Monday, September 29, 2008

Fire & Water

Our backyard is not pretty like I planned it would be by now. Life & circumstance put my plans on hold and I don't have the gardens I planned and imagined. We still have a nice yard with lots of shade. I decided to focus on what we had instead of what we didn't in the yard and we have plenty of sticks! So I decided it was time to build a fire. Just for fun - and it was! We used just sticks of various sizes and a lighter. No lighter fluid or newspaper, so I felt pretty cool. It is fun to watch fire - the colors, the changes. The boys tried burning grass & leaves as well. We wrote with stick charcoal on the sidewalk. Eventually the fire started dying down and we were ready to be done exploring so it was time to clean up! (Note - we of course talked about fire safety as well.)

Clean up was possibly more fun for the boys than the fire. They carefully used the hose to get all the ashes nice and wet and cool and then were "washing" the patio as well as each other and the dog. Dinoguy discovered a mud puddle in the making and helped it along, joyfully jumping in mud and showing it to Trainboy. They played in the water for a long while, spraying and splashing and creating a waterfall on the plastic slide. Sarge loves water and was happy to join them in getting soaked.

Park play summary

With the cooler turn of the weather (is it sad we consider 90 to be cool?) we've played at 4 different parks in the past 2 weeks with various friends. Each was full of fun and full of its own unique opportunities. Playing outside and exploring parks and just freely having fun with out structure is so vitally important. I can not think of anything more important for the boys to spend time doing. Really, that goes for adults too. Being outside is calming, healing, and peaceful. We can all benefit from spending unstructured time outside.

At this park, the boys rode their bikes a lot and I got to learn how to fix Trainboy's training wheel several times. They also went tree climbing, Dinoguy provided shade for me with a large tree limb, they played all sorts of imaginary games on the playground with friends, played with a parachute and more.At the next park Dinoguy joined some friends in creating a game of dinosaurs & dragons. It had some commonalities with hide and seek, but was an evolving tag game as well. Trainboy spent some time riding his bike & playing in the sand. Next was an evening picnic at the park trip to watch the balloon festival. Last year the balloons came right over us at the park, which was awesome. So we invited friends to join us at the park and had a great time picnicking and playing. Unfortunately there was no wind and we watched the balloons go up and then almost straight down, which was not as much fun as we were hoping to have. There also happened to be a school band having a party at the same park which made it more crowded. Kids had a great time playing on the playground, playing with Sarge, playing bikes, soccer, rolling down hills, playing frisbee. It was fun.Last park trip reported here was to a nature preserve that is awesome. I brought Sarge planning to do some letterboxing as well. The kids had fun running around the playground with Sarge, so much so that he sought refuge under a picnic table after a while to rest. The game of choice was a loosely organized battle with light sabers and foam swords. Trainboy was very conscientious about bringing Sarge water as well. After a while the boys decided to head into the woods with their fight and we played in a small creek area. I got in plenty of hiking without letterboxing and was quite tired by the end of the day!

When my boys fall asleep shortly after leaving the park I know that they've had a good day of play. I've been slowly working my way through the book "Last Child in the Woods" which has interesting thoughts and ideas, though it isn't a quick easy read for me. I hope to eventually post a review of it, I have a lot of thoughts swirling around as I read, so it is certainly a thought provoking book for me. :)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Just as I was starting to get comfortable, thinking we were too far away from the coast to have to worry about Hurricanes...the predictions that Ike was coming and would hit us hard started. We were supposed to get 60+ mile per hour winds and 4+ inches of rain. So I filled up the water storage and checked our flashlights and had Fixitman fill the empty propane tank in case we lost electricity and still wanted to cook. I checked out our 72 hour kits and found the clothes in them for the kids comically small (and some of the food expired!). I watched the images on as Ike marched towards us and wondered how my friends in Houston were doing as it passed over them.
Filling up buckets from the end of the driveway

It started raining Saturday morning about 10ish and was a wonderful calm rainstorm. That continued all day, with a few mild gusts of wind. I had to do something with all my nervous energy so I vacuumed out storm windows and opened those that had screens to let in the cool air and breeze. I love good rainstorms!
Washing the truck with rainwater

Suffice to say, Ike brushed by us, giving an inch or so of needed rain, the harsh storms were east of us. We were lucky. I have seen reports of storm damage from Ike all the way into Ohio!

Later that evening, the boys went out to play in the rain, having had so much fun earlier in the week when we did so (see previous post). So the pictures are of the boys playing in the rain we received thanks to Ike. They are "washing" the truck with the rainwater - which turned into dumping water on each other of course! They had a great time. :)

Friday, September 12, 2008


"Hey where's the 10?" Trainboy asked yesterday, examining my computer. From there we started making numbers using the digits. I thought of John Holt letting kids explore typewriters as I watched him carefully pick numbers and sometimes ask me which ones he needed to make certain numbers.

