Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cedar Shells

Much of our side of the island burned at the beginning of the last century, and we are left with quite a large number of enormous blackened shells of the old-growth cedar that once stood all over this area. (Much of it was logged.) These black, spiky towers stand like ghosts among the trees, sometimes inhabited by animals, and temporarily by children. They make great forts, as long as they're safe.

We stopped by one of the largest groups of cedar shells on the way home from the community school, today, and the kids had a bit of a play. As he ran up to them, Tal shouted: "This is a monument, you know!!"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Learning Nature-ally

I may have mentioned before that part of the benefit of (f)Unschool becoming a Nature Club program is that we will have opportunities to have local experts join us on our outings. Bob Turner, an inspired geologist and also our local mayor, is one of those experts. Last month Bob joined us and some of Island Discovery's kids and parents to explore a clay-bank full of sea-shells. Discovering fossils first hand and learning about the history and geology of the earth is amazing anytime, but when one has the opportunity to learn about one's own home in such a manner then we internalize that learning much more deeply. It creates a spark of wonder and personal inspiration for further learning, in the future.

It is with great thanks to Bob for his gift of time, spirit, and knowledge that I publish this video of our clay-bank exploration:

A couple of weeks ago, during (f)Unschool, we were talking about the history of the forest we were hiking through: springboard notches in old-growth cedar stumps, burnt-out cedar shells from the long-ago forest fire, various edible plants and the benefit of the spring flooding to the ecosystem. I try not to talk too much, especially to the kids, but let them wonder and explore ideas, adding bits of information when it seems appropriate. And usually the kids share their own diverse knowledge with each other, deepening their relationships and their desire to understand the world. In all of this, Andra, who attends our local mainstream school, looked at me intensely and waved her arms around. "I didn't know all this, before!"

I laughed, and said that she knows lots about the island; we all have something to share.

She did not smile. "No. Seriously. They don't teach us this. If I brought my friends out here, they wouldn't know anything about this place! There's so much to know, here!"

I like to imagine her out in the woods sharing her newfound forest with her friends.


This week we're looking forward to getting back out to Nature Club (f)Unschool, after 2 weeks' break. It will likely be raining, and I'm beginning to think we might head right out into the water and really relish it. Maybe the mossy rainforest on the other side of the island. Hmmmm... Or up the bluffs if it's sunny.


When I talked to the Nature Club directors about making (f)Unschool a Nature Club activity, Will Husby (a very knowledgeable and friendly entomologist, educator, flautist and father who also happens to be my neighbour) suggested I look into David Sobel and Richard Louv, whom I'd never heard of...

Well, needless to say, I did look into them, and can now sharehere some really very excellent reads:

Article from Yes! Magazine: Beyond Ecophobia, by David Sobel
Article from the Boston Globe: Nature Nurtures Learning, by Peter Dizikes
Richard Louv's Blog: Fieldnotes from the Future

Passionately Reasonable

Auntie Bree (in black) practicing her excellent auntie techniques...
My lovely sister Breelana has started a blog!

Passionately Reasonable

And of course, because she's the manager of BC Playthings, and also in the process of getting her Early Childhood Development certification, as well as being both a beloved caregiver and a passionate supporter of child-led and life-learning, this thoughtful blog is going to have some interesting posts. :-)

Welcome to blogland, Bree!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Peregrine Falcon Visit with the Homelearners

Lori took the full time homelearners to meet this lovely peregrine falcon near the Cowan house, today. We heard about falconry duck-hunting methods, all the little baubles, rings, and leash, etc. that she wears, and how to hold her. I believe she weighed about 3lbs.

She has to wear a little hood too keep her calm while being handled.

She's interesting, definitely, but not affectionate.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tali's Mining Shovel

Tal has a mine. This seems to be his most usual outdoor haunt for the past couple of years, and all of his friends (and some of Annie's) make a habit of not only helping dig, there, but also often of checking out its progress before even coming to our front door! They were all rather upset when the mine was filled in by an overzealous Opa with a new tractor, last January... but then Opa made amends by putting up a steel fence and a "Slow Men Working" sign. The digging began again, and now the mine is better than ever. The mine is becoming so famous that Uncle Ralph gave Tali his own brand new shovel, this year. After repeated reminders, Tal has become a little more reliable about putting our shovels away, but now he has his own to look after. And it even has his name carved into it, so that passing adults will leave it alone.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bird Feeders

One day I came to the table to find the kids making bird feeders. I love that they have these notions and just begin them, all of their own inspiration. We did encourage them to continue their rather messy activity out in the sunshine, and Markus ended up helping choose drill-bits. Tal actually carved out a roof for his, but then decided not to use it, when he realized that his base (a little clay planter-pot he made 2 years ago) had drain-holes in it, anyway. These feeders were completely designed and created by the kids, hung, and filled by the kids, and now we adults get to benefit, too, as they are frequently visited by a pair of Juncos.

