unschooling

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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Creating and Enjoying

We’ve been visiting the art museum,

washing dishes,

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making up new ways to play Carcassonne,

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working on his book.

 

He started out writing his book in pencil and was doing really well but then began to slow down, as he became frustrated by mistakes and time and the constraints of paper. I asked if he’d like to type the rest and he was enthusiastically for it. We’ve been avoiding this as hand writing is one of those things that I believe is a handy thing to feel confident at and has slowly, slowly been getting easier as the trauma of trying to write in school fades. However, it was getting to the point in his book project where he wasn’t feeling good about the book project but obviously wanted to keep going. Problems like, he doesn’t like the mess it makes when he needs to erase and he decides, paragraphs in, that he wants to add character descriptions in the beginning and similarly change the tense from past to present all add up to he feels overwhelmed and unable to continue on paper. So, I typed up what he’d written, letter for letter, all mistakes included and he began fixing things and adding to it and the last two days I’ve heard, “Mama, can I work on my book?” and “I think I want to work on the next part.” Wow! What a difference that is from the way it was before, when he had an idea to write about and was so excited and started and then got so mad and frustrated that he would cry and yell and tell me he “couldn’t” and “was too scared”! I’m enjoying his excitement and perseverance and I’m enjoying feeling proud of myself for asking and answering the question, “How can I help him succeed?” I don’t care if he chooses to stop because he wants to, but I certainly do care if he chooses to stop because he doesn’t know how to or feel comfortable proceeding even though he wants to go on. I think we’ve turned a corner.

Yesterday, in the middle of writing he decided he needed to make a map of the area in his story and then used that in his writing. He asked what a good name for a capitol city would be and Lilah suggested Capitol Reef and he thought that sounded good so long as it was by water.

We also discussed how many words are on a page and how that can be different based on so many things, paper size, letter size, margins, etc. He’s still deciding how he wants to lay it out.

We’ve been drawing (cats, kittens, occasional porcupine or Invader Zim)

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enjoying lots of time playing with friends,

going to see Art Dog, a play at our neighborhood theatre with my sister and parents,

 

playing music,

putting up the holiday tree,

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swimming. The kids are getting better each time we go and they ask to go to the pool so they can “practice their swimming” and then they do! Gavin is getting better at moving his arms smoothly and kicking with his legs close together. Lilah is getting better at turning her head to breathe while she’s moving. It’s amazing to see what learning a new skill can look like when it’s accomplished all on their own interest, planning and work. They are really enjoying their progress as well as ownership of their process.

There was a twilight hike for me,

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chocolate bark making (and subsequent eating),

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pop up card making (she pulled out our pop up card book, pored over it, and then asked for materials and away she went),

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cooking (red lentil dal), IMG_7630

 

working on rehanging our basement door (It’s finished now and I am relieved and proud!),

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ice skating for the first time for the kids and the first time in at least ten years for me,

snowflake cutting,

knitting for me.

Our days have been full to the brim with goodness. There is so much to see, learn and share. We’re never lacking for things to do or ideas of things to pursue.

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planting & growing

This week, we planted pumpkins, butternut squash and rainbow swiss chard seeds in the garden and admired our rapidly sprouting carrots and less rapidly sprouting but still growing quite nicely kale.

We met up with the local unschoolers again, played hard, and afterward decided to invest in foam swords so we don’t constantly need to borrow them, since they are an essential play item when groups of boys of all ages get together and play outdoors.  Chris and I have been having long conversations about how we deal with toy weapons and weapon play in our household and I think our approach is shifting.  I’ll write more on that soon.

On a Memorial Day adventure with dad the kids noticed some horsetail by the stream, recognizing it from Lilah’s Wildcraft game and told us about its healing properties.  (It’s good for headaches, low energy, etc.)

We went to the Museum of Natural Curiosity where the kids favorites were the bank where there is play money, a teller window complete with vacuum shoot and a back alley where robbers are constantly in action, and the outside play area where they love the cave and spend long periods howling like animals inside the caverns.

We hiked up by Jeremy Ranch, saw wildflowers, deer tracks and droppings, lots of mushrooms and then got rained on and hailed on and headed back down quickly, though not quickly enough to avoid a thorough soaking.

We swam again, working on going underwater, swimming strokes and kicking and propelling ourselves through the water.  Lilah discovered she could somersault in the water and was quite pleased.

