unschooling

Halloweenish

We had a lovely Halloween! We all dressed up as characters from Harry Potter. I was Luna Lovegood. Chris was Xenophilius Lovegood. Lilah was Hedwig (the owl) and Gavin was either Fred or George Weasley, depending on the minute you asked him. The kids trick or treated and then came back to Grandma and Grandpa’s to share their spoils with Grandma.

We celebrated Chris’ birthday with a first visit to a Harry Potter themed escape room with my sister and parents. We had to solve clues to find six horcruxes hidden in the space, behind locks or secret compartments that open only when you’ve gotten the riddles right. We had an hour to complete it and we just made it with less than a minute to spare. It was really fun! The kids loved it and helped significantly and it was not scary like some of the other escape rooms are. There were lots of different kinds of puzzles involved so we all got to work together. I sense a new favorite pastime coming on.

Last week we drove up to Portland for Chris to go to a conference and to hang out with friends who recently moved there. We visited OMSI where we did some science exploration and the Japanese Gardens and our friends. We got to see our friends’ new place and the Gardens were lovely with fall colors.

We bought a book that Gavin was interested in to bring up to Portland (a four day trip this time) and I briefly thought about getting the next one in the series too but as they are hundreds of page novels, I thought he’d be fine with the one. Well, I was wrong! He finished that in two days and so we went on a search for the next one on our trip. His reading speed has really increased lately! I love that he enjoys reading though robotic dragons and steampunk stories aren’t my cup of tea. I love hearing him tell me all about them though!

I’ve been slowly taking plants out of the garden as it gets too cold for veggies. We still had squash, tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers out there last week though. I brought in a bunch of semi ripe tomatoes to ripen inside.

Yesterday we enjoyed watching a huge hawk just a hundred yards up the hill behind our house, sitting in a big tree. Magpies kept trying to bother it, get it to move but it was happy surveying the autumn grass and emptying trees. Later we spotted another on a utility pole nearby as well. There seems to be one who likes to spend many an hour nearby and it’s lovely to watch it sitting or soaring.

Lilah has been writing songs. She has a notebook where she writes down lyrics and then I hear her early in the morning or late evenings in her room singing and then talking to herself about the next parts. She also has been enjoying playing on our keyboard.

 

 

 

Standard
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).

 

Standard
unschooling

play and living

A contemporary pre-school teacher whose blog I enjoy says that a kids’ work is play. He means, in my understanding, that when kids are playing it is a serious endeavor that enables them to learn and grow and is the important task they are in charge of as kids. I remember this often as I watch my kids as they play together, deadly earnest and growing with each moment of time spent exploring their interests and challenges.

We went ice skating again, for a second time.

IMG_8257

Lilah was nervous but eventually got comfortable and was even trying some tricks. Gavin enjoyed it quite a bit and was trying new moves from the beginning. I enjoyed myself thoroughly up until the point where a lace from one skate attached itself to a hook closure on the other and I fell hard, acquiring some impressive bruises but no lasting damage. It was painful and frustrating but I am glad that my kids know that these things happen to me too.

This week we read and we built and we played. Gavin started and finished How To Train Your Dragon #1 by Cressida Cowell. Lilah read several library books to me. Gavin taught me how to play Star Realms, a deck building card game set in space.

IMG_8303

Chris pulled out the keyboard and the kids played some music and we talked about notes and octaves and rhythm and all sorts of music ideas and words. Then they tried every single pre-set the thing has. And then, thankfully, they played more music. Afterward Lilah practiced playing her tin flute.

IMG_8305

We made tiny treehouses out of toilet paper rolls and cardstock.

We went to the zoo and watched seals and sea lions, a polar bear, a tiger, two lions, a family of burrowing owls, just to name a few. Lilah’s favorite part was seeing a sand cat. Gavin’s favorite was watching the burrowing owls and mine was hearing a lion shout. What an amazing sound they make!

Here is a drawing of a burrowing owl Lilah made with a mealworm in its tummy (they were having lunch when we visited.) She named it too.

IMG_8324

The kids played MineCraft, including Lilah buying and setting up her own account and immediately finding a puppy and two siamese cats in the game.

Gavin learned how to do a load of laundry.

Lilah went to gymnastics class where she is learning to do walk-overs and cartwheels on the beam as well as getting up on the high bar for the first time ever.

The kids watched me knitting and carefully looked at both my process and the instructions of the pattern I was using.

Chris and the kids went to Spiral Scouts and began exploring drama and theatre skills.

We met friends at a matinee peformance of various dance pieces in Illusions by Alwin Nikolais by Ririe Woodbury Dance Co. It was a fascinating assortment and the entire audience was wowed by the costumes, the dancing and the imagination of the offerings. This is the first performance offered to school kids that I’ve seen that pushed the boundaries into challenging and possibly uncomfortable experiences. I mean that the material was a bit spooky to some of the kids and the music was not always fun and light hearted. I’m so glad this was offered as I find only showing kids saccharine sweet entertainment and art is such a wasted opportunity. Kids are familiar with fear and love and life too, after all.

After that we spent the rest of the day playing and catching up with our friends through Chess, more MineCraft, our interactive globe and PlayMobil fun.

Here is one of the pieces that we saw performed. It’s beautiful and fascinating. I’m so glad we had that opportunity and to share it with friends was even better.

 

Standard
unschooling

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.

IMG_3556

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.

IMG_3601

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.

IMG_3602

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

IMG_3596

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.

IMG_3618

 

Standard
unschooling

Taking care

There was coolmathgames.com this morning.  And some My Little Pony watching and then afterward, playing.

They built with the marble maze some more.

Lilah made a card for her friend.  Gavin built with Legos.

