a year in the life of a lifelong learner

i have been delinquent on posting ~a month of unschool~ for so many months now, that it is time for an update on a whole year! i gave up on the idea of back-dating the posts and decided to do one giant long post of the whole year in the life of one lifelong learner. which also feels like a more fitting title for where we are in life at the moment. i am not threatening to make these posts become an annual thing, i’d rather go back to monthly, now that we’re caught up… so go run to the bathroom and fetch yourself your beverage of choice before you read on, this one is going to take you a few minutes! and as always, thanks for reading. xoxo

june 24- july 23, 2014

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~ ols summer program ~ pinata making ~ new owner of a library card ~ game making ~ logic game playing ~ book sewing ~

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~big creek park hiking ~ water quality testing ~

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~ snake witnessing ~

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~ oregon country fair ~ pokemon toting ~ totem ogling ~ beauty absorbing ~ fun having ~

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~ snail experiment to test intertidal snails’ tendency to move towards red and away from blue, hence towards “shallow” based on the attenuation of light at depth ~

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~ tidepooling ~

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~ scientific method! a good experiment is repeatable! repeating the snail experiment with a different batch of intertidal snails, different species from a different beach, but same experimental design ~

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~ experimenting with wind energy and how blade configuration affects windmill efficiency ~

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~ blueberry picking ~ livestock visiting ~

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~ earth dough volcano making ~

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 ~ more snails, this time freshwater snails whose parasites are pretty fun to watch under a microscope ~

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~ marine science center fun ~

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~ returning the snails to their river home ~

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~ reading ~ playing ~ eating ~ yoga-ing ~

 july 24-august 23, 2014

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~ pancake-ing ~

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~ marine discovery touring ~

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~ developing a farmer’s market booth (a biweekly tradition observed at ols for practice with currency and entrpreneurship) around trading cards ~

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~ camping with family. i love the magical glowing dust motes suggestive of fireflies, and the purposeful walk of the kids ~

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~ comic reading, pasta slurping, river romping, adventure plotting ~

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~ joy bubbling up at the river’s edge ~

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~ tent dwelling, water meditating, karate dancing, tire swinging ~

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~ big creek park adventuring ~

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~ library summer program fun, including dragon puppet theatre’s 2014 feature “it’s electric!” ~

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~ selling his very own homemade pokemon cards at farmer’s market, using magnatiles to display his wares and organize his cash~

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~ noodling, sparkling, sprinkling, camping, and generally having fun at squirrel fest ~

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~ tie dying ~ peaceful kids power teaming ~

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~ eating, tracking down carmen sandiego, breaking into dance moves ~

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~ perhaps foreshadowing his future karate self, or maybe air drumming ~

august 24- september 23, 2014

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~first day of schooling ~

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~ setting up a rock museum ~

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~ best friending ~

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~ learning through games ~

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~ learning through engineering ~

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~ learning through time for reflection ~

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~ ceramics magic ~

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~ biking ~

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~ slicing up a fresh batch of pokemon cards to sell ~ reading aloud to younger students ~ figure drawing ~ math gaming ~

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~ 3 dimensional geometry using a variety of media ~

september 24 – october 23, 2014

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~ a study of optics prompted by a visit to ols by a local eye doctor ~

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~ pancaking ~

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~ airporting ~ flying ~ cousin reuniting!~

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~ happy times in new york ~

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~ helping grampy with the tractor ~

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~ noodle field hockey at the nature center ~

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~ observing lots of nature center beauty and life ~

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~ these photos were taken by quinn, as material he planned to use in creating pokemon stadium cards ~

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~ shelter building ~

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~ demolitioning grampy’s broken wagon ~

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~ lounging with grampy ~ mountain coastering with rich ~ perler beading with cousins ~ celebrating with grammy ~

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~ apple picking wagon riding ~

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~ play time with friends and cousins ~

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~ writing ~ practicing with the metric system ~ more work on the eye and optics ~

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~ hiking and exploring cape perpetua ~

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~ experimenting with color mixing ~ contributing to group art piece gratitude poster made from finger prints ~

