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

a week in early spring

Lilah’s been playing her ukelele.

Gavin’s been doing chores to earn money for Lego. Here he is cutting down and getting our old bamboo ready to put into the yard waste bin.

Lilah built a dinosaur out of Lego. It’s pose-able and can open and shut it’s terrifying plastic jaws.

The kids worked hard on their “MineCraft Live” game, creating rules, world, background and very detailed characters, drawn in the square form of MineCraft. Can you tell which is Lilah and which is Gavin? Lilah’s character has red hair (like her) and cat ears and tail (which she often does too) and Gavin’s character has special armor (which he loves designing and researching) and long hair one one side (like his).

We went to a farm to see baby animals and ended up watching a goat give birth to three babies as well as feeding goats and calves and Lilah was patient enough to hold still with feed in her hand for a good two minutes until some chicks were brave enough to eat from her palm. The kids also got to bounce and go down a huge slide with friends.

The fruit trees are blooming and it’s alternately 70 degrees and sunny and then snowing. Ah, spring in Utah is so variable!

We celebrated my mom’s birthday with a scavenger hunt in teams because my mom is amazing & therefore has amazing birthday wishes. Lilah and I were a team and we sent lots of silly pictures of our hunt to my mom.

The kids pulled out the Ed Emberly drawing book and spent hours putting pieces together into fun scenes.

Gavin made some hash browns from scratch. We were out of pancakes and he did not want cereal.

Lilah’s been using perler beads to make bubble wands.

We started a family Never Winter nights computer game campaign. It’s been fun so far.

We went cross country skiing for a second time. It was still very hard, very fun and very expensive. We will definitely go again lots next season but in the mean time I will be trying to figure out if we can find some used equipment to buy so we can save some money on rental fees.

Gavin did some crystal growing.

We took a hike up to one of our favorite spots and saw glacier lilies!

Lilah did some circular weaving.

Life is great!

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unschooling

Tuesday

I’m skipping blogging about some days here and there due to holiday bustle but today was a little bit quieter than it has been.

The kids played on the computer and built lego settings for their story telling.

After breakfast they helped fold clothes, pick up and vacuum to get the house ready for friends later.

Gavin pulled out his lego Hero Factory pieces and built some new “guys”.  One of them was named Huge Foot.

Lilah asked me to read The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman to her.

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We took a trip to pick up a gift that we hadn’t already brought home and admired the fountains at the City Creek Center while we did.

The kids worked on some math sheets.  Gavin has forgotten many of his memorized math facts.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  I think we’ll practice a bit here and there if he is willing.  The concepts he’s picked up, though, those are still there.  He did some reading from Where On Earth (his kids atlas) to me.  He still tends to skip words and tumble over himself because his brain reads faster than his mouth. At least that’s my guess.

Mid afternoon Lilah and I picked up her friend from school and they started playing with the Hero Factory constructs as soon as we arrived home.  As their chosen characters, they visited the center of Egypt.  They talked loudly and quietly.  They climbed the biggest tree in the world (also known as our holiday tree).

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After Lilah’s friend left, it was time for dinner, a quick walk around the neighborhood and then reading some more of Julie of the Wolves, which is still starring in their storytelling play in concepts and setting.

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unschooling

Wednesday

There was Katamino playing and building.  In Katamino you race against your opponent to fill your box completely without leaving spaces.  You each get a certain set of blocks.  It’s a bit like Tetris but with real blocks.  Plus, you can build animals out of the blocks after your game.  Lilah made a pony with mane and tail.  And then there was Mermaid Island playing, a cooperative game.

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They played in their world populated today by Lego creatures and landscapes.  They spend quite a bit of time deciding what kinds of pieces to use for what.  Here I think they are looking for parts for a dog they are going to make.

