Marine Biology Beach Seine

beach seine netOur beautiful fall weather has offered some amazing days for outdoor explorations, especially at the beach!  As a snorkeler, I am always interested in finding out what is going on at different times of the year below the surface of the ocean.  Fish, however, are elusive, fast moving, and hard to identify as they scoot among the seaweeds.  So I was very happy to witness the workings of a beach seine collecting an array of fish that live in the nursery habitat of eel grass beds in the sheltered bays of the Gulf Islands.

Doug setting the seine net

Doug setting the seine net

Marine Biologists Doug and Jennifer Swanston came over from Vancouver for the day.  Jennifer has worked as a naturalist/interpreter for several groups, and has a BSc from UBC.  Doug Swanston has been working in the field of marine biology since the early 1980s, after graduating with his BSc from UBC.  He is involved in research as well as education.

eel grass beach seineA seine is a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. Seine nets can be deployed from the shore as a beach seine, or from a boat.  Seine nets have been used widely in the past, all around the globe since the stone age.  Pre-European Maori deployed 1,000 meter long seine nets woven from green flax, with stone weights and light wood or gourd floats, and could require hundreds of men to haul.  American Native Indians on the Columbia River wove seine nets from spruce root fibers or wild grass, again using stones as weights. For floats they used sticks made of cedar which moved in a way which frightened the fish and helped keep them together.  Seine nets are also well documented in ancient cultures in the Mediterranean region, appearing in Egyptian tomb paintings from 3000 BC.  They are still in use today for fishing, but they also enable marine biologists to carefully collect samples of fish and other specimens for research, allowing them to be released with little disturbance.

setting the seine netDoug and Jennifer were working with a group of 24 children, from grades 4-8, who are a part of the Pender Ecological Education Community.  Doug began the day with some discussion of taxonomy and habitats; the classifications of seaweeds and grasses and the role that the different types have for different fish during the year.  The nursery habitats of the eel grass areas have been previously mapped, with help from the Seagrass Conservation Working Group, and are especially worth observing for fish populations throughout the year.  I have seen many types of small schools of fish while snorkeling, and the shallow, warmer waters protected by tall forests of the grasses with areas of sandy sea floors seem like the perfect place to hide and feed in relative safety from larger prey.

To set the seine net, Doug walked out into bay at the edge of the eel grass area and pulled along the floats of the net, leaving a rope going out of the water to the beach.  He continued to pull the net open as he waded, almost neck high, across to a large rock in the middle of the bay, and eventually came ashore with another rope.  Half the group was sent to one end of the rope, and the other half was to keep hold of the opposite side.  There were very controlled instructions, and an attentive atmosphere surrounded the kids, as movements were specific and closely monitored by Doug and Jennifer.  The group at the far end of the beach slowly pulled the rope towards the beach, while carefully walking along the beach towards the other group, who also began pulling and walking.  The idea was to make of the net a crescent shape, tucking the sides in towards the beach while leaving a gentle balloon out into the water so the fish were not startled or tangled in the net, but simply being herded in towards the beach.  As the net eventually came in closer, the excitement mounted, and Doug was wonderful at encouraging the interest but also outlining guidelines and procedures that will above all, ensure that the lives of the creatures being collected would not be harmed in any way- by being stepped on, dragged across barnacles and rocks, left out of the water, or suffering from scale damage due to too much handling.  To one concerned child he said,”this is a seine net!  If anything gets hurt, that would be insane!”

Once the net was pulled up closer to shore, the kids were encouraged to make an estimate of the number of fish rounded up.  Each child had a bucket with fresh sea water in it, and when the time came for Doug to really haul the net up, they each had the chance to scoop a fish for their own observations.  At this point, everyone was so excited- pointing and exclaiming and talking all at once, with questions and answers flying.  Silver and orange fish flashed in the vibrant green, while purple crabs clambered about and unknown creatures slithered.  Collected fish were named, shown, given seaweed to hide in, talked about, questioned, and eventually accompanied each student for a quick lunch break.  Doug was clear that the buckets had to be in a shady spot, and no hands were to be continually placed in the water, so the temperature doesn’t warm up.  Adequate oxygen levels needed to be considered, so a particularly large Whitespot Greenling was placed in a larger cooler of water.  It turned out to be a female carrying a belly full of eggs.

