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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Prince of Wales

Our recent mini-vacation to the remote Alaskan wilderness on Prince of Wales Island taught us a few things.





 12 Mile Cabin, Prince of Wales

1) We are ready to travel full time.

     We've been planning/talking/dreaming about travel for SOOOOOO long now, that it sometimes seems like it will never happen.  This was our first taste that it really is going to happen...and we liked the first bite.  And we learned this amazingly dumb piece of advice...you will never be ready...therefore you are totally ready.  Right?  You can't plan for everything, so you just become adept at adapting.



This trip was nothing if not an exercise in learning to adapt.  When we pulled up to the parking area for the Sweetwater Creek cabin, and then walked down the dark path to the row boat and the arrow pointing across the lake to no where...well, we knew it was time to adapt.  And we did, we were able to crash at a friends cabin for the night where we woke up to thousands (literally) of sand dollars on the beach. Generally we found the fun was in the surprises...not in the plans that went exactly according to the schedule.  (plus it makes for better stories!)

2) We love simple things so much!!

    While we were on vacation we had no power, so the only things we packed were things that don't require power.  We brought the bow and arrows (which rarely get use) and a BB gun (which was brand new to us), card games, books...and that's about it.  In the end the favorite activities of all were; archery, target practice, wood cutting, beach combing and reading.



Since we arrived back home we've been trying to keep with the simple things; we've read through two more family novels since we returned (The Lost Children and Spirit's Key...we love a good spooky adventure) and with spring in full swing here (finally) and summer around the corner, we have walked (instead of driven) or hiked, or beach-combed nearly every day since we returned.



3) We like each other.

     Granted, we already live in rather cramped quarters.  250 square ft for 4 people and a large dog...most modern Americans cringe at the thought.  (I have actually had people cringe when I tell them) Then they say something like...man, I would hate to be so close to my kids...I could never do it.



Well, that's not the case with us, I LOVE being with my family. I loved being on the ferry, I loved being stuck in the car, I loved the cramped chilly cabins (at least until the woodstove got crankin')...I love being stuck with kids stinky feet and sweet morning breath. I loved roasting marshmallows crammed around the woodstove because it was raining outside. Stinky feet and marshmallows...it's what good family memories are made of.  (Plus 700 pound bears running away from your very remote Alaskan cabin...Polk Inlet...beautiful but very remote.)




Prince of Wales island is a beautiful place to learn some of these life altering (though pretty obvious lessons).  Sometimes it takes a really dramatic change of scenery to teach us some of the most basic things.


Thanks goodness we're open to learning them!

The view looking out at Clarence Strait

Friday, April 10, 2015

Learning to unschool...and mostly failing, but with hope

Technically speaking, it's not possible to fail at unschooling.  And maybe as a student, that's true.  But as a teacher...you can totally fail!  Fail to inspire, fail to encourage...fail fail fail.

As a homeschooling mom, I can tell you that homeschooling parents fail ALL THE TIME.  You know how I know?  Because I am one, and I talk to many others. and we are VERY honest about the progress of our homeschooling.  There are good days, and bad days, incredible days and horrible days...but for me, the unschooling days were just kind of aimless.

This is not a judgement on unschooling, because the idea that kids should learn because they want to, and not because you made them makes  a lot of sense to me.  And more so, thinking about my K-12 public school upbringing, followed by college...I can honestly say that nearly the only things I retained were things that interested me.  That in itself is sort of the point of the whole thing, if you are passionate about it, you will learn it because you want to...and you will love what you learned for a lifetime.

But I have struggled with how to inspire, without overwhelming.  Encourage without forcing.  Basically, how do you make them do something, without being so obvious?  (To be fair, you aren't supposed to HAVE to get your kids to do stuff...they're supposed to do it on their own...but that didn't seem to be happening)

Just when I thought it was useless,  something happened...two things actually...

1) I brought home a bunch of poetry books, thinking I'd have a poetry night.  I'd somehow get everyone captivated...and it would be wonderful.  (Man when I read it like that, I can see that it's naive and slightly annoying.)  But here's the shocker...after a very long week we decided to stay home and so nothing on Friday.  Laurel was crocheting, Luke was knitting and I had just finished reading a book....I decided to pull out the poetry books and start reading out loud while they were working on their projects.  First I read the illustrated Cremation of Sam McGee, which as far as kids go, is a great way to start off with poetry.  This one sparked a lot of conversation.  We then moved onto a book about Emily Dickinson; first I read the biographical part, then went on to read about a dozen of her poems. Then we moved onto Robert Frost and read about 6 of his.  Then I moved to some more modern poetry with My Dog is a Carrot, by John Hegley.  This was a great ending to our poetry introduction because it got us in a silly mood...so then I started our own little poetry slam.  Basically we went in a round and each came up with an impromptu poem.  Some were legit (and hilarious)...some were basically the rhyming of poo and doo with a a few more nonsense words (courtesy of my 7 year old son).  But for the most part, it was exactly what it should have been...an introduction to poetry, fun, interactive and educational.  I couldn't believe it worked!  I actively inspired some unschooling fun.

