Thursday, January 29, 2015

moments from our days ~ and a gummi bear wave machine


  pattern blocks
 getting out for a bit

 more painting

 this time with our Girl Scout troop

 crafting at the library
waiting for Paddington to start
windowsill blooms
skewering gummi bears for science
the set-up
We ended up with over 13 feet of duct tape and 96 skewers evenly spaced down the length of it, and then we put our gummi bear wave machine into motion. (We got the idea from the good folks over at Plot 55. Video instructions here.)
 We had fun trying different ways to vary the wave length and speed.

 Even though it ran through the middle of our main room, we left it up all day and kept coming back to it.

Here's a quick video we made and a Bill Nye episode about waves if you're interested.

Another fine few days in this unschooling life!

* You may have noticed that Camille is wearing headphones in most of these pictures. Camille is extremely sensitive to some types of sensory input, and she has found that wearing noise-reducing headphones helps her not get overwhelmed in many situations, including being around her exuberantly loud sisters. She even decorated them with paint and paint markers. I love it when we find a coping strategy that makes such a huge difference. 

simple scavenger hunt for musica mitts

Recently, Camille was wishing that she had an older sister to do things like set up scavenger hunts just for her. So, Sylvia and I conspired to make Camille her own scavenger hunt. We started with a Harry Potter theme and ended with a newly finished knit gift.

Her first clue was: Harry Potter's home at the Dursley's. She headed straight for the little room used for storage under the stairs. There she found a scrap of paper with this clue: where one might keep medicinal potions. Camille checked the basket with essential oils and the cupboard with herbs and vitamins and then found her next clue in the medicine cabinet in the second bathroom: where Hagrid's pet, Fang might sleep. Camille headed straight for Carly's dog bed and found just this: Nimbus 2000. Surprisingly difficult to find, tucked into one of our broom handles was the final clue: how one might keep Fluffy happy. This one was a little trickier and involved research as Camille couldn't remember. Hmmm. The three-headed dog is only soothed by music. Straight to the basket filled with instruments to find her new 'musica' fingerless mitts all ready for playing saxophone.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

In sickness and in health

This seems to be the winter of sickness for us. Most of us in the family had the flu for weeks in December, followed by both a nasty head cold and a nastier stomach bug this month. I have been holding back hair and rubbing sore backs. I have washed bedclothes and snuggled and reassured shivering and/or feverish little bodies, and sometimes noticed that they are not so little these days. Usually, one or two are sick and one or two are wanting attention and projects and food. We have watched a lot of Mythbusters and Zoo Diaries and Mysteries at the Museum in bed, listened to audio books and browsed heirloom seed catalogs extensively. We've sipped at homemade broth and herbal tea, used homeopathics, essential oils, and salves, and in between had bright days where we thought everyone had made it back to a healthy state.

When someone has been feeling well enough to be bored, we've busted out craft kits and projects and paints and games and short strolls on the property. I have snuck in some knitting and yoga here and there. I am exhausted. And yet, not to sound too Pollyanna-ish, but I am still so grateful for this chosen life of ours, where I can hold my child all night if she needs it and not worry about missing homework. We can pop out to look at snowflakes under a magnifying glass or a handheld microscope when the weather conditions are just so that they create complex, fluffy beauty (high humidity, just below freezing). We can inquire about anything that matters to us in the moment, from manuka honey to the science of earthquakes and architectural stability to social justice issues to giraffe births. We can soak up information without leaving the house, or indeed the bed if need be, or venture out for an impromptu adventure if we are up for it.

  up close with snowflakes

 making studded and braided leather bracelets

some of Ayla's beaded jewelry

  decorating a new orange stuffy 
(She loves all things orange.)

 browsing heirloom seed catalogs
(She gets nearly as excited about this as I do.)

sister snuggles

 bounty from the coop, including our very first goose egg

There's been a lot of talk of possibly getting a pet mousie around here.
And then there was a people-size mouse cage built with tunnels and hiding spots.
Meet Melody, Lavinia, and Elya Mousie.