Dinoguy came in..."What'cha doing?" Suddenly he was done with his computer game and sent Trainboy scampering off for a turn and was at my side. "C'mon Mom, let's do numbers!" He starts typing lots of digits and then asks me to read the number. I decide to move to excel to be able to separate the numbers better and auto-format them with commas. He creates a long row of numbers between 1 and 15 digits each and then asks me to read them, taking over on numbers he is confident in his ability to read. We do this about three times before I sense weariness and suggest a new activity. Nope, we're not done yet! It's my turn to make the numbers. So I make some 4-6 digit numbers with zeroes as place holders in various spots to determine his ability to read them.

Dinoguy starts singing the numbers while playing drums on his knees. He self corrects any mistakes. Apparently rules for reading numbers such as 20,003 or 400,600 or 600,980 are well understood. No wonder he was writing numbers in the millions and higher. Those are the ones he's trying to learn the rules to right now. This leads to a discussion of larger numbers, and I investigate that I am using the right labels for numbers beyond quadrillion. I am, but learn in the process that a billion in America is different from a billion in Europe, or was until recently when we made them change their system! Absolutely fascinating. We start making larger numbers in Excel and encounter its rounding error for numbers over 15 digits. We write out a googol, and then numbers even larger and discuss scientific notation/powers. After typing a number with a few thousand zeroes after it, Dinoguy is done and wants to move on to fractions.

I reformat the numbers for decimals and think I need to explain decimals. Nope. He learned it on Cyberchase already and starts explaining some of the rules of division to me with examples. Well that answers my question of if he was understanding the math concepts presented on the show. (Which is aimed at older children and has math concepts traditionally not taught until upper elementary or middle school.) I think lunch ended our fun and after lunch we had friends over to play.

What fun it was! Later in the evening, Trainboy comes and asks me to make numbers with him again and we count to 125 using the columns in Excel. Then he starts discussing the speed of cars vs. rockets and trains.

This isn't a one day thing, though I wanted to share these experiences today while they were fresh in my mind. Dinoguy repeats any numbers he hears or sees. He reads them on any papers and asks questions about symbols and what the numbers mean. We measure his height several times a week to see if he's growing.

Fascinating isn't it?

The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple. ~S. Gudder

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections On The Human Condition

Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting. ~Gottfried Leibniz

If there is a God, he's a great mathematician. ~Paul Dirac

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Playing in the rain

"Childhood is that state which ends the moment a puddle is first viewed as an obstacle instead of an opportunity."-- Kathy Williams

In-Sync Exotics tour

This cougar was fascinated by Trainboy.

We got a discounted rate to visit an exotic cats sanctuary in the area as part of our Rethinking Education Conference and went on Monday. It was pretty neat. Photos don't really do the cats justice or the enclosures.

These are cats who were being kept as pets!?! or being ill treated in small circuses or other bad situations. They find a home here to live out their lives. Apparently there are so many of them that they can't take them all. They are pampered and well taken care of at this facility by the volunteers and owner.
The boys loved seeing the animals and we had an awesome tour and good discussions from it. We also practiced skip counting on the drive there and back, Trainboy is working on counting to 100 and learning those patterns while Dinoguy is more interested in millions, billions and trillions.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fun at the Rethinking Education Conference

Trainboy making a pine needle basket

We had a very busy weekend! We attended the Rethinking Education conference, went to Home Depot for the monthly project, and had a visit from Grandpa Actuary! Being busy makes me so tired, but is so much fun!
Trainboy at the toy creation station

The conference was four days long and consisted of a bunch of unschoolers taking over a hotel and turning boring conference rooms into cool places to play, including the board game room, video game room, dress-up room, box & tin can city room, music room, meditation room, junkyard golf room, race car room, and (little) kids village. There were also tables set up in the hall way with tons of legos and rotating loose craft themes such as take apart electronics, stupid sock creatures, toy creation, rock painting, flying machine making, mask decoration and more. That's just the fun stuff running all the time in addition to the classes, demonstrations & seminars.Dinoguy learns to fence in the mini-class after the demonstration

I wasn't really sure what to expect beforehand, this being our first unschooling conference. In fact I was a bit nervous about if the kids would have fun or if they were too young. Both boys thrived all weekend as they explored new interests and let their creative juices flow freely. Kids village was definitely a fun place to hang out and play, but they also enjoyed many of the other activities and crafts available.Dinoguy demonstrates his skills with the slide and mat in kids village

The atmosphere at the conference was amazing. There was an energy present, coming from kids and parents who let their interests guide them and expected interactions with all to have a basis in respect. We had some friends there from local groups we are part of, but I also met and talked with so many new and interesting people. The realization that kids were welcome everywhere - even those sessions meant more for adults was so cool. Trainboy came with me to part of a pine cone needle basket making class and made his own version of one. Parents and kids went in and out of classes as family needs required (though most kids were busy with their interests and weren't around, it was okay if they were).
Trainboy at the lego table

