unschooling

Southern California

We took a week and made a trip to California, to visit the ocean.

On the way we stopped and explored Zzyxz, an old mineral springs spa town which has been taken over by a school for wildlife research but still has some abandoned buildings to roam. It was so incredibly hot, but still worth a short detour. The bath house was there, with an outdoor pool and some window frames looking away toward the mountains.

Here Gavin is “swimming” in the pool.

Nearby is a lodging house with tiny rooms in a long row. We found the whole area fascinating.

We also spotted some bighorn sheep along the road there.

The tide wasn’t super low for tidepooling when we were at the beach but we looked in them anyway and found a bunch of creatures roaming. We saw anemones, an urchin, a few ochre stars, mussels, barnacles of several types, hermit crabs, bigger crabs, fish, sea hares ranging from the size of a finger to the size of a melon, periwinkle and moon snails, a keyhole limpet, and some serpula.

 

The kids spent a bunch of time bodyboarding and wading and Chris and I got in a bit too. One afternoon we spotted a small bunch of dolphins off shore.

I had a lot of fun trying out my new macro lens that attaches to my phone! It was tricky to use on tidepools because it needs to be so close the subject so I mostly used it on dry or recently washed up items. These are a lobster tail, a crystalline iceplant seedpod, kelp, driftwood, seaweed. I really enjoyed messing about with it and am looking forward to doing much more. Thanks, Mama and Daddy!

Several nights, Chris and I got to take night walks on the beach as there was one a block from the place we stayed. It was lovely. We watched the waves and the birds.

On the way out of town we stopped at a sculpture garden to see “Bunny Henge.”

Farewell for now, Ocean. We’ll see you soon.

On our drives, we listened to the first two books in the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde, and began Rivals, Frenemies Who Changed the World by Scott McCormick.

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Gavin’s birthday

We had a lovely family party for Gavin last week, a nice day at home on his actual birthday playing games (like TimeLine!) and relaxing and a party with friends at Willard Bay this weekend.

He wanted to swim and especially, to try the floating inflatable playground with his friends, so that’s what we did. It was a beautiful day and the water was warm. The kids and some adults enjoyed the playground and then we all chatted in the shade or played in the water until the beautiful sunset came, and then the mosquitoes arrived so we left.

There was a huge slide the kids enjoyed, a swing, a trampoline and various other structures all joined together floating out in the water. They had to swim out so here are a bunch of the kids jumping in to go out to play!

 

Here they playing on the playground.

We got chocolate, vanilla and lemon cupcakes and we brought a sundried tomato, artichoke heart, basil pesto pasta salad to share and it was well appreciated.

Gavin was so thrilled to just get to spend time with friends and it was fun for family to get to see the crew together. I wish I had gotten a picture of him and one of his friends out floating for hours in the middle of the lake together in the late afternoon for hours but I was too busy paddle boarding. My mom, Meara and Chris got some kayaking and paddle boarding in too. So fun!

He’s fourteen now! It’s shocking (to me) and totally expected at the same time. He still loves Lego, and builds the neatest unique spaceships and other things regularly. He loves Zelda: Breath of the Wild on his new switch game system that he saved up for all on his own this summer. He loves board and card games and cannot get enough, especially anything “futuristic” or “space themed”. He tries to meet friends online as often as possible to play MineCraft or RoBlox with them.  When they can get together in person they swim or chat or fight with boffer weapons. His favorite color is blue violet, favorite food is lasagna, favorite flower is lavendar, favorite animal is owl. He reads like mad and is currently inhaling a series he started on his birthday called Space Runners. He’s an amazing, wonderful person and I am so grateful to get to spend a lot of time with him, learning together and enjoying life together, appreciating each other.

 

Such good memories to look back on and so much fun and discovery yet to come for him and for us with him! What a journey!

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Spring!

We’ve been biking,

visiting our new neighborhood library,

playing with friends,

baking pumpkin bread,

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experimenting in MineCraft with new buildings and animals and researching how to make machinery that functions in the game,

loving the kitten,

painting Lilah’s wolf mask from her Doodle Crate gift,

reading,

building with Legos (Gavin’s been doing a lot of research and then designing and building. Here he has built a house with a hinging wall that opens, and four poster bed, book shelf, lamp and dresser inside. The next day he added another level with a balcony.)

