Saturday, September 22, 2012

mixin' it up

It's been well over a year since we moved to our country home, and not one of us can imagine living in the city again.  Our family really and truly thrives out here, where we can pick laundry baskets full of basil from the garden and the chickens on our land outnumber the neighbors for miles in any direction.  We keep cozy in our solar-heated house and the girls have plenty of indoor and outdoor activities to keep them busy and engaged.

* photo by Sylvia
But it's not all eco-hippie peacefulness out here.  

Sylvia's "new favorite singer" is Blondie (thanks to Pandora Internet Radio) closely followed by Cyndi Lauper.  This so suits her personality :)  

Camille enjoys and learns a lot from computer games, when she's not hanging out in character as an Appalachian school girl for her upcoming play.

Ayla is still at that age where digging in the sand, building block towers, and singing can keep her engaged all day long.

These girls have such strong, quirky, playful, independent personalities and it's my pleasure to watch them (and help them) expand and develop new interests together and apart from each other (even when they are not at all my own interests).
When the girls aren't busy climbing, digging, skating, scootering, singing, dancing, playing games, reading, acting, creating, crafting, experimenting, jumping, or rockin' out, they like to snuggle up and watch Netflix (everything from Jem and the Holograms to nature documentaries) and I feel like we have a thriving unschooling nest.

 But here's the thing, I believe that for unschooling to fully thrive for us, there should be access to a rich variety of people, ideas, sights, scents, sounds, activities, and opportunities.  While there are a few local activities and friends available out here (especially community theater lately), it is not enough all on its own (for the girls or me).  There's a thriving small town community about 45 miles away that has a homeschool coop we are occasionally involved with, and a small liberal city almost 90 miles away the other direction where many of our friends and cultural activities exist.  This is the trade off.  If we still lived in the city, we would be driving out to the country occasionally to immerse ourselves in nature.  Now we drive into the city to get regular chances to do the things we enjoy there, and to mix it up.  I don't want myself or the girls to feel isolated out here.

With Papa driving into the city once or twice a week for work, it's easy for us to ride in together, and the 175 mile roundtrip doesn't seem frivolous that way.  However, when we choose to do this, it's eight hours in the city with an hour-an-a-half drive tacked onto each end.  How does this work out logistically?  It means that I load the car with food, drinks, toys, changes of clothing, music, etc.  And I try to stay tuned into the girls' moods, not just on an agenda.
My girls don't often enjoy very structured, large group activities, so that leaves out a lot of homeschool field trips, unless they are especially appealing because of specific interests or certain favorite friends that will be there.
I've learned not to make multiple set-in-stone plans for the same day, but more of a flexible lets-see-if-we-can-make-it-work kind of plan.  Yesterday we drove in, stopped at the bank, browsed and played at a large bookstore for quite a while (it was raining), went to a fabric/craft store (each girl picked out a $1 item and I got fabric to make Camille an old-fashioned nightgown for her play), and had a picnic in the car since it was still raining (tortilla chips, hardboiled eggs, kale chips, sliced tomatoes, avocadoes, string cheese, apples, chocolate-covered ginger, and candy corn).
We tried out a homeschool open gym, but it was crowded, noisy, and the friend that my girls wanted to see was at home sick.  So, we left after five minutes.  In the past, I might have wanted to stay and chat with the homescool moms and encouraged my girls to play, or been embarrassed to walk in and out of a situation so quickly, BUT  I don't have complacent, just-do-what-mom-tells-you kind of kids.  They were not born with those personalities, and I have tried not to expect more from them than they are capable of, or we all lose in that type of situation.

So, quickly out the door with goodbyes and on to the natural foods store.  We picked up a few specialty items, and what-do-you-know it finally stopped raining.  

"Do you want to go to the zoo?"
We had the place mostly to ourselves (I love it when that happens).  The otters put on a lovely show of back flips and water antics, the discovery center held their attention for a long while, and the giant tortoises got sung to, with silly made-up-just-for-them songs.

This alligator snapping turtle was deemed cute and seemed just as interested in the girls as they were in it.

The girls skipped along, sometimes camping out at one animal for a long while, sometimes racing ahead.
Even the playground area was quiet now that the school-aged children are mostly in their schools.

Sylvia and Ayla could be heard singing, "I like to move it, move it" to the meerkats.  Though the meerkats didn't oblige them by dancing around shaking their backsides.

We sat in the primate house for so long, watching the orangutans and having an ongoing commentary on their actions, that Ayla fell peacefully asleep in my lap.
It was time to go back to the car.  Ayla napped, I knitted and listened to public radio.
Camille and Sylvia spent about 20 minutes playing at a park, and then we left to pick up Papa.  All three girls napped at various times during the drive home.
This type of day is neither typical nor atypical for us.  Some days into town have a lot more friend interactions, some with less errands, or more, but I have learned to follow the flow of energy as it rises and wanes.  Taking restless, energetic girls into a library is as bad of an idea as taking low energy, irritable girls to an indoor play area.  I'm learning and we're mixin' it up.  I think I even heard "best day ever" somewhere in there, though that's often enough said in our house, a very good sign I think, and a fine way to officially say goodbye to summer and hello to autumn here on our little speck of the northern hemisphere.


  1. OMG! How did you get Jem and the Holograms???
    I totally used to watch that.

    Love the kangaroo pic!

  2. we happen to love that very same alligator snapper...!

  3. Gabriela, Jem and the Holograms is on Netflix streaming. It definitely brings me back too!

    S.P., I find that ali. snapper intriguing, but I had a harder time seeing it as *cute* like my girls did ;)


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