When we have a lull in activity and inquiry, we can relax and watch shows like some of the "non-educational" favorites around here lately, Johnny TestOctonauts or Gilmore Girls to pass the time or play games on the computer, though I see learning happening all the time there too. One time, Camille wrote down all of the places and cultural references thrown out in dialogue on an episode of the Gilmore Girls, you know, just for fun. Then we looked each one up. I just found the list from season 2, episode 2, The Ins and Outs of Inns. Here it is:

Akron, OH; Billy Idol; Van Gogh; Jefferson's Monticello; child labor laws; "Chickie run down at the salt flats"; Paul Revere; California Gold Country; Keith Richards, circa 1969; Santa Barbara; John Birch Society; Star Trek; "violation of the prime directive"; "Beam me up, Scottie"; Siegfried and Roy; screenplay to Glitter; Sulu; tar and feathers; To Kill a Mockingbird; pariah; Holden Caulfield; Boise; Rembrandt; and chuppah

Besides watching James Dean be a badass on Youtube, looking for a picture of Billy Idol's scowling face, and browsing Google Maps, we ended up on websites to learn about Van Gogh, child labor laws, tarring and feathering, Monticello, and chuppahs, many of which led to more interests and connections. So, sick and tired or not, learning happens. Life happens. Love happens. When it was my turn to be laid up in bed, the girls took good care of each other and of me. It comes back around.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

January ~ unschooling snippets

We're over halfway through January and we have been in pretty serious hibernation mode around here. We took turns being sick at the beginning of the month and then when we were (mostly) better, the temperatures were dangerously cold outside. Yet, somehow we're surviving, and dare I say, even thriving, in this unschooling nest of ours.
 Clean Water Science: filtering oily, dirty water through gravel, sand, activated charcoal, and a paper filter 

archeress, on a warm-ish day

castle-building project

Camille picked out a wooden chess set with a gift certificate that she got from her Great Grandma for Christmas.

 a new microscope for Christmas

a roll-out keyboard

excavating gemstones

adding to their winter castle


Sylvia loves to chop veggies and received her very own paring knife for Christmas. She was very excited to put it to good use.

a little red fox (knit from the Failynn Fox cowl pattern)

one of Ayla's elaborate everyday toy set-ups 
(barn animals, wooden blocks, plastic tools, glass pebbles, tile spacers, and a Barbie dining set)

 origami flapping bird

suction cup arrows

watching Wild Kratts

One evening, we cleared the wool rug out of the living room for some rollerskating, scootering, and skate boarding to burn off energy.

sister snuggles while watching a Monster High movie on Netflix

sewing socks into a sock monkey

more time at the easel for me
work in progress

We utilize our local libraries very heavily. This is just Camille's stack, not counting two of her book club books, all of her audio books, and a small pile of Muse magazines. (pictured ~ Mysterious Messages: A History of Codes and Ciphers; Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul II; Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War; Summer of the Wolves; Maybe One Day; Amendment XIX: Granting Women the Right to Vote; Beautiful Creatures; Clockwork Prince; Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship that Changed the World; Catherine, Called Birdy; American Privacy: the 400-Year History of our Most Contested Right; Legal Rights; Extraordinary Hispanic Americans; Children in Crisis: Living as a Refugee in America; Writing Skills: Success in 20 Minutes a Day) 

I helped Sylvia's Girl Scout Brownie troop work towards their painting badge. They created abstract work independently and collectively (inspired by Jackson Pollock).

500 piece underwater ocean puzzle

Clean Water Science: distilling clear water from green tea by evaporation and condensation

Camille's latest work in progress

Finally, one of the very best-est kind of winter days, just above freezing, clear, and crisp. A day for frolicking, and breathing deep, and being easily and immensely grateful for this fine life.

*photo by Sylvia