So Gavin learned that word pretty solidly and has been using it since, at least twice that I’ve heard.

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There was a crew working on restoring the locomotives, one coal burning, one wood burning.  They were welding and scrubbing.  The guide kept referring to Gavin as a girl and he never chose to correct him, so I followed his lead.  Afterward I told him that he’s always free to point out he’s a boy if he wants to in these situations (happens shockingly frequently!) or ask me to if that’s more comfortable.  He answered that he didn’t really care, which surprised and impressed me.  The last time he was not happy about it at all.  So we left it at that.  It didn’t really matter enough to make a fuss over.  If he’s comfortable, that’s what matters to me!   A cat visited us while we were admiring the paint on the trains.  She’s in charge of the mice, the guide told us.  It seemed to me she was also an expert in visitor relations.   She came right over to us and Lilah knew she’d like some petting.  And she did.

We learned that the trains had to stop every 15 or 100 miles, depending on what they burn to produce steam.  We learned that hooking the trains to the other cars was a very very risky career with injuries and deaths likely.  Here’s Lilah trying her hand at using the link.

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Afterward, on our way home Lilah spotted a playground and shouted, “Mama, PLAYGROUND!”, in a sort of desperate plea/command.  So we circled around and tried out another merry-go-round and teeter totter, climbing bubble, and finally the play structure.  That seems to be how the kids rank the various options – older and probably more dangerous first, then new and plastic and (possibly) safer.

I’m glad to know a merry go round is still something that can occupy hours and endless combinations of movement and experimentation.  I remember it the same way from my own childhood.  There aren’t very many left in our city – only one that I know of but in smaller towns like where we stopped today there are probably many more older playthings left.

I’m working hard to get us outside every day and take advantage of the spring time weather we are having in the beginning of February.  It’s gorgeous right now, even while it’s obviously a sign of climate change.

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Sunken Cities, Lego Cities, Evolution

Over the past week or so the kids have been playing Spore every morning lately.  So, the rest of the time the kids conversation is including evolution, mutation, tribes and herds.   (It’s a computer game where you start as a tiny sea-dwelling organism and slowly evolve and become a land-dweller.  You get to choose the changes, like type of eyeballs, type of feet, size of torso…, as you slowly level up and your creature changes and develops.)  Usually both of them are leaning together, planning what changes to make next, where to take their creature in search of food, shelter or allies.  Here’s Lilah in a rare moment without Gavin’s sage advice on hand.

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Gavin built a Lego version of Carcassonne, complete with four civilizations, Japan, China, Vikings and Rome.  It has a volcano and a temple, four cities and a river that goes to the sea.  I’m impressed by his building, his creativity and his interest in geography, history and game mechanics.

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We finished reading Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop and are continuing Prairie School.

We looked at a bunch of slides with the new microscope as well as some feathers from our parakeet.

Lilah went to gymnastics.  She even went up to the high bar, the one up higher than my head, swung herself around and up and did her “mermaids” on that bar before swinging down and dismounting.  I was impressed.

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Gavin and Dad played civilization.

We built my new single-serving puzzle.

Lilah’s had a cough for weeks and the air has been really bad here so we’ve been staying in quite a bit.  Yesterday and today the air is finally clear again thanks to some rain and snow.

The kids have been playing with their Hero Factory modular robot toys.

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Here’s a snippet of one of their stories:

G: “I’m following you Earth Leader. All right, Sandstone. Look this is the tricky part of getting down.”

L: “Yeah but remember Kai is good at climbing.”

G: “Yeah he’s good at climbing things but not slippery things like vines.”

 “‘Let’s go to the new city of Earthler which I’ve never seen’, Kai admitted.”
L: “Look, she’s fireproof and waterproof!”
We talked about sales tax because Gavin has been doing chores to earn money and is interested in spending it on a new Bionicle figure.  We discussed how much sales tax is, why it exists and what its for in general and specifically here in Utah.  Then we began talking about when it started and got into the Boston tea party and representation of the people in governments.  It was a pretty great bunch of discussions!
We picked up our Spanish practice again, going over food words, animal words and I learned how to say, “You are so sweet my teeth hurt.”
Gavin finished knitting his hat on the loom.
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Gavin asked recently about Atlantis, if it’s real or not. So I explained that actually there are plenty if cities that have sunk for different reasons and we don’t know if Atlantis is one of those.  Afterward we looked at some great photos of sunken cities and read the brief descriptions of where they are, when they sank and if they know why.  It’s been something that has interested me since I was a kid, so it’s fun to see Gavin interested as well.  I’m glad to know and be able to pass on that there are infinite mysteries left in history, biology, physics just waiting to be discovered and puzzled over.
We went the the Museum of Natural Curiosity and climbed and read and spun and wondered and built and laughed.  My favorite part this time was watching the kids dress up as pirates and put on a play.
Friends.
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