unschooling

camping in Anza Borrego & Organ Pipe

We headed down south to find some flowers and sunshine with my parents.

Our first stop was a night in Las Vegas with Chris before he had to head back home to work. We enjoyed Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere. It was beautiful and fun and funny and we had a lovely time watching it together.

Next my parents and the three of us headed further south into California to Anza Borrego, a high desert which often boasts desert superblooms early in the year. This year we were a bit early for some of the flowers but we found a few spots where the sandy desert was covered in rich colored petals and it was magical. The smells were so lovely in the windy air.

We found a slot canyon (my kids favorite natural formation type!) and that was a fun hike. It was narrow enough to have to go sideways in spots and Lilah spotted a tarantula in the wash. Wow!

Almost every morning we were there we saw rainbows.

We spotted some desert bighorn sheep traveling along the mountain above our campsite and got a good look with my parents’ spotting scope.

Up the canyon from the campsite there’s a palm oasis, such a strange change of environment from a mile lower where the world seems to be just sand and rock. There was quite a bit of water and the palms looked happy and healthy with little ones sprouting and fruits hanging from the big ones. The kids found a spot behind the dry palm leaves and the rock that was sort of like a little cave.

We heard frogs each night so one day just after dark we headed to the pond the noise was coming from with our flashlights and after some long minutes we spotted one and then two! We watched them blow up their necks and make incredibly loud songs to each other even though they were only the size of a quarter or so.

Each night we saw more stars than you can ever see at home. We looked at constellations and I saw several falling stars.

Then we moved camp to Organ Pipe National Monument. I’d never been there before. It was gorgeous with cactus everywhere in so many varieties and stages of life and death. We saw saguaro, organ pipe, senita or gray bearded, barrel, prickly pear, hedgehog, cholla. We really enjoyed watching (and listening to) all the birds in the campsite! There were so many and they liked all the cactus and bushes near camp. We identified quite a few varieties with my parents’ guidebooks. Two types I know I spotted were the Gila woodpecker which liked sitting  on the saguaro tops and the cactus wren who seemed to be interested in building a nest in a cholla, covered in spikes everywhere!

We ventured into some washes right near the US-Mexico border and saw lots of huge cactus with some wildflowers and lots of dead and decaying cactus too which was fascinating to see. Lilah particularly liked the giant cholla skeletons, full of lacy holes. The sunsets were beautiful. Lilah captured this one.

We hiked up a mountain searching for flowers. We didn’t make it all the way to the top of the trail because it was super steep and we only had an hour of daylight left but we saw plenty of beautiful views on our way.

We learned saguaro don’t put out arms until they are ninety years old. We learned there are bats who migrate from Mexico to feed on and pollinate the pipe organ cactus every year. We checked out some natural water tanks (spots in rocks that fill up with water) and an old adobe building.

We looked for elf owls who nest in holes in saguaro but never saw any. We did luck out, spotting a big horned owl nesting in a saguaro and got to look at it with the scope as well as some of us spotting it’s mate in a nearby tree on our way out.

We stopped for a night in Tucson on our way home and visited the Sonoran Desert Museum, which is a bit more like a zoo. They had great live animal exhibits. We particularly enjoyed seeing the cougars, bear, bobcats, ocelot, screech owl, burrowing owl and hummingbirds. The hummingbirds let you get very close to them which was really fun. Some were very quiet and some were very talkative. Lilah identified each of the four types in the aviary.

It was a wonderful time with my parents and in nature even if it was a bit windier than we had hoped for. I’m SO lucky to have family who love nature and camping and who I love spending lots of time with.

Standard
books, unschooling

welcoming a new year

Today the kids watched Kulipari and Yo-Kai Watch,

played MineCraft while I patched some holes in walls at the other house in preparation for more painting over there.

We enjoyed lots of recently gifted wonderful things. Gavin built a robotics set,

img_3687

we worked on a puzzle,

Lilah worked on her latch hook rug set, and her painted bowl kit,

I made deodorant with a bit of help from Lilah,

both kids started on new books: The Haunting of Falcon House by Eugene Yelchin and When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin.

img_3697

Lilah made cards for all three cats wishing them a happy New Year,

we played Imhotep,

img_3696

we played Ugly Sweaters,

we stepped outside and saw an owl on the post right outside the house! We took some pictures but it was dark and so they are not the best but it was so exciting! Maybe we’ll get another chance. Gavin remarked upon seeing the owl, “I love our house.” Me too.

dsc_1668

We had a curry buffet for dinner and tried some new Indian and Nepali dishes followed by Chris reading Harry Potter and Eragon books at bedtime, cuddles of kids and parents and cats and I sang some songs to finish the night.

 

 

 

Standard
unschooling

puzzling and patterning and owls

It’s getting colder and darker and we are feeling inclined to do things like go through our board and card game collection and give away those we are done with, make designs with our pattern blocks, and drink tea. (“Whatcha making?”, I asked him. “A track for the hotwheel cars!”)

We got a brand new puzzle that Chris got for us because he knows how much we love puzzles and we haven’t done one for months but we were so excited to get down to matching designs and colors and letters and creatures today! It’s a really fun puzzle with monsters of all kinds and monster stores of all kinds. It’s fun to hear the kids sounding out “calamity” and “scalawag” and “wriggles” from the monster store fronts on the puzzle.

IMG_7375

We put on some glitter tattoos.

IMG_7324

We’ve been having some fun doing math puzzles on the whiteboard. One of us writes a question and someone else solves it. Gavin’s learning it can be much harder to write than to solve! He tried some simple algebra this week and enjoyed that. Lilah and I talked about multiplication in terms of muffins and cookies on baking sheets. That was fun!

IMG_7334

We got out a Crime Catchers Spy Science kit that Gavin has had put away since last winter and started doing science experiments to solve the case. Here they are testing the pH of different solutions and checking for secret messages with red tinted glasses and then writing down the message clues.

Lilah made me this wonderful love note. It’s a cat thinking of cat love and saying “meaw”.

IMG_7332

We went to visit some Great Horned Owls, collect their pellets and dissect them. There were two owls, high up in the pine trees looking down at all the commotion from time to time. I couldn’t take a picture worth anything of them with my phone camera but a friend took this one! We were able to see them pretty well with our eyes and binoculars though.

12208334_10207462385135756_7143851473103212584_n

We found dozens of pellets, and dissected them to discover lots of rodent and possible mole and shrew bones.

In addition there was a whole lot of playtime with friends!

Standard
unschooling

Antelope Island

This afternoon the kids and my parents and I took a drive to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.  It was cold and beautiful.

IMG_3277

We saw a flock of red-winged blackbirds, a chukar, white capped sparrows, a magpie, a pair of owls, many bison, a coyote, and a rabbit in just a few hours.  We even saw a pair of bison right on the side of the road.

IMG_3324

We explored an old ranch.  The kids practiced their calf-roping skills and Gavin spent several minutes trying to help a smaller boy figure out how to use the rope.

We explored old farm machinery including checking out a sheep shearing area.

They tried rowing a boat…. on land.

IMG_3305

Both of them were really paying attention as my parents described how the lake used to be much fuller but because of the lack of rain and snow in recent years it’s incredibly low now.  Lilah wished for lots of rain to raise the lake.

We watched the bison move across the hill to a water trough through the scope.

The kids had to be coaxed into the car with hot cocoa, they were enjoying themselves so much.  We’ll have to go back soon.

The mountains almost looked like clouds in the distance.

IMG_3283

 

Standard