Category Archives: Unschooling

Day 167: King the Crow


“King the Crow

On the roof like his throne
Flying off like getting up and out
of his throne
walking about like in his royal garden
going going like being escorted
King king
Oh what a king.

By [Jellyfish] Made in April 3. [Jellyfish] made this poem when she was 7″

This is a pretty good representation of where Jellyfish is in regards to writing independently, more than half way through first grade. Her (conventional) spelling is getting better in leaps and bounds. A year ago she could spell exactly two words: ‘on’ and ‘off.’  I should note here for those interested in unschooling that she has had no formal spelling instruction. Everything we have done with her has been informal, and oral. Think: hanging out in the kitchen while I wash dishes talking about how to spell stuff. And she has a poster of 100 words for first grade that she likes to look at. Informal though our instruction may be, you can see that she has in her spelling ‘toolbox’ a lot of the letter combinations used in English even if she frequently misapplies them. But I am most proud of her for her more recent willingness to go out on a limb with ‘special’ spelling–sounding things out and writing what she hears.  She was really reluctant to do that for a while, asking us to spell everything for her, which was tiresome, and limited her creativity. We don’t give her any writing ‘assignments,’ but writing is something she does voluntarily on a daily basis, and often as a part of creative play. My expectation is that her knowledge of conventional spellings will increase as we continue to talk about spelling strategies and how to spell individual words, and as she gets lots (and lots and lots) of practice putting her lovely, nutty, clever thoughts on paper.


I’ve decided to revive this blog. I quit abruptly not even half way through a post-a-day-for-a-year project (two years ago tomorrow, as it so happens!) mostly because a post-a-day project is really a terrible idea. It was exhausting! Also because my kid was having a hard time, and I didn’t want to write about that. It felt invasive. So now I’m going to start writing again in the haphazard fashion that much better suits my person and habits. Especially because in a couple of months we are dialing back significantly on our commitments and we’ll be able to behave a little bit more like the unschoolers I claim that we are, which I am looking forward to. I will still post days of unschooling, but they will not be even close to consecutive, and I’ll keep doing that until I get to 365 of them. I’m super slow. That’s how you end up having babies when you’re 40. This right here. I might also start some additional categories of posts. Branch out a little. But anyway: HELLO! Oh, and: I don’t like the names ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’ anymore. That actually seems creepy to me now. So, hell, I don’t know, let’s go with: Octopus and Jellyfish? That matches their initials, anyway. Will that work?

Day 166: Ballet pictures

Today is a Saturday at the end of March, and it was cold and raw, and we had to go to ballet school for a photo shoot. Pictures to update the website and brochures, presumably. I struggled to make a ‘professional’ ballet bun for Girl (how can I be so bad at it??) and get their dance clothes smooth looking (‘refresh’ cycle on dryer useless, could not find iron for quite some time, found at last minute, burned finger), and then left them there for two hours, hoping that they did not make otherwise good photos unusable with the dour/weird/anxious/extreme faces they tend to make for photos these days. Both Boy and Girl are attractive and likable children, so no one would suspect a priori what weirdness will unfold when one points a camera in their direction. Girl takes lovely smiley pictures just so long as one does not tell her to smile. If one does…I cannot really do her picture smile justice, but it is the kind of face that will make a photographer say something along the lines of: “Oh. Okay. Wow…can you…how about let’s relax a little bit?”  The photo shoot was invite only, and, when I came to get them and got to witness a final group shot taken on the sweeping curved staircase in the lobby, I wondered idly to myself if we would get invited back next year.

After that, though, we got to go to a birthday party, and that was great.

Day 165: Books, more books, rain

Friday morning the kids had their semi-annual dentist checkup and cleaning (all good). It was a very cold and rainy day, and I had errands, so I left the kids at home with their (sick) Papa, and went to our local kids’ store for birthday presents and Easter stuff, to the grocery store, to the library. When I got home Papa told me the kids had been really good, playing make-believe almost the whole time I was gone. I showed the kids the snacks I’d gotten them from the store (coconut date rolls, dried prunes, snap pea crisps), took care of Papa, then made them some dinner. Then bed time. Today Boy read all the books about WWI and II he’d gotten from the library, plus most of a Magic Tree House book and a book about the Bahamas. He’s been reading books to beat the band, two or three a day.

Day 164: Early spring garden

This morning Papa made french toast from baguette, and then everyone got dressed and went outside to play, and the kids rode their bikes around the back yard. Girl put shin guards over her leggings, wore her bike helmet and some mittens, for extra exciting action appeal. Papa and Boy also shot some hoops.

Then we went out front to look at the garden the kids started in the fall–the early spring bulbs they planted are coming up.

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After that it was time for my dentist appointment, but I brought Boy with me so he could read in the waiting room while I got my teeth cleaned. He likes doing that. And I didn’t want to leave Papa with both kids, because they’d been kind of fighting, and Papa isn’t feeling very well.