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~ reading the raven and other books about northwest native american culture ~ creating art in preparation for dia de los muertos ~ visiting a local tribal cultural center ~

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~ learning firsthand what it means to be a seal or a sea lion, during a pinniped lesson ~

october 24- november 23, 2014

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~ taking lots of walks down our gravel road, often wielding a staff like donatello ~

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~ baking pan (bread) for dia de los muertos ~ learning all about the day of the dead traditions and participating in a celebration  of it ~

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~ writing stories ~ drawing zombies ~

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~ making maps of haunted mansions ~ coming up with the idea for his halloween costume from a pokemon card ~

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~ making a group totem pole, including his own totem animal, the owl ~

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~ delving into dungeons and dragons (seriously academic stuff, folks. lots of great math, storytelling, mapping, creativity!) ~

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~ listening to his dad play banjo and guitar at ols ~

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~ celebrating birthdays ~

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~ studying animal classification ~ solidifying concepts about the 5 groups of vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) and also being introduced to kingdom-phylum-class-order-family-genus-species ~ playing a scattergories-esque game where you have to name a mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, and fish all starting with the letter chosen (this got all the kids opening up reference books, and i quickly abandoned any time-limits in favor of letting them dive deeper to find more obscure animal names) ~

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~ making gratitude trees ~ making games ~ making adventures ~

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~ learning about the process of taking wool from sheep to sweater ~ more figure drawing, this time from life ~ reading my old book the little lamb ~

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~ taking care of dogs and guinea pigs ~ breakfast with a guinea pig snuggled in your blanket is a great way to start the day ~

november 24 – december 23,  2014

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~ making applesauce (which them became fruit leather) using simple machines  (apple peeler-corer-slicer and food-mill) ~

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~ making pumpkin pie ~ simple machine grinder to crush the ginger cookies for the pie crust ~

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~ rolling with the simple machines theme ~ building a rope-making machine from scratch ~ making rope ~

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~ sculpting storyteller dolls ~

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~ coming up with new pokemon card designs to sell ~ making a set of cards and a special elven rope (very thin, exceptionally strong) using the ols rope making machine, for his dad’s birthday present ~

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~ clearing limbs off the road after a storm ~ drawing by flashlight in power outage ~

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~ taking care of ruby tuesday ~ listening to stories ~ reading stories ~

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~ planting a new tree for the local public library ~


~ celebrating friends’ birthdays. i love his birthday song face ~


~ 3d geometry ceramics project in final form ~

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~ caroling at ols, this year’s favorite song was “do you hear what i hear?” ~ decorating our tree ~ making gingerbread houses with friends ~

december 24, 2014 – january 23, 2015

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~ celebrating with family ~

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~ exploring the arctic ~

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~ indulging mama’s photography practice by posing in front of christmas tree lights ~


~ for a while ~


~ super patiently ~

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~ worked on a new report topic (started out with dragons but ended up focusing on oregon trail) ~ studied perspective through painting ~ learned how to rock a kilt thanks to an awesome homemade gift ~ visited whale bones ~

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~ movie magic, discovering stop-motion film making ~

~ around this time, quinn made a few quotable statements:

“learning would be so much easier without teachers”

“when ava sat down it looked like a white lily pad!”

noted here so that once the sticky note i jotted them down on gets washed in my jeans pocket only to end up stuck in the lint trap and lost forever, they are somewhere

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~ began a month-long pioneers and oregon trail unit ~ making corn husk dolls ~ keeping an oregon trail journal from perspective of a pioneer, including a budget for the supplies they would need for their journey on the oregon trail ~

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~ acting out pioneer life in a wagon built from fort magic (what a great learning tool! we used it in many applications throughout the year) ~

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~ presenting his research on life on the oregon trail, specializing in the life of pioneer children ~

january 24- february 23, 2015

~ pioneers continued ~

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~ slates ~ rules and rulers ~  pioneer lunch (ham, biscuits, jam, cheese, pickles, dried apples, wrapped in cloth or stored in glass jars) ~ nail, ear, neck inspection ~

