Impromptu Unschooling: Buck Creek State Park

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yesterday was a simple, fantastic day. it was a beautiful day for a drive. i love to be on the road. when i read Lolita i actually loved the thought of traveling the US and pulling off at all the brown signs, every roadside attraction. it seemed like such a great way to see the beauty of this country. the rest of the book…not so much.

so this summer i’ve made a promise to myself to see more of ohio in just that way. while driving home from Dayton we decided on the spur of the moment to investigate Buck Creek State Park and we found a beach! sure it’s a little man-made beach that we get here in the middle west but it served as a great unschooling opportunity.

we talked about rocks we found, counted boats, talked with other folks and even examined a dead fish washed up on the shore. i had to squash my conventional instincts of telling darla to get far away from it and not look but i reminded myself it was a teachable moment. we talked about what kind of fish it was and talked about having respect for deceased life.

darla befriended some older kids who were digging a castle and moat. some kids were digging and some were hauling water. i sat down with them and darla and pointed out the similarities between the sand structure and the man-made lake and then explained to them that the lake was made in almost the exact same way that they were constructing their castle moat. it was great to see how proud that made them of their work.

all in all it was a really great way to spend a perfect sunny day. we weren’t prepared for swimming so we’re headed to a closer lake today per darla’s request.

if you’re skeptically sitting there saying “it sounds like this unschooling stuff is just elaine taking her daughter places and then talking to her about it” then you got me. you’re exactly right. since this is the way my daughter has learned everything in her life thus far i don’t see any reason to change things up and make her memorize or take place in structured activities. maybe someday. but not today. and ummm not yesterday either.


summer sun adventurez

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am i correct that memorial day weekend is the kick-off to summer? it is in my brainz. since we spent today at the pool i’m going to go with yes.

warm weather means a lot of activity, right? i’ve made it a habit in the summers to make a list of adventure destinations for darla and i for the mornings when i know we need to get out and about but i’m drawing a blank. i’m planning lots and lots of outdoor exploration.

i’m a big believer in filling my child’s life with experiences. i just want the summer time to be about adventure and exploration, loose bedtimes, walking barefoot and watching out for bumblebees. i want firefly catching and wading in the creek up to our knees. i want pies and watermelon smiles. and i want music and dancing and sleeping outside to watch the meteor showers. i want trips and camping and staying up late to tell spooky stories which darla will insist upon.

does that sound good?

well, this is the beginning of my list. i hope to add some new destinations because i know novelty was always a big learning opportunity for me. i feel like there’s a lot of this big state we haven’t discovered yet.

any fun suggestions for outdoor stuff out there???

growing thingz

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one of the things i think darla and i share in common is that we are experiential learners. the best way for me to learn is to try my hand at something and to then take note of all my mistakes and make plans for improvements in future endeavors. i wish i could be a better direction follower and researcher but my most concrete lessons are always the ones i’ve had to teach and learn myself.

i feel this has been the biggest purpose of our larger scale garden this year. we’re learning side-by-side, a bit of unschooling for both of us. i love the fact that the gardening and planting has been something that darla has had a great deal of involvement with this time around. everything from running items to the composter, planting, watering, helping me to make a natural insecticide and even talking to the plants when they were little sproutlets in our house. i’m happy to have the help while i can before she becomes to grown-up to find the tasks fun anymore.

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momma daughter field trip!

we took a field trip down to the public garden plots our neighborhood rents out to take a tour of what other folks are doing. we came a couple of times last year to look but this time we were able to talk a little more in-depth about growing techniques because both she and i have more knowledge.

i am reminded by these activities that everything is a learning experience for her right now. i am really looking forward to this summer, to get back to some of these free-wheeling learning expeditions. i’m always amazed by how much she already knows how to do for herself and i’m reminded that this learning happens from life and not from books. i pray the universe helps me remember this when conventional wisdom starts making me think that i should be pushing her into structured school and learning.

porch portraits

the unseasonably warm weather has allowed for a good dose of outdoor activity this week. tonight darla enthusiastically pulled all the stuff out on to the porch for a reading pallet, happy to know this activity will continue, and i iSnapped these shots:

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something about these shots just speaks volumes to me about her little personhood. she was pretty engrossed in her play so maybe that’s why i feel so much of her presence in them, especially the last one. hair curled wild, stick thrust out yelling some command at an imaginary adversary. i’ll be glad to remember her this way.

