our return to the outdoors {and some thoughts on unschooling}

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we’ve returned to the great outdoors for our days, finally. these days have been bittersweet as i know that, at least for now, this chapter of our free wheelin’ unschooling days is coming to a close. it’s the right decision for us at this moment and i have high hopes that we’ll see darla in the right atmosphere for the next phase of her education experiment. because that’s what it is in the end right? an experiment? each generation comes along with ideas and tests them out in the big experiment that is the evolution of the human species so i don’t have to worry about making *the right decision* for her. it’s all a gamble, no matter which way you slice it. i feel like education is one of those areas of life that many people take staunch stances, sure that their way is the best but from where i stand i feel like it’s all a gamble. it’s all a dance and at some point it’s time for this group number to narrow down to a solo effort. i feel darla has lent her voice towards the desire to try out school so that’s what we’ll do.

and it doesn’t feel as heavy as it once did. i’m not stressed. i feel that as she’s grown older and come into her autonomy these decisions that we’re supposed to navigate are not as loaded as they once were. one of my main goals as a parent is to be able to trust that my daughter has what she needs inside of her to create her own path and that she always has. that is just where i’m at with this journey. a few years back i felt like i could feel the weight of every decision as we pressed on into the future. now i’m more at peace with the fact that it’s really my daugther’s right to figure out how the path of her own life is going to run. she must be her own and i must be my own. i’m settling into this role of “guide” much better than i ever have felt as “mom.” as darla told her friend the other day “no ones the boss of me. my mom and dad just help me figure out how to be the boss of myself.”

maybe i can get this next child to call me mother-guide.

so this leaves us with one last summer, one last summer of flexibility and adventure. this leaves us a few short months of mother + daughter roaming until we all go through the very big learning experience of incorporating another human into this fold. how’s that for unschooling?

and then i’ll get to start this all over again. and who knows, if we get a year of school under our belt and find it’s not the best fit and we find a way for me to be able to accomplish my work as well as help two children educate themselves then maybe we’ll take that path.

maybe not. it’s all a great experiment, after all.

creek skipping

 fallen tree

 stone steps

week 44

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this week. this week right here. whenever i start to doubt myself and question whether this is right for us, i will look back on this week and put myself at ease.

sometimes i feel like i’ve missed out on so much in life and then other times i feel so full and crazy grateful for how beautiful my life is. getting to raise and educate darla in this way is one of the great honors of my life. i can’t believe i get to spend my days romping around the town with her and then sometimes i get to see a human born into this world. it’s nuts.

i hope i can remember how fortunate i am the next time i start worrying about how i’m going to pay bills and afford life.

we spent as much time as possible outside this week. it was absolutely gorgeous. conversations of late are showing me just how much knowledge of science and nature are getting in to darla. it makes me hungry to show her more. how can i show her more?

for those of you just here for the pretty pictures from our week then this is a good stepping off point. please proceed to your nearest exit with caution. thanks for stopping by! come back later, i’ll have more ;-)

those of you interested in this unschooling-thing, stick around.

that spirit deer told me to get out into nature last week and i listened like it was my job because it is. i took her to the audubon center on monday. that day went like this: new obstacle course doings, playground playings, water tower towerings, pond life exploring, woolly bear snuggling and lots of running to and fro. the information we covered ranged anywhere from our feathery friends, to shelf fungus, to dragonfly life cycles, to human anatomy and lots in between.

we ventured to griggs reservoir on tuesday. we walked along the river, tracking a great blue heron and darla collected her choice items for the day. i love how i somehow become the keeper of items during our nature outings. my pockets always end up full of various things she has found along the way.

