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.

bird tagging

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the day started out rainy. somehow, even through her own umbrella and a raincoat with a hood d still managed to be soaking wet upon arrival in the car. when she shed her jacket and plopped in her seat, she sighed out “what a dang, darn day” with the exasperation more fit for someone with sixty years her senior. in a short, the day looked to be a rough one starting out.

we’d plans to meet friends at the scioto audubon {you know a usual for us} but we weren’t aware of the fact that every september and october the audubon takes on a big bird tagging project. yeah, you see that up there? those are bags of birds. I SAID BAGS OF BIRDS! although i personally have some conflicting feelings about this process, i feel like it was a great thing for the kids to witness up close. darla was allowed to gently pet a few of the birds. we saw a warbler, a catbird, an american goldfinch and a cardinal.

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after a few hours at the center we hit up the north market because it just seemed like another good thing to do on a rainy day. unschooling helps me see that we’re learning in everything we do. darla LOVES to look at the flowers at the market. we identified several and talked about their prices. and what better way to talk about math than by getting a gumball at the end? commerce is a great area for learning practical math.

so, in the end it was kinda the opposite of a dang, darn day. it was pretty great.

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!

afternoon

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darla’s art projects always end the same way…inking up her body. i know what the future holds. i was told “this is a cyclops and his girlfriend.” I would actually be thrilled if Darla got this tattooed later in life. I think I’d get a matching one.

i’ve struggled a bit with teaching d to write. other than her name and the word poop she hasn’t had much motivation to learn to form letters and any lesson we’ve done up until now has seemed pretty pushy to me.

reading up on the unschooling philosophies has taught me to sit back and wait for the teachable moments. i have relied on the confidence that darla will show interest when she is ready and motivated and we finally had one of those moments. i suggested making a welcome sign for my mom and d was very into the whole process. she even seemed to like the process we developed of practicing each letter twice before putting it on the sign. this was a good time! i realize this is not the greatest penmanship but i’m mostly jazzed about the effort and enthusiasm she had for this activity. i’m thankful to be learning to be gentle with the learning process. We’ve been writing pretend letters and books for a few months so I think a real interest in learning to write is write around the corner. {pun!}

we shall see.

Unschooling: Aullwood Farm

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our second half of our visit to Aullwood was spent at the farm. i found it very interesting that darla chose to spend most of her time and energy exploring was the herb garden. she asked about every single herb and we spent almost an hour smelling and comparing. there were hundreds of these little yellow butterflies that swirled around us every time we moved further along the path. i wish i had been able to get a picture of it but i’m glad i just left it as something to experience instead of document.

we thoroughly enjoyed visiting the animals but spent more time in the farm exhibit house.

another aspect i enjoy of unschooling is that it works even on days when i don’t really feel at my best. many days i’ve simply taken darla out into the world and let her be the guide about what we learn. i imagine it would be so hard as an educator on the days you feel less than tip top. all i have to do is provide an atmosphere in which learning can occur and be willing to interact as darla sees fit. it’s always very interesting to me to see the things she latches onto and inquires for more information. it’s usually not what i would have guessed and i’m thankful to be able to follow her lead.

thanks for checking in on our recent unschooling!

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: 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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what is unschooling?

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since i’ve been passing our summer adventures off as unschooling i’ve received lots of questions about unschooling, mainly: what is it?

the truth is, i don’t know exactly. My first exposure to the idea of unschooling was on a tv program called extreme parenting. when i first saw it, probably due a bit to dramatic tv editorial, i thought it seemed very strange. but something piqued my interest and i began to poke around on the internet for more information.

i follow a couple of blogs {here and here} that employ unschooling in their homes. with the homeschool movement back in full force, unschooling now seems like not such a big leap.

what has appealed to me about it thus far is that it allows me to educate darla in a very fluid way. i don’t have to prepare intricate lesson plans. i or darla can determine an activity or adventure for the day and we “see what we can see. find what we can find.”  also, unschooling just makes sense to me. children learn by doing. children learn by seeing. children and ADULTS learn by gravitating towards their natural interests.

but i admit i am just now starting to really dig my fingers into the research. i just picked up my first two books on unschooling. i hope to follow these up with more. See, i’m unschooling myself.

i’ll share what i find out. then you can read if you want to and unschool yourself. or not.

unschooling: ohio historical center outdoor session

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dear people of ohio,

take your children to the ohio history center. you’re welcome.

i’m going to tell you about the second half of our day at the ohio history center along with these amusing photos. sound good?

for the second half of the day we visited the Ohio Village. activities like these are a dream come true for me since traveling back in time is my ultimate life goal. before we could actually visit the village we had to dress ourselves appropriately:

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bonnets!

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OMG, the bonnets!

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I like to call this next one “Sad Bonnet” because this is when darla faked sadness and said i never take pictures of her. hahahahaha. future darla has now read a whole entire blog composed just of pictures i’ve taken of her. silly sad bonnet girl.

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and in her sadness she declared she did not like the bonnet any more, so i wore the bonnet. and this took me back to the days when i would run around the yard in my own bonnet and prarie dress playing Little House.

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after dealing with the dressing and undressing, we were finally able to cross the bridge over to the magical Ohio Village. a place where all the volunteers think it’s funny to chastise you for wearing shorts and claim you are showing your undergarments. {it’s not funny.}

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indecent exposure aside, that did not stop us from having all kinds of old-time fun. like making lace!

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yeah, darla made lace! can you believe it? she also almost stabbed a woman but it’s cool.

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this was the point in the timeline that i started feeling like the ohio village was really, really rad. i mean, darla made lace!

side note: does it sound cool when i say rad?

next up, more dress up!

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and there it is. a dream come true for me. i finally got to wear a hoop skirt. i cannot for the life of me understand how those things ever went out of fashion. it was so breezy up in there! i want to make my own. i also want to be corseted but apparently i missed the boat on that about 27 years ago.

we rounded out with the druggist, the toy maker and the barn but i stopped taking pictures here. do we really need to see 50 pictures of our day at the ohio village? no. we don’t. although a few years from now I may be lamenting the fact that i didn’t take more pix of that hot, beautiful day. { i think not though. }

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ending on an advertisement for ridding your body of tapeworm seemed like a good idea. so there you go.

also, i’m going to bet that the kickapoo indians never saw a dime of money from this enterprise.

so that’s the end of a fine day of unschooling. the ohio historical center gets a top-notch rating from me for offering us an extremely interactive experience on our first visit.

thanks for checking in on our unschooling today!