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 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, 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'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 can totally fail!  Fail to inspire, fail to 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 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 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
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