When we got home we had lunch, and then Papa took the kids to our brand new very fancy main library. They explored the building, chose books, and played video games. Girl got to be Hulk as an avatar, and I don’t know what the goal of the game was supposed to be, but she told me with bright eyes that she smashed everything. Boy wanted a book about WWI, so he approached a children’s librarian with a very respectful, “Excuse me, ma’am…” and she helped him choose three books. Papa said they were talking for a while. While Boy read, Girl played in the play area, setting up her own store.

When they got home, after dinner, Papa spotted a hawk in the live oak out front. Boy could also see it, and described it to Girl, both plastered against the glass in the big front window, but Girl never could spot it. She even missed it as it flew away, prompting her to start weeping in fine Girl fashion.

Boy drew a picture of the hawk for her, flying away as the sun set in the west, and coloring the sky a beautiful orange-pink, per her request. It made her feel better.


Day 163: Olives

Today Boy had violin and ballet, and Girl could stay home with Papa.

In between those things we went to Boy’s second counseling appointment, and to the library to pick up books about Cuba, Jamaica, and The Bahamas (for Geography Club).

Before we went into the counselor’s office, we had about 15 minutes to spare. I knew Boy was hungry, and we were right by a very nice market. We went in and picked out some fancy snacks (something we don’t get very often). We picked out a box of cookies from their bakery, then went to the olive bar for me. Boy asked if he could try some olives, so we looked for a couple of kinds without pits. He picked out some big green olives stuffed with feta cheese to try. Then we got dehydrated veggie chips, and a honey bear filled with blue M&M type candies from the wall of old-fashioned candies. Then we walked across the street with our bag, and boy ate his olive outside before we went in.

Boy and I both talked to the counselor for a bit, then I went back out into the waiting room so they could have time alone. It’s hard for them to get to know each other when I’m in the room, since I tend to do most of the talking. When we left, I asked him how it was and he said fine, that he liked the counselor. He told me that she asked him why he thought his mom was taking him to see her. He told me that he answered: “Because she doesn’t want me to be unhappy and not be able to do things that should be fun.” I’m glad that’s how he feels about it, and not that we think he’s been ‘bad.’

Day 162: Fragile Glass the Boxtroll

Girl has been dressing as a box troll and going about her business for a couple of days now. Maybe you’ve seen the movie? These trolls wear boxes that are their only clothes, their shelter, their bed. They are named by what is written on their box. Girl’s says Fragile, and she asked me to write ‘Glass’ underneath. Hence: Fragile Glass the Boxtroll. Today she asked to wear her box to co-op, and how could I say no? Oh, another detail: boxtrolls are terrified and humiliated to leave their boxes. So every time Girl took her box off today, she also huddled down and yelled, “Ahhhh! I’m naked!”

She stayed in character most of the day. Since today was class picture day for Play and Learn, Fragile Glass will be featured in the yearbook.

What did people think when they saw us walking to the church in the morning, my little girl wearing a box? It’s hard to say. But Fragile studied the letter R today, painted a rocket ship, practiced counting down from 10 (in order to launch a rocket), and studied the water cycle.

Boy made an Abraham Lincoln hat, acted out the fable The Crow and the Pitcher, “ran” a mummy race (in which all participants were wrapped in toilet paper), and carefully dissected an owl pellet, brushing off innumerable rodent bones, including perfect little jawbones lined with tiny teeth, perfect little skull domes, perfect little claws. And as always, he ran and played with his friends.

Tonight Boy and I made a worry doll for Boy. Here he is, posed heroically at Boy’s request.

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Boy asked for privacy in his room before bed to tell this guy his worries, then put him under his pillow.

Day 161: Costa Rica/Panama

Geography Club was today. We studied Costa Rica and Panama.


We looked at various maps, talked about the Panama Canal, read a story about cloud forest animals, listened to the sounds of howler monkeys and three-wattled bellbirds, tried a Costa Rican folkdance that involved twirling a scarf (harder than you’d think for little kids).  The kids took books and marked pages with pictures of animals or other things of interest to them, and then took turns showing everyone. We call this ‘research’ time. We looked at pictures of Costa Rican carretas (painted oxcarts) and decorated paper versions of them.

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We brought our old canal water table, that has ‘locks’ and a pump, to let everyone try moving a toy ship through the locks. (That was a pretty big hit, of course.)

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I brought a ball of masa dough and made tortillas, and let the younger kids try to shape their own.

Then we went home for a bit before Papa took the kids to ballet. Girl started learning the routine for the end of the year recital today, and you can tell she is proud, nervous, excited.

Day 160: Box Aquarium

Last night while I was at a meeting, Boy and Girl started working on a box aquarium, and they started this morning as soon as they’d gotten a quick bite to eat. They worked on the box aquarium on and off throughout the day. I have to say their teamwork was exceptional.

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Girl was feeling completely better, and made a drawing about that.

Girl drew this to celebrate her recovery, and as a PSA of sorts.
Girl drew this to celebrate her recovery, and as a PSA of sorts. “Things to do when you’re sick.”