~ baking biscuits, shaking butter, building a salt dough map of the united states featuring the oregon trail ~

~ building an oregon trail diorama, calculating the number of times a wagon wheel turned depending on how many miles it drove ~

~ celebrated a grand finale *pioneer day* featuring washboards for washing doll clothes, candle making, soap pouring, lunch packed in baskets with no plastic baggies or tupperwares or individually wrapped snacks, and 3-legged races ~



~ research presentation on scorpions ~

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~ egg drop engineering ~ spill-and-spell and handwriting practice ~

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~ beginning a salmon science unit ~ provided a home for some salmon eggs in a tank on our ols science counter ~ ate snack made with graham crackers, peanut butter, chocolate rocks and blueberries, that looked suspiciously like our tank bottom ~ played return to the redd board game (so much good curriculum on salmon science is available online, the problem was not thinking up curriculum but sifting through all the great stuff already out there!) ~ group art project and puzzle making a large salmon poster from individual coloring sheets ~

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~ found our way home using our noses (each stream had its own characteristic essential oil fragrance in a packet clothes-pinned to each fork in the stream; i made the stream finger-knitting while kids were giving their research presentations  ~ watched eggs hatch out alevins ~


 ~ science counter with tank full of eggs, and finished poster ~ we also sculpted and embossed fish in art class, but i didn’t have good pictures to show ~

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~ turning 8 at school ~

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~ turning 8 on his actual birthday ~

february 24 – march 23, 2015

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~ large floor diagram of internal salmon anatomy ~ adding the heart ~ all parts taped on and labeled ~

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~ dissection of an adult salmon (provided by fish and wildlife, who had some leftover from a trap survey ~ thousands of eggs! this was a female, and we got to see a male, too ~ one egg ~ the lens removed from the eye ~ (note: a dissection is actually not quinn’s idea of a good time, and he opted to do the virtual dissection and not attend this dissection; i still wanted to record it here, to remember what i taught in science class!)

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~ celebrating turning 8 one more time for good measure! dragon party at the dragon house ~ featuring reading of treasure hunt clues and science experimenting with lava lamps, amid all the cupcakes and fun ~

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~ pancaking ~


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~ climbing ~

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~ fraternizing with eagles ~

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~ unstructured time playing pokemon in costume in fort magic ~ watercolor and marker on wood veneer ~ reading great books, such as buffalo woman, to himself ~ organizing his pokemon cards in a binder, with a cover he designed and decorated ~

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~ sand therapy ~



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~ game making lab and library (including all the game pieces you might need for creating your own game- fake money, dice, spinners, timers, mover pieces, letter tiles, and more); students developed their idea for a game, tested it by having other students play it, and then were given a blank game board (thrifted and covered with white paper) and a sharpie to make it a real game ~

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~ fry growing rapidly in science counter tank ~ returning carcasses of dissected fish to the stream ~

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~ group project: stop-motion animation of the entire life cycle of a salmon ~ man in black currently operating the camera is quinn ~


~ setting up insect prey and making salmon eat them ~

~ the finished film ~

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~ returning a week later with our ready-to-release fry, we observed the way the ecosystem was utilizing the salmon carcasses; all but one had been “utilized” completely, and this one remained, covered in snails ~ each student got to release individual fry, carefully netting it and setting it free in the stream, along with a “wish for a fish” for health and survival prospects ~ a fun frog was found on release day as well ~


~ some of the kids named their fish; quinn released swimmy and sammy ~

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~ the free fry, swimming in the stream ~

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~ his own stop motion studio at home, this time with his birthday lego set of mos eisley cantina ~


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 ~ fully absorbed in the wings of fire series about dragons, by tui sutherland ~ pinewood derby fun ~

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~ started karate!!! ~


~ what he looked like in the evening after the first few karate practices ~

march 24- april 23, 2015


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~ room makeover ~

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~ creating a board game for a best friend birthday present ~ decorating eggs ~

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~ diving wholeheartedly into his new passion ~

