tidepooling and unschooling

wanted to stick this post somewhere, it was posted elsewhere originally so some of you have read it already, and i hope it is inspiring to those of you who haven’t seen it yet. 🙂

whatcha been up to?

this weekend i had so many moments where i thought “look at all we are learning just by living!” and i had to chronicle them someplace- one of those for the “why quinn is not in preschool” records, you know what i’m saying….. these always have the danger as coming across as brags- i’m really not trying to brag, though i don’t mind saying i think quinn is great, it’s just really a way for me to celebrate all he is learning and record it for my own memories (and in case i ever need it of course, it will be good to practice this i think.) plus i want to hear others brag/chronicle what you have been doing, and we can all share ideas and inspiration!

i had friday off work, so we did what we always do whenever we get half a chance- we went to the beach! seal rock is one of our favorite beaches, and we have lately been bringing along bags with us, so we can pick up all the trash that the ocean has been spitting out (part of my own unschooling curriculum right now is reading about el nino and other current systems and why and how the ocean times these events, and shifts in currents, and how garbage can swirl out in the ocean for years but then one day come to shore… part of our frenzy to pick it all up is that we know it will jsut get taken back out to sea again if we let it… now’s our chance!) here’s what we got in about an hour:

community service- check. while at seal rock, quinn always loves to find little pieces of wood, or sometimes net floats that have washed up, and use them as boats to float them in tidepools and down the stream and so on. he has the most amazing grasp of buoyancy- i was remembering the other day how nearly every public school third grader in america gets the “buoyancy unit in a box” where you float playdough boats in a tank and add pennies until they sink- whoever stays afloat longest “wins”. and i just feel happy knowing i’m not relying on that boxed curriculum for quinn’s understanding of the elements/physics/life/energy/matter/water/common sense… he knows that rocks sink, feathers float… wood mostly floats, but it depends. he knows that the shape of the chosen “boat” matters, the depth of the hull, the depth of the puddle… he watches how the wind affects how something floats- feathers go where the wind tells them, like a sail. he has an intuitive grasp of density, though i’m not feeding him that terminology at this point. he attaches ropes to his boats, to be able to keep track of them from the edge of the water. (he has been learning to tie knots.) he makes up stories about the boats, what they are doing, what the people are using them for, where they are traveling, what they hope to catch/do/see….

he has a movie called “paddle to the sea” where a boy carves a boat, paints it, and sets it free somewhere in the middle of canada in a stream, and it makes its way to the ocean- he has several paddle-to-the-sea boats that are somewhere, adrift. 🙂 (fwiw, i still don’t have a tv, the movies are all at dad’s house lol.)

we also have read some cool boat-related books like alexander and the magic boat (a boy takes his mom to the other side of the world in their magic imaginary boat in their living room- very cool book, the mom figure seems very “freestyle” lol.) we also just got a GREAT gift from my best friend, a book called mokie and bik- by wendy orr (i see there are already used copies for all of 87 cents… plus 5 bucks shipping of course). it is fantastic. the language reminds me of dr. seuss- whimsical and poetic and made-up words. the main characters are boy-and-girl twins who live on a boat, and have a lot of “twin language” (botormike= motorbike, etc. code words they’ve made up) and also quite a bit of nautical language thrown in, and they go “slippery slip dippering” around the deck, and have various day-in-the-life adventures such as “twin overboard!” and playing “cowboys and captains”. so totally radical unschooling material, this book. it has chapters, but quinn and i typically sit down and read it cover to cover in about a half hour, so not too daunting, and not at all daunting if you have a child who will allow you to put a book down at a chapter’s end (not quinn! lol). the illustrations are excellent, like the map of the interior of the boat on the inside of the cover.

brief aside: mokie and bik make me think i should look into finding an old boat to live on…. rent would go down quite a bit. it’s something i’ll be looking into, let’s just say…. oh, and i also have been wanting to share this cool unschoolish blog about a live-aboard-boat family: zach aboard.

back to our weekend of living…. after the beach, we felt not quite ready for nap, so we “stopped by” our community garden plot… ended up spending 2 hours weeding, shoveling, planting, watering…. it looked FANTASTIC when we left- we even scored some castoff chives out of the compost bin, and planted them in our plot- it actually looks like we’ve got something growing! haha. there are many things that WILL grow- potatoes, lots of herbs (cilantro, basil, dill, etc) lots of greens- some of which are heirloom lettuces we got from a seed-sharing program (and we hope to contribute seeds back to this year!) broccoli, kale, spinach, chard, peas, bunching onions…. we saved room for our baby tomato plants that we started in egg cartons at home (4 kinds! all cherries- including 2 heirlooms from the seed lending library- “pink pearly cherry” and “black cherry” tomatoes- can you even imagine how beautiful these will be?) we picked up fava bean seeds at the store last night to add too, apparently they grow SO well here, all year long- yay! quinn’s favorite thing to do is of course watering (pisces). digging with his little green quinn-sized shovel is a close second….