I went on a long walk along the river by myself.  The kids didn’t want to go and I needed to get some exercise.  There were lots of birds enjoying the cool weather.

After lunch we listened to some John Coltrane from the Ken Burns Jazz collection while reading Ponyo.

I read some more of The Wizard of Oz.

In the evening we went to our family scouts group where the kids are working on computer coding.  Both of them had fun solving puzzles and Gavin was working on creating his own game at the end.  They really enjoyed it and I’m going to try to help find more opportunities for similar exploration.

We spent a good portion of the next day exploring the Jordan River parkway south of us, watching ducks, testing out new playgrounds, crossing bridges.

IMG_3380

We saw a group of ducks take off and then later floating down the stream.  I pointed out to the kids that they looked like they were going fast.  Gavin answered that they were going fast because of the current.  A bit later we stopped at a pond and Lilah was putting a stick in the water.  Gavin asked her if she could tell how deep the water was.  I love taking them outdoors and watching them test things out and figure out how the forces of nature work by trying things rather than being told about things.

When we got home they played with Legos.  Gavin built a car for my phone.  First we tried just putting the phone on some wheels, but it rolled right off, so Gavin set out to make a phone holder on wheels.  Two minutes later it was complete. Wheeee!

There was reading at the pediatricians office, waiting for a vaccination.

IMG_3372

At bedtime, after I left the room, Gavin came out and told me “Lilah needs help.  She’s sad.”  She’d been quietly crying.  I went in and climbed on Lilah’s bed and held her.  She cried and cried.  I asked her if she was just sad or if she was sad about something.  She didn’t answer.  So after a while she began to calm down and I told her that she could let me know when she was ready for me to go.  Eventually she told me that she’d been sad because I “did not very much funny stuff”, meaning when I was cuddling with her at bedtime she felt I wasn’t playful enough and she was sad because she felt I was more playful with her brother, and then she said that I could go.  So I told her I could do more funny stuff tomorrow if she reminded me and told her I loved her and left. I am grateful that Gavin let me know what was happening.  He doesn’t usually need to take care of his sister but when he does he does a good job.  I am grateful that I was able to just be with Lilah through her upset and eventually that she was able to put her sadness into words.

In the morning there was perler bead building.

IMG_3403

3-D style, this time.  Gavin wanted to make something for a friend who likes minecraft so we made a minecraft style box with 6 pieces that fit together into a cube.  Lilah worked on a capital B for her friend.

Lilah made a necklace and crown for her stuffed bird.

Gavin’s friend came over and they played Tsuro while Lilah and I made macaroons.

IMG_3413

Lilah tried out the keyboard, then walked away, then came back.  I think we’ll be hearing some music in the next few days!

 

 

Standard
unschooling

Tuesday

The kids got out the pop beads and made characters out of those.  Then they asked each other, “What could we build them houses with”? They tossed a few ideas around and settled on the K’nex so they got those out and began building and story telling.

Each of them vacuumed a room of the houses.  We have a chore list up that they can choose to help with or not.  Each chore has a value in money and they are in charge of both choosing what to do and keeping track of what they’ve done.  When it comes time to get their pay, they get to add the amounts together and figure out what we owe them.  It’s a great system for us because I don’t feel the need to nag and they feel ownership of their help around the house.

IMG_2684

Lilah and I did some Spanish practicing.

We wrote alternate rhymes to Hickory Dickory Dock and pointed out the rhyme pattern.

The kids adore Ella Fitzgerald.  We have an album called Miss Ella’s Playhouse which is a collection of Ella’s songs for kids that we listen to all the time.  So I asked the kids if they’d like to learn more about the kind of music that Ella sings.  They said yes so I asked Chris for some suggestions.  He’s studied music copiously and it’s one of his favorite subjects to explore.

So, we listened to Miss Ella’s Playhouse.  Then I briefly explained the history of Jazz.  We listened to Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer to get a taste of Ragtime.  Then we listened to Louis Armstrong sing It’s a Wonderful World, Ella and Louis sing Dream a Little Dream of Me, Miles Davis play from his Kind Of Blue album and Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane play Ruby My Dear.  We talked about syncopation, the different parts that voices and instruments take, and how improvisation is a big part of what makes Jazz special.  The kids got out our drum and did a little drumming.  I think we’ll explore more soon!

Gavin built another really nice lego spaceship.  His designs get more and more nuanced.

IMG_2690

Lilah and I drove over to pick up her friend from school and then the three kids played with pop beads and K’nex for the rest of the afternoon.

Standard
unschooling

Tuesday

There was Pokemon watching.

Gavin built with Magformers while Lilah and I made waffles.

IMG_1257

After breakfast there was a game where they walked round and round the room while going imaginary places.

We read a few articles about the eruption of Mount Ontake in Japan.  Then we looked at a video of a fish with a transparent head on National Geographic’s website.  “I can see it’s brain!  And it’s eyeballs are moving!”

There were baths and cuddling followed by several sudoku Chocolate Fix challenges together.

IMG_1259

A lego garden was built with poison berry plants which grow berries that are red before they are ripe so people might think they are apples and eat them, then they have tiny black spots and then, when they are ripe they turn black.

IMG_1260

We read an article for kids about Ebola and talked about what it is, where it is and how scary the outbreak is for Africa.  We looked at our globe at the part of Africa where it is now.

IMG_1261

There was more lego play.

I read a chapter of Wise Child to them and then we did some Spanish practice – animal words today.

We made some popcorn with our air popper (always fun to watch!) and read Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride by Stephen Krensky.

We listened to and danced to Ella Fitzgerald.

We enjoyed all of it.

 

Standard