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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wheels and waves and lizards

We drove to a new friends’ house and the kids played nerf gun attacks, played in the pool and played MineCraft together. They had a great time. Gavin was super excited to ride this mini motorcycle with his friends instructions and encouragement!

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We went roller skating for the first time all summer! It was fun. The kids wanted to play in the bounce area and climbing area so I asked them to clean the living room and in return I would pay extra for them to do those things. We all skated for a bit and then the kids went to climb and bounce and I skated a bit more myself.

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Chris and the kids went bowling with their Scout group. They had a good time and Gavin had a good game of it. The last time we went (a year or so ago) he was frustrated by his gutter balls.

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We went up to Silver Lake for a picnic, walk and a climb. It was lovely and cool up there. The kids climbed this rock and looked down on us. On the other side of the lake there was frolicking.

We walked to the library and checked out some more graphic novels for the kids. Gavin knows right where books about MineCraft and Lego are and Lilah is well acquainted with the non-fiction animals shelves.

Lilah’s been folding tiny origami things, mostly animals.

Gavin celebrated his 11th birthday last week with friends at a playgroup, again with friends out for miniature golf and more bowling and then the next day with family for games and love. Wow! After hanging out with grandma and grandpa and aunt and us, he chose to go out for his favorite, Thai food for dinner.

We went to the water park and enjoyed cooling off in the wave pool and lazy river and occasionally taking shady breaks to lounge in the tubes.

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We’ve been watching lizards in our front yard. There are at least two, skittering around under our plants and occasionally showing their stripey, blue tinged selves. How fun!

Gavin and Lilah made things from a tinker crate and from Gavin’s birthday loot. Gavin made a robot and Lilah made a racing car.

 

Gavin asked for a big set of colored pencils for his birthday (Anytime the kids ask for art materials I pretty much drop everything and run to the store. Haha!) and has been enjoying organizing them and examining how the pencils are organized by their numbers and trying them with some drawings.

The kids have been watching Pokemon, jump-started by playing Pokemon Go and telling me all about the Pokemon universe and its inhabitants. Lilah even decorated a balloon as Pikachu.

We’ve been enjoying the water park most weeks this summer. This week Gavin went on his first water slide with my sister who joined us. He was so excited!

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Eleven years old! We even got to talk about how “teenage” usually refers to the numbers with “teen” in them though the set between 10 and 19 obviously go together in their own space and what a “tween” is.

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going, going, going

We’ve been so busy this summer! It’s one of those things I struggle with; finding a balance between enough time with friends and things to do and enough time to sit, relax, wonder, read and be at home. My personal inclinations are often along the lines of more time unscheduled at home but since we’ve been forming new friends and community we’ve been doing so many things to facilitate that. Sometimes I am tired of doing so much. Always I am grateful for the opportunities we have to go out into the world and spend time with people. Many weeks I am thinking about how much to do. I think we will speed and slow with the weather and seasons probably, as well as what stages the kids are in.

Here are some of the fun things we’ve been doing.

We spent a weekend at a cabin in the mountains with my parents and some moose and the best swing in the world. It was quiet and the air smelled like pine. Mmmm. I dream of a time-share in a cabin in the woods, in the desert, by the sea.

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I found a new favorite toy: an app on my phone called prisma that alters pictures into new, artistically styled versions. The kids love it too. Yesterday Lilah spent a good 45 minutes filtering on photo over and over.

We went the local aviary and visited with lots of birds in exhibits and also a few there of their own choice. There were some barn swallows hanging out in the bathroom building, one on the hinge and some others in a nest in the back. This is the bird Gavin wanted a photo of.

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We took the kids to some MLS soccer games, one with fireworks on the pitch afterward. They enjoyed throwing streamers, chanting support songs and watching fireworks.

The kids and I drove up into the Uintah mountains to an area full of lakes and explored. There were salamanders in the lakes and water lilies, wildflowers and also lots of flies (which were quite obnoxious). There’s an area there where there is floating grass that will very slowly sink into the edge of the water if you stand on it so I showed the kids that. It was fun for me but they were nervous. Some of the salamanders were striped and some had frills on their necks. I’m not sure if there were multiple species or just different ages and sexes. The kids tossed rocks toward the lake edge and a butterfly kept landing on Lilah’s skirt and trying to find nectar.