We’ve been puzzling,

spending more time with friends,

waiting in terribly long lines to participate in the caucuses in our state,

watching flowers begin to bloom in our neighborhood.

Lilah asked me about Hindi after we talked about languages other than English and how a language with different characters works and we’ve made a plan to do some learning in that area.

We went to a Hindu temple in our vicinity for a celebration of Holi, a Hindu spring festival which involves throwing and wiping colored powder on each other. It was so much fun and the kids loved it! I have fond memories of the Holi celebrations I took part in in India many years ago and it was so satisfying to share with my family. We’ll definitely go again!

At my parents house we dyed eggs and hunted eggs and enjoyed each others’ company on Easter.

We listened to Rolling Thunder In The Mountains by Scott O’Dell in the car and enjoyed that quite a bit and I’ve been reading The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle to them, a chapter here, a chapter there. It’s one that’s new to me as well as the kids, which is fun.

We went to the hot springs for a soak and a swim. It was rainy today and when we got into the pool it began to hail! We’d brought an umbrella and so we huddled under that in the warm water and enjoyed watching the hail stones plop and splash in the water and make bubbles. After the hail let up the kids went into the cooler pool and there was lots of splashing and chasing and floating on pool noodles.

The kids played with mixing up some gooey substances with their latest Tinker Crate.

Life and life learning 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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Arizona

We spent last week in Tucson, Arizona. It was such a change in temperature from home, going from jacket, hat and glove weather to shorts and t-shirts weather.

The drive was long but beautiful and we finished the very very long audiobook we had been working through, the third in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. We stopped in Phoenix to eat and Gavin spotted something in the sky he wanted to investigate so we walked over and found it was a huge suspended glowing sculpture.

Chris worked and the kids and I adventured during work hours and then we all headed out in the evenings together.

We saw our favorite soccer team, Real Salt Lake at two training matches while we were there. Lilah spent most of the first game watching bats catch moths in the stadium lights and she enjoyed that very much.

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The three of us visited both sides of Saguaro National Park, East and West. We saw so many different kinds of cacti, and quite a bit of wildlife. The saguaro were fascinating – I’d never seen them before – and the rest of the cactus were as well.

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The kids were offered a Junior Ranger program opportunity, an activity where they are given a bunch of activities/research to do in the park and when they finish a ranger goes over it with them and swears them in as a Junior Ranger. Honestly, I wished they hadn’t done it because they spent most of our first hike trying to fill out their papers instead of looking, listening and enjoying but they wanted to do it and both felt great finishing. If I’d somehow worked out a way for them to do the research, writing back at the hotel during down time that would have been perfect.

We saw jojoba, mesquite, hedgehog cactus, pincushion cactus, teddy bear cholla, pencil cholla, barrel cactus, saguaro, prickly pear, and various other plants on our explorations. There were many jokes about hugging the teddy bear cholla.

We saw cactus wrens, flickers, hawks, silky tailed flycatchers, lizards, bats, squirrels, rabbits, butterflies, wasps, moths.

The kids were so, so excited to see all the differing cactus types, some of them fruiting. None of them were blooming but it was so warm that I don’t know we’d want to go later in the year to see them blooming anyway.

I tried my hand at a new photography technique, shooting through my binoculars. It was tricky, but fun. Here are three of those shots, you have to have about four hands and have the lenses lined up *exactly* right or you get strange effects. I was trying to get a look at the nest in the hole in that saguaro.

The four of us took picnic dinner into the park and visited some petroglyphs and watched the sun set. Lilah took a picture of two different cactus together, saying “Those two look like best friends.”

We swam in the hotel pool.

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Lilah worked on reading her Warriors by Erin Hunter, about cat warriors. Gavin finished the 2nd Warriors book, and several more of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell in between other things and while driving.

We drove past an airplane museum so I asked the kids if they were interested. They were so we headed there one morning. It was huge, which was a bit of a struggle since we didn’t have time to see it all and that is frustrating for Gavin. He really enjoyed it though and immediately started making plans to create new models of airplanes and ships in Legos at home. He asked questions about different parts of the models, especially the landing gear.