weds we went hiking in blacklick woods. darla was very fascinated with various nuts and seeds along the trails. she stuffed both her pockets and mine full and inquired about them with the ranger inside the nature center. we saw lots of wildlife on our walk, i think due to the overcast nature of the day, including several does and fawns, a huge buck, chipmunks galore, and two magical albino squirrels that we determined are king and queen of all squirreldom on earth. we rewarded ourselves at the gluten-free bakery afterwards :-)  and darla wanted to take some of the acorns home to the squirrels in our yard because they “probably don’t get too many of those type living around us.” we prepared a plate for them and offered it outside. ummmm the acorns were gone within a couple of hours. i think we have some thankful wildlife in our immediate area now.

maybe this is just the deep breath before the plunge into winter that will keep us locked up indoors but i’ll take it. i’ve determined that my niche in her education is to get her outside as much as possible. because if i can accomplish that then i can certainly do this unschooling/homeschooling thing. and she told me during our woods hike that she wants to continue to do them even during snowy weather so maybe we have some snow hikes in our future this winter.

what else do i want to tell you all about this other than COME JOIN US?  i don’t really write these posts about unschooling to push my views on anyone else, because this is just what is right for our family right now. BUT if you feel so inclined, then please, come join us.

slate run

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oh how we love slate run. i think it’s been way too long since we were last there. we really got our farm on last week given that we were at aullwood just a day before but this time were both equipped with boots. boots make a big difference on a farm.

we started out the morning exploring parts of the park previously unknown to us. our visit started with the covered bridge. darla made me gallop with her back and forth across the bridge. she was ichabod and i was the headless horseman. we walked some short trails and paused for a bit in the prairie with the wildflowers. and it was at that moment that i was again struck by how thankful i am to have this life with her. i will keep my daughter in the wildflowers and out of the classroom for as long as possible.

i’m really looking forward to fall outings. i hope we get nice sunny days perfect for short trips back to slate run. d was pretty excited about getting to romp around after a flock of she-turkeys. she was not so enthused to mess with the males.

can i just say i’m glad i wasn’t born a turkey. i’m real sorry but they are quite ugly creatures.

oh and ps.

I JUST WANT TO DO THIS FOREVER!

Unschooling: Aullwood Audubon Center

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d’s absence all weekend made me really ambitious towards unschooling last week. we didn’t even make it home before it began. we had stopped at the aullwood center last year as a fam but only saw a fraction of what the park had to offer so we stopped off again last week and spent the rest of the day there.

i’m splitting this post into two sections because there was soooo much going on with this day i kinda worry it was information overload. we spent the beginning of the trip in the center learning about turtles and creek life, bees, animal bones and tracks and the usual nature center stuff. the highlight here was petting the turtles. i really spent most of my time explaining to darla why she could not get in the turtle habitat.

then we took our time on the .75 mile hike to the farm through the woods. d was in an especially determined mood and lead the way through the forest picking up on all sorts of foresty details. i thought it was cool that some of the trees were labeled with the date and causation of their fell.

we stopped to say hello to an especially woolly friend at the gate into the farm. i love this outing and hope to return to the Aullwood Audubon Center again soon. some highlights from the farm will be coming shortly.

thanks for checking in on our unschooling today!

unschooling: burial mounds

whilst poking around on the Ohio Historical Society website the other day i discovered a historical treasure practically on our doorstep. yes, this is actually how i feel about it. why? because i was a history minor and a geek, that’s why. the wheels for day trips and outings have been spinning ever since but i knew i wanted to start with Shrum Mound. Located less than 2 miles from our house, I felt this would be a perfect doorway to connect darla’s fascination with ancient egyptian culture and mummies closer to home.

monday afternoon we packed up and headed to this almost forgotten little site. it’s bordered now by a quarry and condo developments. somehow, the forsight of preservationists in 1920 to protect this piece of land rang sadly in my heart as i gazed around at the surroundings, wondering what the ancient people who had chosen this as the final resting place for many of their kin would think of the site today.

but it’s a beautiful little piece of land.

and when i told darla about where we were going and what we were doing she could only exclaim “oh! oh!” and jump up and down.