Next, Girl found a box that said FRAGILE on the front of it and said she wanted to be a box troll. (Whose name, by the law of box trolls, would then be ‘Fragile.’) I cut out arm holes for her, and she put on her box and went out back to play with her brother, dad, and dog. I went out back to play with them a little, too.

Fragile swinging.
Fragile swinging.
Fragile playing basketball with Boy and Papa.
Fragile playing basketball with Boy and Papa.
Fragile hiding in her box.
Fragile hiding in her box.

When we came back in Papa made the kids some lunch while I got ready for my meeting with Miss P down the street, to make a plan for tomorrow’s Geography Club meeting (Tomorrow: Costa Rica and Panama). Before I left, I also made a worry doll, since I hadn’t gotten to finish the one I started during last week’s Geography Club meeting (wherein we studied Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua). All three age groups made worry dolls for a craft, but we all used a different method. I liked the way the oldest kids had done it, and tried that myself. Here she is.


I’m hoping to do more with the kids. In fact, while I was gone, Girl made one of her own, and made her a little bed and a blanket. (Pictures to follow tomorrow; there’s not enough light now.)

When I got home, Papa made dinner so I could finish getting ready for our Costa Rica and Panama activities. I needed to find all of the pieces of our water table necessary to set up a lock and canal system (to illustrate the Panama Canal).

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I put it together, cleaned it, and made sure that everything still worked. Then I let the kids play with it while I cut out pieces for paper ox-carts, so the kids can make a Costa Rican carretas craft tomorrow. We didn’t really get a chance to practice our Costa Rican dance (featuring some fancy scarf twirling) and I didn’t get fish for ceviche. So we will wing the one, postpone the other (Colombians also love ceviche!), and I did manage to find video of howler monkeys and wattled bellbirds, two animals we’d been wondering about last week. I’ll be cooking corn tortillas for lunch tomorrow.

Days 151-159: Catch up

Apologies for my unplanned blog stoppage! Life got a little crazy, and even on nights when I could have written, I was just too tired to do it. On several occasions I basically went to bed with the kids.

Let’s see. The particulars:

Last Friday we read books about the Garifuna for Geography Club on Monday. Papa had a going-away party for work, and I was so tired from staying up very late a couple of nights that I fell asleep with the kids.

The next morning, Saturday, we packed some things and headed up to a timeshare condo an hour away that my parents were renting for a week. (Because of our other obligations, Papa’s work, and the dog, we couldn’t spend every night there, and one of us always needed to sleep at home. So for the rest of the week, we shuttled back and forth.) Once we got there, Papa went to go pick up Uncle B from the airport, and then he had to head back home for a second going-away party. (This was Papa’s last week of work at the hospital. At the beginning of April he’ll be going away for four months for additional school and training, and then begin working at the brig nearby for the next three years. Papa is sad to leave his friends at this job, and they are sad to see him go.)

The kids and I spent Saturday evening with Uncle Ben and Grammy and Grampy, and slept at the condo. Papa came up the next morning, and then after an outing we all drove home Sunday evening. I got us ready for Geography Club the next morning.

Monday: Geography Club, library, ballet. Early to bed. Tuesday: co-op, then drove back up to the condo. Papa stayed home. Wednesday, Papa drove up to the condo, and I drove back home with Boy, leaving Girl with Papa. Boy and I went to violin, the library, and ballet. Afterwards I took him out to eat at a fancy Bolivian restaurant to try tamales. He absolutely loved them. When we got home, we went on a night walk. Then we cuddled up and went to bed at the same time.

Meanwhile, Girl had a fabulous day of adventure with her Dad, her beloved uncle, and her grandparents. They played mini-golf. They took her out to eat. Then for the first time in her life, she spent the night without me. She called me a couple of times, and woke up during the night a couple of times, but she did great.

The next morning, now Thursday, I drove back up with Boy so we could visit with Grammy and Grampy before saying goodbye. Uncle B flew home that morning. We visited, ate, said goodbye, drove home. That night I went to bed with the kids, but Girl got sick, we thought maybe from a bad hotdog.

Friday I made appointments for the next couple of weeks (trying to take advantage of Papa’s leave), cleaned, tried to regroup a little. Girl got a fever. She slept for most of the day.

Friday night in bed, Girl started to complain of tummy pain. By early early Saturday morning, it was severe enough that Papa drove her to the ER to make sure it wasn’t appendicitis. It wasn’t. Probably just stomach cramps on her right side. Papa brought her home with some anti-nausea medication. She was very upset with us because she couldn’t go to a birthday party that was going to be a lot of fun, for one of her best friends. She was also very upset with us because we made french toast and wouldn’t give her any. Then she was mad because we wouldn’t let her play outside. Eventually she just gave up on us completely and went to sleep.

She slept for several hours.

In the late afternoon I needed to go to a meeting with the other directors of our co-op, and that lasted several hours. When I got home, I got the kids in bed, and then spent the rest of the evening going through the many small items on my to-do list for the co-op, fearing that if I delayed, I would forget to do something.

And that, my friends, brings us to Sunday. Which gets its own post. It’s nice to be back!