Some of the salamanders were striped and some had frills on their necks. I’m not sure if there were multiple species or just different ages and sexes. The kids tossed rocks toward the lake edge and a butterfly kept landing on Lilah’s skirt and trying to find nectar.

Here’s Lilah watching the butterfly coming to land on her skirt:

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All four of us took a hike with the local unschoolers group. That was really fun to do with friends. The kids chatted all the way up and encouraged each other. Lilah and some friends tossed dirt in the air in puffs at the top. Gavin and Chris and I sat on the rocks and watched the water ripple under the wind and the chipmunks scurry around looking for hiker’s snacks.

We’ve been enjoying walking and biking to our neighborhood library, checking out lots of books. The kids have both very much been enjoying various books of poetry by Shel Silverstein lately, which is really fun!

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Lilah made this friendly looking cat…

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that changes into this fierce creature!

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We went to a farm that makes essential oils and watched their process and afterward visited a fish hatchery to hear about what they do there, which is grow and tend fish until they get big enough to release into lakes and rivers in the area. They had rainbow trout this time.

Lilah wove a tapestry, a Doodle Crate project. She loved it! I think there will be more weaving happening.

We tie-dyed with friends. We dyed towels and a shirt for Gavin, a dress for Lilah and a shirt for me. They came out beautifully! Well, except my towel which needs another round of dye. It’s hard to get enough dye into an absorbent towel tied up! The heart Lilah has been wanting to accomplish for years came out so nicely. Gavin researched techniques and settled on a “sunburst” pattern for his shirt and a “crumple” pattern for his towel.

We’ve been playing Pokemon Go on my phone, walking to find pokemon and balls to catch them in, collecting pokemon, feeding them candy, evolving them. The kids have been interested in pokemon for years so they are pretty excited about the game. I get to ask them all sorts of fun questions as we play. We figured out the different types of pokemon you find have to do with the local terrain, like water pokemon are near lakes, ice pokemon in cooler places. Here’s the first one we caught and a favorite:

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Life is good!

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always moving, sometimes faster, sometimes slowly

We’ve been busy, with all the little things and a few big ones.

We’ve been

swimming with friends in the hot springs

finishing our audiobook The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo

picking out legos from bulk lots

learning about elections in the U.S. and talking about the process and the people involved

playing Minecraft and building and dreaming so many ideas up for it together

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playing soccer with Dad

playing Connect Four and Carcassonne and Exploding Kittens and WildCraft and Race for the Galaxy and War

working on making a mask from a doodle crate gift Lilah received recently (I think she’s making a wolf mask) with a plastic mask base you shape, then cover in foil and plastic, then cover in paper mache and finally she will paint the dried paper mache mask

 

visiting a brand new library just blocks from our house!!! The kids each got their own library card and checked out books. Gavin brought home a Lego idea book and Lilah brought home a book about rocks.

We’ve been celebrating Grandpa’s birthday with Gavin creating a game for him and building it and writing up the instructions with Dad and then trying it out with Grandpa. He made a board out of cardboard and used little plastic army men and a purple die that he got at the skating rink for this very purpose.

 

We’ve been playing with friends (human and animal) at the farm

practicing gymnastics

 

cleaning our house

building a house for our cats, refining it, observing the cats in it, adding toys and stickers

creating new lego designs based on books and otherwise

enjoying the first warm, sunny days of the year at various parks and gardens, with and without friends. They’ve been having opportunities lately to play with much younger kids (being the oldest) and that has been both fun and challenging. I’m so glad they have these kinds of opportunities!

We’ve been practicing a play at their scout meeting

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doing the important work of playing, navigating challenges with differing degrees of confidence and happiness and enjoying each other and the world.

At the moment I write this, the kids are setting up for a game where each of them has a pillow and an umbrella in their bases and they try to hit the other’s area with a squishy ball.

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Monday

Gavin watched Pokemon and played on coolmathgames.com this morning.  When Lilah got up she played a game on cool math games and Gavin helped her.