Classes I attended and loved included pine needle basket making, nourishing kids' passions, belly dancing, the brain-heart connection, raising a strong child, fencing history and demonstration (with mini-classes for kids), power of positive thinking in parenting...hmmm, that's all the classes I managed to get to I think! It was just a wonderful time!
Dinoguy building a football goal post at Home Depot

We did not stay at the hotel, which I think was better for us, as we came home at night and relaxed and slept in our own beds. We also went to Home Depot's craft day, one of our favorite free things each month!Trainboy building at Home Depot

Grandpa Actuary got into town late night Saturday for a visit before some work stuff that conveniently brought him our way. We had a really fun visit with him, playing Spongebob Monopoly and hide-n-seek as drawing special pictures for him. He checked out the conference a bit with us too, though we mostly hung out at home with him on Sunday, which was nice. It was great to see you Dad!
The boys with Grandpa Actuary

Monday, September 08, 2008

Playing "Konk" with Sarge

The black blur running in the photo is Sarge. One of the things the boys love to do on the weekend is go down to the empty parking lot of a nearby building and play "konk" with Sarge. "Konk" is what they call it, maybe because of the sound the Kong makes when you throw it, I'm not really sure. But don't try to call it fetch or Kong, because you'd be wrong. It's konk. Sarge loves to play konk - we play every day in the yard, but it's nice to go down to the parking lot where he can break into full sprints and really chase the Kong a long way - and get nice and worn out for a spell. A Kong is a type of dog toy - it looks like two rubber balls melted together and then hollowed out. It really is an awesome dog toy. Sometimes the boys bring their scooters and race around with Sarge as we throw the kong. No matter what, it's guaranteed fun for the whole family, even Sarge. :)

PS - Sarge passed his Canine Good Citizen test, even with all the curveballs they threw at us in the test. He is officially a canine good citizen. Next step is therapy dog testing!

Last trip to the aquarium

We decided to make one last trip to the aquarium before the end of August. We went on a Saturday, having never gone on a weekend before - and took Fixitman with us. The crowds were crazy! We've never been there with so many other people! Fixitman was definitely the popular parent as the boys dragged him around to show him favorite things. No one wanted to hang out with me when they could show things to him! LOL. We caught a longer version of the Mayan dancers routine, but there was no butterfly release today. (Maybe the insane crowds?) Dinoguy really wanted his picture taken with the dancers, but wouldn't do it himself, so here I am with him and the dancers!There were still plenty of butterflies in the area from previous releases I'm sure - and one landed on Dinoguys' shirt. He was thrilled to see the butterflies again and showed them off to Fixitman.Fixitman took some great pictures from the dances as we attentively watched. Here is a view from the fire dance.
Trainboy was very busy running around seeing everything, dodging his way thru the crowds. We had a great time saying "goodbye" to the aquarium on the last day of our membership and walked away with many fond memories.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

LEAP Kid Olympics

We loved watching the olympics this year - maybe it was watching most of them at the beach house with my family, but Dinoguy and Trainboy really got interested in it.

Our group of friends decided to have a more laid back kid olympics. It was a blast! We had a large variety of "events", but allowed the kids to explore them at their own leisure and pace.

Here's Trainboy finishing up tasting his first decorated cookie at the cookie decorating station. (Who says creative events can't be olympic sports?)

Here are the boys and friends participating in the water balloon fun. It was going to be a balloon toss but when I tried to explain that to the kids, I was asked "Why would we do that?" and I had no reply. The kids were more interested in throwing them and playing then in doing an organized toss, so that's what happened!

We played some t-ball, though taking turns took a bit of finessing.

Here is Dinoguy on the bike course, loving his 2-wheeler.

Here is Trainboy on the obstacle course. He had a good time bike riding until he crashed into a red ant hill and got 13 bites on his hand. Thankfully I have anti-itch ointment in my purse!

Dinoguy liked the javelin throw. He threw pretty well. It isn't going to hit our little friend, though it looks that way in this photo!

Bubble blowing is always a fun diversion!

With the net up, we were able to experiment with all sorts of sports - this ball is a bit too big for getting over the net reliably, but we had fun trying!

Dinoguy was interested in trying three-legged races, and had some fun with them. Here he with his first partner. She was a bit short and didn't like her leg tied up so we tried with another friend.

It was pretty successful - they ran around together for a while, figuring out how to move their leg at the same time.

Though after a few runs, they decided to try backwards races individually instead. Dinoguy is still getting the hang of it I guess in this photo - he was backwards the rest of the race!

The marathon race was a spontaneous run by a few kids to the far side of the park and back.

We also had some rhythmic gymnastics demonstrations and many more fun events - bean bag toss, ring toss, flag making/coloring, playground climbing and was a great long day of fun.

Here are all the photos in a slide show if you want to see more!


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