All four of us went up to Silver Lake and enjoyed walking on the boardwalk, climbing rocks, spotting a beaver? muskrat? otter?, watching ducks and squirrels and butterflies and maneuvering through areas with snow and areas with spring run-off streams rearranging the landscape.  We spotted a dark colored butterfly with yellow edges on its wings and Gavin wanted to know what kind it was so we looked it up at home and decided it was probably a mourning cloak butterfly.

On all of our drives lately we’ve been listening to the first book in the Brotherband Chronicles: The Outcasts, by John Flanagan.

In between there was lots of building, imagining, reading.  Bedtime and othertime requested stories lately are The Ranger’s Apprentice series (also by John Flanagan) and Castle in the Air by Dianna Wynne Jones. I think Castle in the Air may be one of the first stories the kids have encountered with a genie (and a magic carpet) in it, and they are enthralled.

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gardening and other physical explorations

The three of us went to the garden store and picked out vegetables for our garden and some pansies for our porch. Gavin chose some red and orange pansies and Lilah chose some dusky purple.

We finished reading Little House on the Prairie. We don’t have a copy of Farmer Boy (next in the series) at the moment so we started Hello, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty McDonald in the mean time.

Lilah went to gymnastics class where they are preparing for their meet.

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We planted the pansies in little pots to brighten our porch and a geranium inside by the window.

We visited the Leonardo again.

Our Harry Potter listening in the car came to a finish as we just listened to the end of the last book so I’m looking for some new series I think the kids would enjoy hearing in the car.

Gavin began his spring outdoor soccer, practicing with his team. Lilah and I watched, did cartwheels and practiced her gymnastics routines and played with our own soccer ball.

Gavin came across a recipe for soft pretzels and asked if we could make them together. He read down the recipe to make sure we had everything we needed and decided with my help, that we did.

We weeded the garden, dug out tree roots and planted the strawberries that Lilah insisted we grow this year, and plant first. She was disappointed that we only had a few plants so I shared that trying something new in the garden is always an experiment.

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They found worms and trash and roots and lots and lots of weeds. Gavin dug and dug and dug with the new kid sized shovel we got.

Lilah asked me why I was rubbing the roots of the strawberries so I explained that the roots need to expand into their new home and if they are a little more flexible, it helps.

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We mixed up the pretzel dough and kneaded and rolled snakes and shaped pretzels. Then they played with Hero Factory characters until the dough was ready to go.

We slipped the pretzels into the bath, hoping they wouldn’t fall apart, like happened in our last attempt. They actually held up pretty well. I think the difference was popping them in the freezer right before boiling.

After a “tea time” with pretzels and green tea we headed off to the roller skating rink.

The kids practiced their tricks, I practiced my decidedly less exciting ones. Lilah was skating and noticed a girl about her size with covered head and long clothes (very colorfully styled hijab)and stared, then smiled. The girl had her roller skates untied and was falling. So Lilah stopped and tied her skates for her. I was very proud and happy to see her in that small moment of connection. She told me later that she’d expected the girl spoke another language but was surprised when she spoke English and so we talked about how there are lots of people here who are not exactly like us but still speak English (and have a lot more in common too.) (Photo is very fuzzy because of bad lighting and pictures while moving.)

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Off to the park we went when we got home to practice Lilah’s floor routine and for a few kicks of the soccer ball before dinner. I read a chapter of Hello, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty McDonald to them while they finished up dinner, then a chapter of The Ranger’s Apprentice series in the bedroom before cuddles and songs and dreams.

 

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Home again

We reconnected with our life at home today.

Zombie Dice.

Escape!

Music videos and singing along.

Fantasy soccer team adjustments.

Legos.

Computer games.

Returning library books after choosing some to renew.

A trip to the Leonardo for drawing (cats, of course) and

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building using real tools and hardware and

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circuit making and

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airplane testing and color play.

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Gavin reading Japanese fairy tales to Lilah at bedtime.

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So good.

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another full week

We visited the Treehouse Museum.  There was flag designing, castle play, illuminated manuscript making, a sword in the stone, and much more.

We went to the library, enjoyed reading in their inviting kids lounges and brought an armload of books home, most of which were read that very day!

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We found a new playground and tried it out thoroughly.

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Lilah and I baked Toffee Cinnamon Bars and then we watched Song of the Sea, a new favorite movie.

They’ve played My Little Pony Life, Puerto Rico, Magic the Gathering, Carcassonne, and Candy Land together in the mornings.

