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 41

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welcome to a week of unbelievably amazing ohio fall weather.

this is another one of those “look at all the cool things we do outside” posts because 1} i try very hard for you to like me and 2} we’re doing lots of awesome things outside. this is pretty much the one time of the year that living in the midwest is a benefit {sorry fellow midwesterners, you know it’s true}.

i’ve read that if you want to educate a child start with food because food is everything. we naturally fell into that a long time ago, as most families do. food IS everything. it’s certainly one of the first things a child comprehends completely. it’s pretty fantastic to see one subject weave itself so inextricably through one little person’s understanding of the world. darla is always motivated to help and learn when it comes to food. she really, REALLY loves to watch cooking and food prep videos on youtube. it’s easy for me to include her in food prep by saying “hey, we got a pineapple this week. let’s look up and watch a video on how to slice a pineapple.” and then she’ll be sitting there monitoring me to see if i do it correctly and giving me pointers. i’d say she’s involved with making the majority of the meals that take place in our house and i can only hope this will carry on into some independence and desire for deeper learning as she grows.

so, in short: if you’re looking to unschool or do some learning enrichment in the home have the kiddos be involved with your food. everything from procuring it, growing it, cleaning it, preparing it and disposing of it is a learning opportunity.

you can see we tackled a pumpkin and some apple picking this week. we roasted the seeds and turned that pumpkin into some bad ass pumpkin chili. the apple picking served as a learning experience for both of us. I had never been to a pesticide-free orchard before. it’s easy to say i don’t want my food to have pesticides applied to them but it’s a bit of a shock to realize that i’ve probably not had that much exposure to pesticide free food. this is a literal put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is situation. well, i’m happy we took on this experience. it took us quite some time to search through the trees to find apples that the pests hadn’t completely ruined. within 2 minutes of apple hunting i had decided that pesticide free food means i have to come to terms with having food stuffs that other organisms have already enjoyed a little. i’m surprisingly ok with that. it feels more like how it’s supposed to be. we’re not entitled to all the food, but we are entitled to share. when i talked to another mom there with her girls about the experience she agreed and said “that’s how you know it’s good. why would we want to put something into our bodies that nothing else wants to touch?”

on the personal side of things, mike and i passed the three years of marriage milestone. woo hoo! i’m going to be honest, it’s been a do-whatever-we-can-to-get-by-day-to-day kinda year for us. but sitting there on our anniversary i thought “yeah, i’d struggle through another year to be with this man.”  of course i would rather it be a year filled with success and winning the lottery, buying a road home and gettin’ the hell outta dodge kinda year but if it’s another year of eeking by then i’ll gladly do it. that’s my best and real description of love and dedication in marriage at this point. i wish i had something really romantic and inspiring to write for you, but i just have this dose of reality instead, which is, in its own way, kinda romantic.

so that second pic from the bottom is a game we invented this morning called hellen keller where we blindfold darla, spin her around and then challenge her to find different items while blind. it was really quite fun and i’m thinking this is going to be a great activity to have in my back pocket for the homebound winter months.

i hope you enjoyed the look at our week. i’m going to experiment with this week being a week + weekending edition. there is a lot going on with these beautiful fall days. thanks for checking in with us.

unschooling: nature walk

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you know what i love about unschooling? everything! but one of the facets that suits my personality is that it can be a spur-of-the-moment idea. it can be a moment where you decide to pull the car over to take a walk in that park you’ve been meaning to for years.

unschooling last week included a trip to the smith nature park. this was a great, small little bit of woodland nestled into suburbia. we spent about 30 minutes here walking trails and creek gazing. it’s small enough to let darla be trail leader and big enough to make her feel like she’s a real hot-shot while doing so.

here’s darla’s summary of surroundings for her nature journal that day:

green plants. black trees. red trash. different kinds of rocks. it’s cool and hyperllenic. that means freshwater.  is bacteria a parasite?

hyperllenic does not mean freshwater. it’s a word she made up. at least i think. hold on. yep, she made it up.

picture summary:

1. self-explanatory

2. here’s me trying to revisit the concept of trees adding rings as they grow and examining this cross-section with her but instead she’s interested in these little balls she found which i think might have been some kind of pest repellent. sometimes this is just about me hearing myself talk, i think.

3. woods wedgie!! had. to. include.

4. is a pic of my feet is to show you all how idyllic and serene my life is. i’m just sitting next to creeks all the time gazing prolifically at my thrifted grannie shoes while darla yells requests to get in the creek and fish out trash at me. such a lush, verdant life i lead here by this creek.

in seriousness, our unschooling has provided a lot of peace and serenity in my life and i believe in darla’s. i feel spending time exploring the great wild world is so important. i hope she will remember these days all her life. i hope this will be a foundation for her to have a connection to the earth and find a way to live in harmony with her surroundings. the saying goes: children can’t learn to respect nature if they don’t spend any time in it.

thanks for checking in on our unschooling today.

ps. the ua parks department has this nifty little handout on the web for printing. this would have been a nice resource had i researched before and not stopped in on a whim. next time, i guess.

unschooling: Scioto Audubon Park & Sanctuary

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this is my kind of classroom.

one of our unschooling field trips from last week was an old favorite, the scioto audubon park. we picked up this fantastic book at the library a few weeks back. the book highlights nature happenings per month. july’s page discusses animal and plant life at freshwater sources and my mind went immediately to the scioto audubon park. this park boast a river view, freshwater ponds as well as wetlands. we formed a plan of comparing page to real life and that’s what we did. i brought the book along with darla’s nature journal. we did a collaborative drawing of the river and darla chose to draw a turtle for herself. here’s her entry as she dictated to me:

it looks like dirty water that turtles swim in. it looks like they love the water. spiders live here, too. they make interesting webs and catch flies and i don’t like it one bit. the end. by darla. write my name.

unschooling: harmonious homestead

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darla and i spent a little bit of time at the harmonious homestead open house on saturday. i bet you can tell what darla’s favorite part of the outing was. she wants chickens and her momma does too. she held just about every one of them. it worked out that even though i tried to interest her in the gardens and grounds she was confined to the chicken coop, by choice, so mama was free to roam around the gardens as she pleased. mama likes to do as she pleases.

i learned about hugelkultur and darla learned how to successfully chase down a chicken. i’d say that’s a good day of learning.

balloon fight

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darla requested a water balloon fight over the weekend. experiences like these make me cognizant of how happy i am that i’m a parent. it has been a really long time since my last water balloon fight. i have forgotten some of the simple pleasures in life that come flooding back in a whole new way when you’re experiencing them with your child. Like looking for worms, swinging, catching fireflies and water balloon fights.

is that what summer is about? is summer eternal childhood?

i think i would like to think of it that way for the rest of my days.

is this day camp?

no. no it’s not. well, it was for someone else’s kids. we just swooped in after the camp kids went to lunch and played all up in that shizz.

i promise this looks more peaceful and idyllic than it was. there were various gradients of dirt play with darla leading the pack in no shoes and worm wrangling. there were various gradients of child breakdowns with darla being the leader in that category, also.

but i got to hang out with two babies i saw borned of this world and i already mentioned that it turned out pretty in pictures. as long as my life looks good then i’m not really to hung up on the rest…

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i just want to pause and mention how happy i am with the free-wheeling, unschool summer we’ve been having. even though the day was somewhat of an emotional failure i still walked away feeling accomplished, secure in the thought that my girl had learned and enjoyed and i really had a good time in the midst of the choas of 6 children. i just want to extend summer for all the days and explore our world. this city has an amazing parks system and i’ve got my sights set on experiencing some new places with my girl.

can it be summer camp forever???