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Gavin and I played Chess.  We finished two games and then Lilah wanted to play with me.  In the game with Lilah there was lots of knocking pieces over on purpose along with explaining how different pieces move.  Gavin’s gotten a whole lot better than last year at anticipating moves and seeing possibilities, but our games are still very lopsided.  I will often point out to him that he’s moving into a dangerous position to help us both enjoy it more and give him a better chance.  I have many fond memories of playing Chess when I was younger and often feeling quite frustrated by my own abilities not being what I wanted them to be.

Gavin requested again that we get No Stress Chess which is a set of cards that levels the playing field by telling you which piece to move every turn.  I definitely think it would be fun to do that with the kids when they are just beginning to get the idea of the game.

Then it was time to go roller skating.  Today the kids both skated on their own for about a half hour before wanting the balance supports the rink offers.  They are doing great but I think they get tired and then prefer the supports because it’s more fun to worry less about falling.  Pretty soon they’ll be zooming around me out on the rink.  They’re getting close!  We like to give high fives as we skate past each other.

After skating we came home and had dinner together and then read another chapter of Searching For Dragons before bed.

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unschooling

Thursday

There was computer play to begin the day.

They got out Lilah’s Lego Creator set that builds either a cat, dog or rabbit and put the rabbit together.  They carefully read the instructions, found the right pieces and negotiated who did which parts of the building.

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We worked on Gavin’s costume more after breakfast.

A few more holes were cut and then more paper mache was added.  When we finally finished the paper mache process, Lilah disappeared into their room to read for a while and Gavin designed and built a Lego game.  After breakfast, they played his new game together.  There was lots of giggling and explaining.

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Here’s a close-up of the game board, all set up.  As a player, you choose a character who navigates around the board, rolling a dice to decide the outcome of various challenges.

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After lunch we practiced some Spanish and then painted a little bit on the parts of the costume that were dry enough and that needed the colors of paint we had in the house already.  Brown for the hair and yellow for the face.

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There was more Lego play for the kids while I painted the eyes and eyebrows black on Gavin’s costume.

We happened upon a really fun science video: http://themetapicture.com/refraction-magic/ showing refraction.  We all want to try this out!

Then we headed to the roller skating rink.  It was crowded today because the district has off for UEA weekend, but still plenty of room for us.  The kids started without the supports, then skated with them and afterward, both of them skated free and happy and even begged to stay later to skate more on their own!  They are getting better and better and it’s really fun to watch them enjoy it.  They always like to try things too on the rink, like skating backward or turning around in circles.  Today it was skating in a crouch.  I practiced my slowing and stopping and bringing my skates together and apart without lifting off the ground.

 

When we got home it was time to paint the eye highlights white while Lilah put on her skates and skated around the living room and then it was dinner time.

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Chris headed to the craft store to get lots of blue paint while I read and sang to and cuddled with the kids before bed.

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unschooling

Tuesday

They played on the computer at coolmathgames.com, helping each other when they got stuck.

Breakfast and request for me to read more Juniper by Monica Furlong.  We only began yesterday and are halfway through because they keep asking for more.  It’s a wonderful story and they are fascinated.

They built spaceships for their lego characters and then animals with magformers.  “I need a tongue!  A triangle piece!”

There was some more letter writing to friends.

We cut open the celery stalks that we put in water and red food coloring over the weekend and checked out the red xylem inside.  The color went all the way up the stalks and into the leaves!  They really enjoyed cutting it and checking out the inside and comparing our dyed and undyed celery.

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We mailed letters at the post office and learned what a parcel is.  We talked about where post offices are in our city.

Back at home, we had lunch and lego play.  They made geysers today, thinking of our recent trip to Yellowstone and recalling geyser names they’d seen there for their creations.  Then they watched The Lego Movie while I did a bit of weeding.

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Afterward, more lego building and reading Beautiful Lego by Mike Doyle.

 


Then, we are off to the library where choose books to bring home.  Then Gavin reads aloud while we drive to pick up our CSA share and back home.  And more reading of new library books and a chapter of Juniper.

It was a wonderful day together.

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