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if you don’t believe me about her excitement, i present you with the below photo. i did not instruct her to do this. this pose, and honey-boo-boo-esque expression are something she art directed. my child is REALLY into burial places and practices. I’m ok with it. She is tuned into the sacredness and I’m happy to see how a fascination is fostering real respect for customs and life.

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these few pieces of information were all we really needed to build a day of learning. miss d was excited to make the hike to the top and look around.

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now you may have noticed the markings on her body. darla decided to engage the outing by drawing tattoos on herself. she has a penchant for body art but has learned from our readings that many native american tribes and ancient peoples tattooed their warriors as a sign of respect and honor. below is a picture of her making up a detailed story about the lives of the people buried in the mound, which her tattoos told the story of, similar to hieroglyphs {her words}.

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let’s get a close-up of that, shall we?

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it was a small little space but i’m sure it seemed a great adventure to her. the area was walled off and kept clean. i let her explore on her own as much as she liked. that’s kind of the advantage with such a high vantage. when you’re sitting on top of a great big pile of dirt you can see everything.

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she loved climbing and descending the trails and exploring the wall. i wanted to include this photo below to show the butterfly that swooped into the frame.

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i had brought along a couple books that seemed to connect with the space perfectly; our Nature All Year Long book and The Secret Garden, which darla has also taken to. we had packed a lunch and after we ate, i read to her for well over an hour while she played.

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she scampered around in the dirt and had a great time pretending that the wall around the mound was the wall of the secret garden and she was the robin that led mary to the garden. she gathered and made a nest and happily sat roosting on the nest while listening.

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it eventually got late and we packed up but i wanted to include this day as one of great success for us. this day showed how much can be learned from such a simple place. there weren’t tons of displays or exhibits. it was just a space open for our exploration in a way that can be out of reach at other sites. we explored nature, spirituality, history, literature, architecture and geography all in one simple setting.

i want this last picture to remind me that sometimes I can have the best time just sitting with my girl on a big pile of dirt.

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unschooling: home

most of my unschooling posts are from adventures out and about but the majority of our unschooling really happens in our home or from everyday living. a principle of unschooling i love is that learning comes from life. it comes from doing and everyday curiosity. it comes from letting my girl get into just about anything she has the motivation to. this results in an extremely messy house most of the time.

but darla reminds me often that “messy is about having fun” so we get into things a lot. and i try to use everything, all the doings of our life as teaching moments.

here are a few moments from this past week: darla drawing heiroglyphs on our concrete porch, drawing observations in her nature journal of a caterpillar she found, studied and played with for a few hours, and learning to play checkers {and re-learning for me} at our local coffee shop.

thanks for checking in on our unschooling this week.

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unschooling: batelle darby metro park

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it is gorgeous days like this one that remind me why i’m keeping this blog. i will cherish these times always.

so here is a not-so-short list of things i can remember that we discussed and learned at batelle darby:

  • architectural structures
  • rock formations
  • gravity
  • the difference between bison and buffalo {fact: there have never been buffalo in America, only bison.}
  • flower names
  • the ecosystems of a stream
  • touched a turtle and a snake {not me, but darla did}
  • practiced the different sounds a rock makes when it’s thrown in the water
  • looked at decaying wood
  • hiked in woods and prarie and compared them
  • looked at bones and pelts
  • examined feathers on bird’s wing and magnification
  • different frog sounds
  • bird migration patterns
  • bees
  • trees

and honestly, i can’t remember b/c there was just so much to take in. we spent a good 4 hours there. 4 hours and no bison, however. they were hiding for the day but that gives us a reason to go back.

i am so thoroughly in love with the metro parks system. I am hoping we have a good 2-3 more months of outdoor exploration. we still have so much to see and revisit.

i hope these posts show how truly thankful and grateful I am to have the opportunity to spend these days running around with darla. it’s hard to imagine ever doing anything differently than the way we are now but i know to take each day as it comes.

i’m just filled with gratitude and love when i look back on some of these days. i want to put that down here for my darla.