Doug went through the collected fish and made notes of what was found, as well as identifying to the group interesting facts about specific specimens.  Of particular interest was the bay pipefish, our local variety of sea horse, which depends on the eel grass beds entirely.  We also found a pen point gunnel, with beautiful eye stripes and a colour to match the eel grass itself.  There were lots of threespine sicklebacks, striped seaperch, pile perch, kelp perch, shiner perch, and tubesnouts, which congregate in large schools.  Doug estimated over a hundred fish were in the net, and as he pulled the net gently back out into the water to release them, he seemed quite excited that so much life was present and healthy in our local waters.

Discovery Apples!

Clockwise: Tydeman's Late Orange, Bramley's Seedling, Lord Lambourne, Rubinette

Clockwise: Tydeman’s Late Orange, Bramley’s Seedling, Lord Lambourne, Rubinette

Our orchard, now in it’s second year, (and first year of fruiting) has produced 8 varieties of apples out of the 17 types that we planted.  Most of the trees had flowers, and it is my guess that the intensely early heat and dryness that we experienced last spring might have contributed to incomplete pollination of many of the trees, or the flowers prematurely falling off.  We have the trees on an irrigation system to help establish the trees in their early years, but it was indeed a challenging season for water and heat.

slicing up Bramley's Seedling

slicing up Bramley’s Seedling

We had one early, transparent variety, a Lodi, drop it’s apples before we realized what type it was!  I spent some time after that looking up the varieties that we planted so we knew generally when to pick the few apples without wasting them.  (The varieties were chosen by Bob Duncan of Fruits Trees and More, and are a diverse collection of heritage apples ripening at different times and having different properties.  They are all a mystery to us and so we are slowly learning by experience!)

Here is what we tasted this year:

Lodi- early transparent from 1924, USA.  Good fresh eating (if harvested at the right time!)  We didn’t get a picture but it looked like a transparent- greeny yellow and soft.


Lord Lambourne

Lord Lambourne- produced the most this year, with a harvest of 9 apples between 2 trees!  A delicious, juicy, crunchy, flavourful apple that we all loved. From 1923 in England.  Mid season.



Rubinette- only 2 apples, fruity and a beautiful red blush over a yellow background.  Almost glowing in colour.  1966, Switzerland- not entirely a heritage.  Mid season.

Bramley's Seedling

Bramley’s Seedling

Bramley’s Seedling- definitely a late season as the 2 huge apples we got were still tart and a bit hard.  However, the description we found said tart, excellent baking apple that keeps 4 months.  1809, England, gives it official heritage status in my mind.



Snow- We got 8 of these little gems between the 2 trees.  They are bright red and beautifully round.  Late season, so we haven’t picked them, but my son ate one and said it was delicious.  Trees Of Antiquity says this:  Snow Fameuse is one of the oldest and most desirable dessert apples, a parent of the aromatic McIntosh. It was found in almost every French settlement, in the late 1700’s, as the Snow apple was planted 1,000 miles in every direction of Canada and the lower states. Flesh is tender, spicy, distinctive in flavor, and snow white in color with occasional crimson stains near the skin. Snow apple is very hardy, heavy bearing tree that is excellent for home orchards. Snow Fameuse is delicious fresh off the tree, in cider, or in culinary creations. One of very few apples that often reproduce true to variety when established from seed.

Tydeman's Late Orange

Tydeman’s Late Orange

Tydeman’s Late Orange- As named, another late variety, but we only had one so we went ahead and tried it.  From England, 1949, good fresh eating and can store for 5-6 months.

Poppy's Wonder

Poppy’s Wonder

Poppies’ Wonder- I couldn’t find much about this variety, and I think this is why- “In the 1990’s, there have even been some great recent chance seedlings such as Poppy’s Wonder, created when a Cox seed was thrown in a compost pile in Victoria, BC and this fabulous apple tree resulted.” Harry Burton, on why we don’t need a GE apple.I think it is a late season apple, very red and round and sweet.