after nap, we headed to the beach again. this time ona beach, where there is a bridge to go across onto the beach, over beaver creek, which is a perfect location to play pooh-sticks, which we always do. (winnie the pooh fans will get the reference). we spent a couple more hours, poring over the exposed beds of rocks/fossils/shells/agates and found TONS of great fossils! i have a whole box of them at this point, and have been saving them up and eventually i will get a book about them to find out how old we are talking…. it is so cool because you can see them in every stage of fossilization- some have some shell left (snails, clams, etc.) and some have completely hardened and turned into rock. others have all of the shell worn away, and just the sediment left that looks like what you’d see if you filled up the shell with clay… the snails are my favorites- spiral fossils. 🙂 i love it because you hear about “the fossil record” all the time but i think people feel they can doubt that a fossil record exists, or doubt what it could/does mean, but when it’s right before your eyes……. harder to deny. (sorry- that’s my family-of-origin creation science upbringing issues talking…..)

saturday we woke up and – you guessed it- went to the beach. couldn’t resist, it was a super low tide, so we went to otter rock this time (all of these beaches are within 10 miles of home). and spent about 4 hours beachcombing and tidepooling. for quinn’s 3rd birthday, he got a fish tank from his dad, so they have quite an amazing mini-ecosystem going, with all local salt water flora and fauna that they catch and often release. (i say often because some of the things like the sea anemones- 5 species and counting- absolutely thrive in the tank, and haven’t been re-released thus far, but fish we tend to put back after a few days- thriving, but we know they are confined in there….) he now has baby eels:

quinn has a specialized pair of tongs he uses to feed bits of shrimp and mussel to the sea anemones- he has gotten to see them feed, regurgitate, and even reproduce (by splitting). it is like mr. rogers neighborhood lol- every morning as soon as he gets to his dad’s shop, he feeds his creatures in the tank. he has been learning all about different species of fish, nudibranchs, mollusks, crabs (hermit crabs are so cool!), anemones, feather dusters, etc. he also learns how they need to be kept at a certain temperature, be fed certain things/amounts, have light at certain times of day to function correctly, and be given fresh sea water regularly….

some stuff we don’t get to bring back- too big, etc., but quinn is such a regular at the tide pools, he still is really intimate with all the creatures, like this sunflower starfish:

at one point on saturday i turned around and he was holding this dead fish:

we talked about how it may have died (had a bird bite in its side) and whether we should leave it for the birds to eat, bring it home to feed it to anemones in the tank, etc. but he told me “i want to bring it home to the orange house so i can look at it some more” and so we decided on that- he almost put it in his pocket, but i found a stray cup to carry it home in. it’s now in the freezer awaiting our next science “lesson”… we plan to draw and paint pictures of it, and maybe even write a little bit about it (obviously dictated lol.) the latest issue of home education magazine had an article on nature journaling, ironically….

oh and there was also a mention of this great resource for evolution-related learning called charlie’s playhouse (charlie as in charles darwin). i want the evolutionary timeline floor mat!

on saturday evenings we have been going with jim up to some friends’ house in the country who host a music jam every saturday. they have a space in a barn that is all set up with a toasty wood stove, and lots of microphones and amps and chairs and music stands- and we typically have about 10 or 12 people, all of whom know and love quinn. he is usually the only kid there, and he has grown to really love these jam nights. one of the old hippie guys always sings “the mighty quinn” and we all join in, and quinn gets right in the microphone and sings along too. he brings his harmonica, his maracas, and “helps” jim and i play our guitars. we also get to go and play up in another part of the barn when he gets restless in the music room- there are basketball hoops, a skateboard ramp, etc. he uses his scooter, and latley someone has been leaving a skateboard there that he has been trying out- he’s very excited about this! lol. there is also a short trail leading to a pond, where we see lots of newts, and have seen one frog as well. then back for more music.

(i can’t believe how much stuff we packed in this weekend… i need another cup of coffee this morning! lol. but it’s totally worth being worn out, because it has all been so much fun!)

sunday morning quinn woke up slowly and we read mokie and bik while i drank coffee. then he and i drove to a friends’ house about an hour away, and went with them to a garden festival. quinn didn’t choose to participate in the kids seed planting activity at that time (too engrossed in the felt board veggies!) but i noted that i had all of the needed materials so we did it later that night. it involves digging out a hole in a potato, adding sunflower seeds and some soil, and water. since sunflowers don’t transplant well, this makes it so you can plant them and watch them sprout on your windowsill, but then just plant the whole potato in the ground when it’s ready to go outside. since quinn was doing it at home, he was not limited to one potato!

i hope they do well- some of them have about 20 seeds in them lol.

the other thing quinn saw at the garden festival was a marimba band (think wooden xylophone). it was so cool! they were homemade wooden marimbas, and they had maybe 6 of them, all different sizes (the big ones make low notes- awesome) and they had shakers and drums too but quinn was FASCINATED with the marimbas, so he decided he is going to make himself one so he can play it. SO awesome. i have to look up info for him and jim today (jim says he’s always wanted to make one and actually has some wood he has collected for that purpose.) it was so cool, he was dancing and grooving right up next to the band, and they had a basket of maracas you could use, so he did… he is so much fun! then we got to eat indian food (quinn’s first time i think- none in newport at all, it’s sad!) and he loved it. i have made a mental note i NEED to get him a globe. how else am i going to explain to him where zimbabwe (where the marimba music was from) and india are? (oh maybe we’ll just have to take our boat trans-oceanic someday…. lol)

so that’s what we did…. now it’s your turn!

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