 

One evening we all went for a quick visit at San Xavier del Bac, a Spanish mission that is still active, though it was built in the 1700s. They are restoring the paintings inside as well as the sculpture and relief on the outer walls. It’s a beautiful building.

The three of us went to Colossal Caves for a tour. It was the first cave adventure for both kids. I hope we can go see our nearest local cave this year up at Mount Timpanogus. The rocks are still actively growing there with water moving through the minerals and rock. Colossal Caves are dry due to the hot, dry weather in Arizona but still had plenty of fascinating features and was a pretty easy, short walk; good for a first cave experience. While we waited for our tour to begin, the kids tried their hand at sluicing for gems.

It was a great trip, seeing new places and things and enjoying some warm weather and clear air when it’s cold and polluted at home.

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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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Several weeks in May

Gavin has been watching/listening to the google doodles lately.  Today he informed me that today’s “google thing” was about “how girls are as good and the same as boys”.  Thanks, Google!

They rode and walked to the park with my sister for some cops and robbers games.

We had a friend over and played with Legos and marble runs and cars.

Lilah made a beaded necklace to give a friend.

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Gavin wants to write a book about Castle In the Sky so he was practicing the lettering from the front cover this afternoon.

Lilah has been picking bouquets from the yard to enjoy inside.

We spent the day in a city an hour or so away, buying a new to us car.  The kids and I spent most of the day at various parks.

We watched a favorite film, Ponyo, again.

We had a conversation inspired by a coupon saying “Save 20%” so we talked about what that means, how much 20% of $100 and $10 is and if it’s a small or large amount and if it’s worth doing.  The kids decided it is worth using.  Since it’s for the bookstore, I agree!

We visited the aviary and saw the sandhills cranes with an egg!  We got friendly with a parakeet and ran and explored and reveled.

We went swimming.  The kids have been asking about going to a waterpark and we’ve told them that we’d love to, as soon as they can swim.  So, they’ve been asking and asking to go the pool and work on learning to swim.  In some ways, this is their first Big Unschooling learning goal.  So, we went and I found some simple games to develop the skills needed in swimming and we worked on those for a half hour or so and then they went down the slide and played.  But, they both made some nice progress and I think if we keep it up they’ll happily be swimming soon, without me scaring them or forcing things along.  Woohoo!

We went to the library again, this time to try to find a specific book Gavin has his heart set on reading: Galaxy’s Most Wanted by Jon Kloepfter.  After a computer search we found it yesterday and he’s now finished with all 208 pages (the next afternoon).  Lesson for me here is: let the kids choose their own books when possible.  Wow!

Gavin asked us who the main character in Mrs Piggle Wiggle’s Farm is.  What a great question!  I am so impressed by his interest and the fact that he shows a lot of nuanced understanding, asking this because the book has a different main character in each chapter, so it’s really different than most literary situations.  So, we got to talk about how usually the way you can recognize the main character(s) for sure is by the changes they undergo, as a character.

A week after we went swimming the first time, we went again. We did more of the same little games to work on swimming skills and both kids absolutely amazed me!  Lilah is just about able to swim all on her own and Gavin is nearly there and determined to work at it.  He’s able to float now, which means totally relaxing in the water and trusting his body and Lilah is willing to put her whole head under the water to propel herself, over and over and comes up with a huge grin on her face.  I told them both they looked like dolphins and they were so, so proud of their progress.  Woohoo!

Gavin’s been doing soccer games and practice three times a week and has been working hard on his defensive skills.

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Lilah’s continuing gymnastics once a week and is getting better at hand stands, cartwheels and is beginning to work on round offs.  She’s gained a lot of strength in the past few weeks and is more and more able to pull the moves off.

More and more the kids are telling me what they are interested in doing with their time, like Gavin told me he wants to do more science experiments and Lilah has been asking for time to draw (cats mostly) and color (mandalas mostly).  I’m excited about these developments, as my own reflections on learning are that it’s most beneficial when it’s something chosen and pursued by the learner (with help and encouragement often, of course).

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Every day we are working on how to make decisions about our time together without conflicts, and how to deal with conflicts when they come up.  It’s a work in progress.

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