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^^^And sometimes i even make it in a photo too^^^

maple syrup festival

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we made the annual trek north to the Malabar Farm Maple Syrup festival this past weekend. Did you know Ohio is the 4th largest producer of pure maple syrup in the US? now you do.

this was the third year for darla and i but mike’s inaugural visit. our besties joined us too. and darla made fast friends with some other folks. that lady in the first couple pictures is a complete stranger. she parked next to us and happened to be the other closest person to her when she decided she wanted to swing.

this event has become my herald of spring. it signifies that time of year that we can get back outside to climb rocks and take walks. this was by far the best weather we’ve seen but as my boots can attest, it was pretty muddy.

as you can see we got the gallon to tide us over until next year’s fest.


free will walking

walk home

is the twin of good will hunting.

just kidding.

stopping to snap this pic helped me bring myself back to focus yesterday. i realize that a lot of times i don’t let my girl just have a “find what we can find” walk about. she’s independent and wants to be in charge of her own locomotion but that means i’m stopping about every 4 feet to urge her further on, most of the time.

it’s gotten to be somewhat of a bad habit of mine. i have forgotten that sometimes we don’t have anywhere to be. we can just be right here, on the sidewalk looking at rocks, sticks, snails and leaf piles. often times we do have some where else to go so i need to let her have advantage of the times we can just take it all in.

so, stepping back and taking this pic yesterday brought me back. we took our time, darla was bilbo baggins with a stick and then 3 mins later she was all walked out and wanted a shoulder ride.

see, elaine, if you just let go of your control issues everything works itself out.


this week:

fireflycider hand railteather ball sky highporch 1porch 2

found my first grey hair.

got some work done in a playful environment.

had the best apple cider ever.

great evening out to see richard buckner.

discovered a new playground. darla swung. i did calesthenics. win. win.

and took advantage of outdoor time in this glorious weather.

and now we’re heading off to my cousin’s wedding. family! i love my family! so excited. looking forward to sharing upon our return.

have a great weekend. huggie wuggies.


i know we’re already into tuesday but i just thought reminiscing about the weekend was still in order. here’s our roadtripy, woodsy, campfirey weekend:

road hat

coffeeauto tunes


1. road hat ready  2. coffee goodness ready  3. auto tunes ready (get it?) 4. pit stop

we stopped at aullwood audubon center in dayton, OH for a little woods-walking leg stretch. i’ve driven past many-a-time and said “we should stop there some day.” well, saturday was the day. and i think i’ll put it on the trip agenda more often. we spent a brief time there and i think…i think i’m gonna like it there

bridge wright trailtickle leaf

eye spyfence

balance footbridge

and then we reached my parents homestead for a fun night with friends.


the great pumpkin


ghost marshmallows. bonfire tradition now i guess.

it was a pretty quick trip but great just the same. i was so happy to just enjoy everyone’s company and visit with kiddos. i gotta say an added bonus of labor support work is reunion time with the families you have supported in birth.

at the end of the evening darla, mike and i braved the cold for a campout. darla was all like “let’s tell spooky stories!” to which we decided against and settled on robots instead. the best we could come up with was a half-ass account of the jetsons. i think the highlight of my weekend was being snuggled under 20 blankets with my family as the cold air nipped my nose. i kept thinking how great it would be for us to just live in a tent!

yes, a tent. with wheels. called a winnebago. i’ll never give up this dream.