2) I started taking guitar lessons about 6 weeks ago, and the more I practice, the more the kids have gotten into it.  They are curious about the tuning of the guitar, they love to listen to me practice and they often sing along.  It's already inspired Luke (the rhymer of poo & doo) to pull out his old guitar and start strumming.  He's even asked to start taking lessons too.  Plus, I was having trouble with a song, so we looked it up on YouTube and watched it together, memorized (by singing) the song together, then while I played it...we all sang it.

This unschooling thing might yet have it's virtues....

Chili Cook off Winner 2015 for her Morrocan Pumpkin Chili

 Luke and Laurel building the loft bed

Luke's posterboard knight armor

Target practice at Polk Inlet Cabin

 Paper mache ducks for the art contest at the Discovery Center

 Survival skills practice (starting a fire with a flint)


Laurel and Luke's Chicken (before and after)

Collected sand dollars on Prince of Wales

Laurel's recycled bike project

Luke's homemade Apollo Rocket

Laurel and Luke's zombie meatloaf

Laurel's paper flowers

Laurel's felted bunny

Monday, March 23, 2015

Trying New Things and Learning to Say Yes (even more!)



I like living small.

I like living simply.

I feel like for the first time ever I have the time (and the guts) to do whatever I want.  I feel like it has taught me to say yes.  Yes to the kids when they want to take on a project that will make a mess.  Yes when they want to explore something new.  Yes to myself when there is something I have wanted to do for years, but put off because I didn't make myself a priority too.

You see, I didn't say no because I didn't have enough time.  I said no because I was tired., or more likely because I was overwhelmed with all the things I should be doing (but probably wasn't).  I said no because I was busy doing things that distracted me from doing the things I was overwhelmed with, which if I had done them I might have felt free to say yes.  But it never worked that way.  Why clean the whole house if I could I binge watch some show on Netflix instead?  And how could I say yes to my kids' project ideas when I was overwhelmed with having to clean the whole house?  Quite the ugly cycle.

I can't say I never binge watch anything anymore.  And I can't say that I always say yes to my kids.  But I can say that I almost always do say yes now.  I can tell you that my house is simply too small to ever be overwhelming.  This is what I've said yes to this week (that would have been a "no" 2 years ago)...

1) California Rolls.  We love them...and they are a fairly expensive treat for us, therefore, we don't have them often. This year my in-laws bought me sushi making stuff for my birthday...but after months of non-use, the kids finally pressured me to try it out.  First I started sweating...then I started thinking of reasons why we couldn't...then I started thinking about all the work there was to do...then I decided to watch something on Netflix to help ease my anxiety.  WAIT---nope---that was the old me.  The new me said---sure. Within the hour both kids were able to do it on their own (and better than me).







2) Vietnamese Spring Rolls.  This is another favorite treat of ours that we almost never ever get. We've said for years that we should just learn to make them.  (and I've pinned them at least 3 times!) But they seemed so darn intimidating! Of course, the sushi rolls seemed intimidating too...and they turned out great! So on the very next day after the california roll success, we jumped in.  And they were WONDERFUL!  Literally one of the best things we've ever eaten.  And SO SO SO easy to make. And this time, it didn't take an hour.  The kids took over the whole she-bang and churned out more than a dozen of these delicious raw treats. (with our short-cut peanut sauce on top...mmmm)










How-to Instructions for Spring Rolls
Recipe for Instant Peanut Sauce- 1 cup of any asian dressing (sesame ginger, etc) and 1Tbs of peanut butter (I use all natual Adams) use more or less PB to taste, and then I add chopped up peanuts too. It's delicious!

3) Guitar.  This one is all about me.  I signed up for guitar, figured out how to pay for it within our budget...and now I can say...I can play guitar.  Er, well...I can play a G chord.  Um...I'm not evern sure that's how you say that.  But I can play it nonetheless.  Today while my kids made the spring rolls, I practiced my G chord over and over again. I am so glad I learned to say yes to me too...even though my fingers are sore.




Thursday, February 19, 2015

Valentine's Pop-up Cards Revisited



We don't do gifts for Valentine's.  No flowers or jewelry, or anything like that.  But we do DO homemade Valentine's cards.  Yeah...they're kind of a big deal.  So we try to come up with new ideas, which is why we tried pop-up cards to begin with.  But,the first time we tried pop-ups, they didn't turn out the way I thought they would.  Nothing really "popped" out, and it was kind of disappointing.  I checked out a book at the library to help...but it was just too complicated.

This was my attempt 2 years ago, see?

Fast forward to this year. We were ready to try again, so THIS time I used the ultimate learning tool...YouTube.  I truly don't know why people waste their time on YouTube watching stupid videos when there is SO MUCH TO LEARN!!  


Notice the wine coolers?  To make the homemade 
Valentine making more fun for my husband 
I created the first annual Valentine's 
Wine Cooler and Valentine Making Party.

Do you know how simple it is to make a pop up?

This simple.












I finished the cards just as I finished my wine cooler...perfect.
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