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~ celebrating a friend ~

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~ experiencing a watershed model ~

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~ exploring book covers as a material for art making ~ contributing to a group art exhibit at the local public library ~

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~ pancaking is always so much fun ~

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~ dabbling in photography, quinn has recently had very urgent needs to use my camera, and these two are some of his shots ~


~ drumming on a drum set ~ i see more drums in our future ~

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~ karate game called “whack the students” for practicing basic blocking set ~ quinn got to go first and not knowing what to expect, the whole group ended up laughing together as he dissolved in giggles ~



~ did you see me? ~


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~ brief flashback to another day, another daisy ~

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~ earth day writing assignment, inspired by an out-of-print book i came across at omsi years ago, and then bought a copy of, called while a tree was growing ~ quinn’s story from the perspective of the tree he chose to write about ~

april 24- may 23, 2015

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~ alternative energy experiments with solar panels and windmills ~

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~ an earth-day board game ~ experimenting with wind energy, using it to perform work, such as hauling “kids” (washers) up in an “elevator” (cup) which was great fun ~


~ making their own laptops and ipads, on paper ~

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~ sucked into the diary of a wimpy kid vortex ~

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~ earned his red tip, and qualified to test for a yellow belt ~

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~ yellow belt test success! ~

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~ guinea pig research presentation ~

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~ practicing coordinate plane with “find the spy” game ~ making a special egg quilt square for teacher k ~ becoming a wizard with a handmade blue-agate topped staff ~

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~ visiting tall ships with class and learning about shipping trade and the life of a sailor ~ visiting tall ships with mama and learning about capstans, windlasses, tillers and lines ~

may 24 – june 23, 2015

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~ horsing around ~

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~ creating our own comic strips ~ singing spanish songs ~ fishing and canoeing ~ reading a ton!~

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~ going on “dates” with mama to the food co-op for treats and quiet time after school and before karate and devouring calvin and hobbes ~

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~ yellow belting ~

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~ learning about babies ~ grating the purple cabbage of science, and using purple cabbage acid/base indicator to test our water supply ph (it’s all good, we don’t have a lot of trouble with acid rain here) ~

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~ practicing archery (here only in gesture, but for real at his dad’s house) ~

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~ tidepooling and adventuring with friends ~

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~ learning the yellow belt curriculum ~

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~ sparring ~

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~ graduating! the ols kids had a last day of school outing to one of our state parks, and had a wonderful, heartfelt graduation ceremony, involving stuffed bears with graduation caps, tassels with meaningful symbolic charms attached, and diplomas, in addition to some wonderful words spoken by teacher k about her hopes for the kids as they leave ols ~

(condensed and excerpted here, so he can look back on it and remember!)

“Always do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Remember that we are one. Anything you do for another, you do for yourself. And anything you do for yourself, you do for another.

Obey all laws so long as they’re just. Check to see if a rule or law is fair. Ask questions. If you find that a law is fair, then abide by it. If it creates injustice for another person or being or a group of beings, then don’t.

Love, Love, Love, Love. Keep your heart open and your mind sharp. Remember that the best way to conquer an enemy is to become their friend.

Finally, never accept the status quo. If everyone around you says it can’t be done, then ask them to kindly step aside so that you can get it done. If you want to see more love in the world, then be the love.

Remember that each of your lives is essential to our world. Be who you are. Love who you are. Like the many instruments in a symphony, we each play a part. Play yours with all your heart!”

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~ seeing the world through rainbow colored glasses ~ here he is looking at his tassel, with its golden key to the world, and musical instrument charm (his was a saxophone) ~

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~ earning his first black tip on his yellow belt ~

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~ first lesson with nunchaka (“chucks”) which quinn thoroughly enjoyed ~

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 ~ and onward we go, embracing whatever comes around the next bend or over the next bridge,  learning all the time! ~

1 comment to a year in the life of a lifelong learner

  • your new neighbor

    What a great yearly recap!!! Loved all best friend photos 🙂 here’s to many more bestie adventures!! And family camping trips !!

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