We got out some instruments and played music.  Lilah made a rug on a square loom with stretchy loops for her dollhouse.

Lilah and I practiced for her upcoming gymnastics meet.  She’s working on her beam routine at the moment.

Gavin and I biked to a playground while Lilah and Chris walked.   Gavin’s really enjoying biking and Lilah’s so close to being able to go on her own but it hurts so much to run in the crouch that it takes to support her that I haven’t gotten around to doing it with her recently.  I think that might be my least favorite part of parenting; running in a crouch while holding a bike with a nervous kid on it.  Incredible pain.  Still very much worth it though.

We took a very short walk up on Bonneville Shoreline Trail to play Ingress, stopped at a playground on the way there and then picked up a friend afterward and came home to play elaborate storylines filled with queens, invisibility cloaks, potions and special royal bathrooms.

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We did some cooking and talked about how to add fractions like 3/4 and 1/8.  We drew pictures to figure it out on the whiteboard.

They did some building with Gavin’s physics set.

Chris and the kids went to Spiral Scouts and tried playing different instruments.  Gavin’s favorite was the ukelele and Lilah’s was the didgeridoo.

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There was roller skating down the hall, crashing (kids were fortunately not hurt enough to stop skating back and forth) and sometime soon we’ll get to work together to patch up a small hole in the wall. There’s a lengthly list of home repairs and maintenance that needs doing… at some point soon I should knock a few things off with the kids help.

We finished Little House in the Big Woods and immediately began Little House on the Prairie.  They are very much enjoying those stories.

We took a trip up the canyon and visited Hidden Falls.

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Here they are looking at the waterfall.

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The kids loved it and afterward when I asked them if they wanted to climb further and find the top of the fall they said yes so we hiked up further and discovered the stream and the pines and the top of the fall.

It had snowed and so the kids ate quite a bit of “fresh snow” on the way.  We saw squirrels and old dead trees tattooed underneath the bark with squiggly lines from beetles and butterflies, orange, white, yellow.

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On the logs, the kids noticed there were different sized squiggles and wondered if they start small and grow or if they were different beetles.  We talked about climbing safely in steep places and how to cross streams on log bridges.  It was beautiful!  On the way down we spotted a “cave” made by a huge boulder perching on top of several other boulders and decided to check that out.

Here’s the view from inside.

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They each wrote a letter to Grandma & Grandpa.  It was stressful for Gavin but the results were good.  His handwriting and spelling are both much improved but how he feels about writing hasn’t changed.

And, after much asking and wishing for weeks, we made it to the skating rink.  When we arrived they had a mist over the rink and were flashing strobe lights with the main lights off which made Lilah a bit nervous.  But she ended up enjoying it and then they turned the lights back on and the music back down and we had a wonderful time.  They can do tricks like turning around that I can’t now.  Here they are dancing and doing tricks in the center of the rink.

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Late February

Enjoying the park and the sun.  Spinning is such fun.

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Harry Potter – listening to the books in the car, making it their own with their legos, trains, etc., watching part of the 6th movie.

Spanish game playing.

Puzzling.

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Train track building.

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Watching several TedEd videos.  Learned about Hatshepsut (a female Egyptian pharoah), simple levers and bats.

Visiting the Museum of Natural Curiosity, exploring the maze, pushing building posts into the ground, spinning.

 

Dressing up and acting in winter scenes.  You can see what they are doing in the room and then how they are projected onto the film clip on the screen.  They also spent a lot of time making stop motion animation films with astronauts and octopi.  The animation room is a favorite.

More Spanish game playing.  Enjoying the quests and practicing numbers from twenties through one hundred, simple conversational phrases.

Admiring the city at night from the sky bridge downtown.

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Spiral Scouts, learning songs and playing games.

Rainbow loom creating; trying a new design, getting frustrated, persevering.

Trying out some chinese jump ropes.

Writing a letter. (It was an excruciating proposition, but after empathizing and cuddling, the process and result were alright.  I’ll take it.)

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Planting seeds inside and making labels.  “How do you spell cucumber?”

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Roller skating.

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Reading Dr. Seuss in an impromptu read-a-thon.  (It was snowing huge flakes and I mentioned oobleck.  A few minutes later, Lilah had located Bartholomew and the Oobleck.  Then Gavin pulled out a few other Dr. Suess books.)

Hula hooping.

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Working on cards for Grandpa.

 

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