Crab-Trap Saga

It began at Christmas. My brother Adrian bought a crab-trap for Markus. Finally in February, Markus appeared home from a friend's house, grabbed the trap and some life-jackets, and dropped it - with the friend's trap - on a line off of the friend's boat, in Deep Bay. All very lovely, but when the diligent friend went to check the traps, he discovered that ours had become hopelessly entangled with the buoy line, and had to be cut free, to save the rope. Various plans were hatched, and during the next couple of weeks we went out twice to try to retrieve the trap by fishing for it with various improvised tools... until one day the friend handed us a new trap.

The new trap sat around for a few weeks, until the kids and I took the notion to just simply drop it off the Mt. Gardner dock and see what would happen. We got a fishing license, and headed down. Oops. No bait. So we decided to just put a very mussel-laden rock in, which we first smashed the mussel-shells on. Here is what ensued:

Rhiannon and her friends untangled the rope.

We guessed that 20 knots might suffice, so they calculated 5 each, and tied with all their might!

Dropping time!

...and off we went.
When we came back to check the trap two days later, we found it neatly tied up on the dock. The rope was cut. Wait - no - not cut... lacerated! our rope had obviously wound around somebody's propeller, and we'd caused a moderately large pain in the ass for some poor soul who then carefully unwound it, rolled it up, and set it on the dock for us!! So sorry, whoever you are, and SO grateful!!

Well, we had arrived with real (junkfood) bait, this time, and tried to do a better job of setting the trap. Cheap catfood tied on a string, to keep it from falling or drifting out of the trap. Markus hunted the beach until he found a plastic bottle, which we filled with rocks and tied 2/3 the way up the rope. The idea was that this would keep the slack rope from drifting around at low tide. We also went through considerable effort to tie the rope around the actual decking of the float, in order to keep it out of the way of future potential prop-accidents.

Which would they like best? Cheap canned food or cheap bagged food? Are crabs picky?

Back two days later again... the kids made the exciting haul...
Tally: 2 giant sunflower stars, one small sunflower stars, and one giant pink spiny seastar.

Well, like everything else in life, it was a learning experience.

...learning about giant pink spiny seastars...

We went back with Ethan and Andra a couple of days later: More Sunflower Stars!!  This photo shows the quickly-retreating stomach of the giant sunflower star who had completely encased the can of catfood and was busy digesting its contents to nothingness. It was not sharing. Upon contemplation, we realized that where sunflower stars (voracious, giant, and relatively fast-moving predators of the seafloor) are plentiful, crabs may not wish to hang around...  At low tide we could see at least 20 sunflower stars just around the dock.

...nevertheless, for experience's sake...

...the kids added a new piece of bait and threw the trap back in, anyway.

A couple of days later again we went back and finally took our trap home. We now have plans to take it out with its own buoy, and see if we can find something edible. Someday.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Is Unschooling Bad for Us?

After all this time, we still quite regularly encounter people who worry about the children's welfare. Some of these people are passersby; some are long-time friends and family. The well-meant comments my kids have mentioned to me range from "Don't you ever get tired of being with your Mum?" to "You're homeschooled. You don't know anything!" to long explanations of common-knowledge things that they assume my kids must not know. To me, people usually quietly mention deep concerns about my children's "socialization" or "keeping up with their peers" or their ability to "make it as adults" or "in the real world". Or they assume my kids are geniuses, or have learning disabilities. Or they just roll their eyes.

The fact is, my kids are just kids. I am not sure exactly what grade level they function at, and I'm happy about that. I ensure that they have some regular activity that helps them develop basic life-skills, and this includes a bit of workbook practise (but I allow them to skip whichever pages seem silly or boring). Generally, I allow them to choose their own activities. Sometimes they read all day; sometimes they draw, craft, play lego, or do dramatic play all day long. When they get involved with something they generally keep at it for many hours. I'm not sure if the extra-long attention span is a result of not having a TV or of being allowed to take as long as they want, but I do think it's a good thing. It can indeed be difficult to schedule social time, because so many of their friends are in school so often, but therefore most afternoons are spent visiting with friends, and it's certainly not an issue.

I can't see the future. I don't know if my kids will "make it in the real world", but, just as I have confidence that they will succeed when allowed to follow their hearts, I have confidence that if the "real world" doesn't turn out to be what they want, they'll shape it to fit their dreams.

Anyway, I came across this video, which is a nicely thought-out adult unschooler's response to some of the criticism we face:

...and this one...

Monday, March 21, 2011

LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference

We just registered! 
And we're so looking forward to it! Perhaps some of our BC compatriots will be joining us...?

LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference
Red Lion Hotel, Vancouver Washington (next to Portland, Oregon)
May 26-29, 2011

Note: This trip is actually sponsored for the MAMA Project, and I will be interviewing mothers in Portland and Vancouver, while we're there, as well as presenting SuperMAMA there and facilitating a MAMA Conversation at the Conference.

The MAMA Project is making a trip down the coast to California, to interview and gather data for the next set of portraits (the US West Coast set!) which will effectively double the MAMA Project's size and scope.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Surprise Picnic

Rhiannon's gift to Tal for his birthday was the promise of a picnic. One day when we had some time in the afternoon, she secretly made him a special birthday note, while instructing me on what to put in the picnic basket. She marched outside with a baby-carrier, retrieved Tal from the yard, and tied the carried around his face as a blindfold. Thankfully, he was a willing participant, as she led him to the car, down a somewhat dangerous blind-walk to the beach and over the rough rocks to the little island, where she left him to sit while she spread out her surprise lunch in front of him. It was a wonderful afternoon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Watoto from the Nile

These girls not only have the right attitude and an awesome message, but they also had the support they needed to make their difference in the world. Congratulations and a big huge thank you to Nia, Nya, and Kamaria!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hey out there in Roslindale, Massachusetts!

...or somewhere thereabouts.
I've been noticing somebody from your area repeatedly on this site, and have read news articles about unschooling in Ma. Check in (comment, below!) and tell us how things are, out there!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


One day while downloading photos from the camera, I happened to see a contest promotion on the Urban Mommies newsletter... I sent in a photo of Tal and Annie at circus school... and WE WON!!
To our enormous surprise, we received an email and phone call, announcing that we'd won 4 tickets to see Cirque du Soleil's Quidam, on March 13th.

Well, that being just after Tal's birthday, and one of the things he'd requested and been denied, it was possibly the best gift he could have received. Of course, the show was today. We went. We LOVED it! Cirque du Soleil is so completely wholly enthralling, and this time the story was also heart-wrenchingly poignant. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and we have Urban Mommies to thank. Very very much. :-)

Of course we couldn't take photos in the arena, so we snapped a shot of the excited kids with the tickets, beforehand!

Parents are Life-Learners, Too!

Just in case you had forgotten, unschooling - or life-learning as we like to call it, too - means learning for life. Really it's what all of us do all of the time. What we do is just recognize and run with that, trusting that with a bit of guidance, we can learn what and how we feel is best for us. So of course that includes parents, too!! Here is Markus' non-time-keeping lego clock, from earlier this year. He finally photographed it just before taking it apart to reuse the pieces.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Links and Thanks

Time to put up a few links of those who have linked to Rickshaw Unschooling, or have in some way contributed to the site or promoted it.

With thanks for compliments and for linking to this blog.
All of these are good reads, as well:
Green Mangoes by Amy Milstein
Scraps of Starlight by Suzy in the UK
Online College: Best Blogs of the Unschooling Movement
Life Learning Magazine's Blog List

With thanks for their support of (f)Unschool:
BC Playthings
Bowen Nature Club

Our Homelearning Support Community:
Island Discovery Learning Community

Friday, March 11, 2011

(f)Unschool Four

Some of the (f)Unschool regulars, here...

Discovering some strange pink moss growing on a submerged log in the lake.

Fort found: a nurse-stump along the trail by the lake. Much of our Island was logged about a century ago, and therefore we find hundreds of these old-growth stumps, about. This one has a few springboard notches visible on it. Sad, to be sure, but they make wonderful castles and thrones.

Part of the fort they built with sticks, 2 weeks ago.

We are Parents of a Nine-Year-Old

In preparation for his birthday dinner, Tali and I went food shopping. The result? His choice of delicious baked sockeye, roasted potatoes, and a greek salad.
Tal requested a fruit-vlaai with raspberries and peaches. No candles allowed!
Tal's birthday was leisurely spread out over a few days, this year, requiring 3 cakes and various visits... and it's not over yet!! There will be a circus on Sunday, and sometime in April he plans to hike up Mt. Gardner to eat cookies at the top! Here are some photos from the past few days.

Friends came for cake, too!
Ryan made for Tali a very special card and a launchable paper airplane... and then accompanied the opening thereof with music!
Opa and Nana gave Tal a chemistry kit, and he and Ethan tried it out with great enthusiasm and care.

We have a little tradition of recording heights on birthdays... It's always a proud moment.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Westcoast Girl in Dance

Rhiannon dances to track 18 from our friend Adam (Vudu)'s CD:
Front & Center Vol. 1: Westcoast Women in Rhyme
(This is an extra track not on the actual CD; just on our copy, apparently! It's called "Love is my Middle Name and we think it's performed by Lady Precise; one half of the group Stinkmitt. Maybe.)