We went to the library to return some books and find new ones to borrow.  They each picked a few and I picked a few and they sat down to read while I finished.  Then we stopped to pick up a few things at the grocery store before coming home.

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I read some more of Matilda to the kids while Lilah cuddled with me and Gavin built with legos.

Lilah and I played several games of Rat-A-Tat-Cat and she won every time including one time when she managed to get only zeros (the best possible card)!  Gavin read some magazines while she and I played.

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After that Gavin and I played Chess together.

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We worked on a puzzle with barns, carriages and hot air balloons.

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Lilah made a few things out of our tangram blocks.

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Gavin rested (he’s not feeling so great today) while Lilah and I did some Bollywood dancing (dance moves inspired by Bollywood films of India) before dinner was ready.

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Tuesday

There was computer play time and lots of Lego play time.

We read some poems about weather together, from a collection of many poets, all about weather.  The kids kept asking for more.  This was one of my favorites: I’ll Tell You How The Sun Rose by Emily Dickinson.

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We also looked through and talked about the book A Street Through Time by Anne Millard which illustrates a street (piece of land) in different time periods, explaining some of the differences.  It was fascinating!  Gavin especially liked the Roman town page.  We were all very interested in the different boats and how they changed.  Lilah was interested in the different kinds of shops in different time periods and couldn’t quite get her head around the idea of no shops in the very earliest time period shown.

We went to the library to return books and choose new ones.  They enjoyed the ice cavern reading room on this visit.  On the way home, Gavin read three or four new books and Lilah read one or two.

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Lilah and I picked up her friend for a playdate.  They were very excited since it had been about two weeks since they last saw each other.  There was Lego playing and dressing up as ninjas, flamingos, Green Lantern and just in fancy dresses.

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Tuesday

There was Pokemon watching and Dora The Explorer playing on the computer.  (Spanish practice!)

There was Lego play.

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We read a picture book about riots and racial division from a kids perspective called Smoky Night by Eve Bunting.  It’s a beautiful book, story and illustrations both.

We went to the library to return an armful of books and to check out new interesting ones.  We came home with quite a few kids poetry books – Yay!  I am really enjoying taking the kids to pick out books in the kids non-fiction sections as well as fun picture books.

Then the three of us headed up the canyon to hike.  We went to Lake Mary and then Dog Lake.  It was chilly but not miserably so.

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There was snow on the ground, though only in bits and pieces yet.  We spotted chipmunks and birds.  We even saw what I think is a grouse very close.  It didn’t mind us being in its’ space so we enjoyed a good view before heading down to Lake Mary.

The lake was very low today.  We talked about how lakes and rivers and streams change with the seasons and with the amount of snow and rain fall.

Gavin and Lilah did some experimenting by tossing snow into the stream and watching it melt and then tossing packed snow in and seeing if it did the same thing.  They decided the packed snow stayed together longer and must be colder than the unpacked snow.

We took a quick peek at Dog Lake which was more of a pool.  Then we headed back down with stops for rock climbing and puddle stirring and skiing on the snow in our shoes.

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On the way down Gavin asked if we could make lasagna for dinner.  I explained that no, we would not have time.  It takes hours and it would be dinner time when we arrived home.  He asked if we could make it tomorrow.  I said that I was concerned with getting his costume done so I would like to focus on that project for the day or days it takes to finish and if we have time after that then maybe.  He understood and was perfectly happy with my answers.  When I see how much more flexible he is able to be now that we are unschooling, I am so very grateful.  Things not happening exactly as he expected or hoped was a huge problem for us, regularly causing big upset in our house.  So, the ability to step back and feel alright with things being done in a different order or on a different schedule than he’d really prefer for his own immediate interests is such a huge success for us!  I am so excited that he’s feeling comfortable and heard and respected enough to make that jump this afternoon!  I have seen it in other conversations recently too and it makes me so happy for him and for us.

On the way down the canyon the kids read Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child we checked out of the library today.

My sister came over for dinner and then we read books and had cuddle time and talked about plans for the week before bed.

 

 

 

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