Spitzenburg- This single apple we harvested was fantastic.  Another heritage- Spitzenburg apple was discovered in the late 1700s by an early Dutch settler of that name. It was found at the settlement of Esopus, on the Hudson River, in Ulster County, New York. Much attention was bestowed upon Spitzenburg apple when Thomas Jefferson ordered a dozen trees for his orchard in Monticello. Unexcelled in flavor or quality, the fruit is great off the tree, but flavor radically improves in storage. Medium apple with crisp, yellow skin covered with inconspicuous red stripes and russet freckles. Flesh is tinged yellow, firm, aromatic, and complex in flavor; a perfect balance between sharp and sweet.  Late season.

rubinetteSo much to learn and discover!  We look forwards to getting to know the rest of the apples as they begin to produce in the coming years, along with the apricot, nectarine, peach, pears, and quince- and the  plums and asian pears that we have ordered for planting in march.



Angora Additions to the Family

For many years, I have had the idea to eventually raise angora rabbits as part of our family and farm.  I imagined that I would wait until all our building projects were done, when I might have more space in my time to learn and manage another project.  However, it seemed evident that our home schooling journey needed more long term and interactive projects, and I realized that the things I wanted to do were also things that my kids were interested in, and besides, home schooling for us is all about living, creating, and doing- just learning through life.  So I promptly gave my twelve year old daughter the task of taking on some research to find out what we need to know and do, and where to acquire some rabbits.  In her process, she herself fell in love with the possibilities of these cozy cute creatures, and began to be a major motivation to our moving forwards.


Rosey- Sable French Angora, 1 year old

We decided to find some French Angora rabbits, since that seemed to be the breed that was an easier level of management for first time bunny owners.  They have a clear face, free of long hair, and a thick coat of soft hair that doesn’t tangle as quickly as some other breeds.  We weren’t too keen on the rabbits that had a face hidden behind so much hair!  Their fibre can be gently pulled off their bodies every 3 months, when the new undercoat grows in, so no shearing required.  We looked at a space to give them, the food they needed, the protection they needed, and the management of their poop.  We also found that they are hypo-allergenic, which was just what we needed, since my mother with whom we live is seriously allergic to cats.  French angora’s seemed to be a lovely pet, (they generally have a good temperament and are playful and clean), they can live outside, (great for our small space), they produce beautiful fibre for all my weaving and spinning projects, and we obtain a constant supply of rich rabbit manure that can be applied fresh right to the garden.


Peter- Chocolate Agouti French Satin x, 3 years old

We didn’t find any breeders in our area, or even distant area, but we did find an owner who was no longer able to look after her two french angora’s, and one french/satin x.  The two french’s, one male and one female, both young, are a breeding pair so we can grow our numbers if we like.  The other is an older male who has a beautiful, finer coat, and was the last one she was left with.  We decided to take them all.  They are all pedigree.

There was a lot of different types of housing offered for rabbits.  We were given a double long wooden hutch, so we started with that for Gustav, the young french angora male.

Gustav- Chocolate French Angora, 1 year old

Gustav- Chocolate French Angora, 1 year old

We built a 6 foot square enclosure for him to run around in when we are out in the yard with him.  I haven’t seen any signs that he might want to dig his way out.  It is shaded and covered from over head predators.  We added two enclosures underneath the wooden one, on the deck of our old trailer, which both open to two separate 4 foot square runs, with wire floors and a roof to keep the area dry and shaded.  We supplied a litter tray with a drop pan underneath, which they seem to be using after we placed them in the corners that the bunnies had decided were their bathroom areas.  Gustav’s hutch came with slatted floors and drop pans, which are so easy to empty and keep clean.

We have already collected quite a bit of fibre from them.  It has taken a few times of grooming to get them used to us, but mostly they have all been very patient while we brush and pluck and generally pick through their fibre, checking for any bugs, tangles, cuts or signs of needed care.  The previous owner of these rabbits generously supplied me with many books to read through, and I read that observation and time with the bunnies is the best way to know what they need.  (The Nervous New Owner’s Guide To Angora Rabbits, by Suzie Sugrue was the best!)  Between myself, my husband, my mother, and my two kids, we are constantly looking to see how they are doing and if they are happy.  My daughter goes to feed them as soon as she gets up in the morning, and we brush each of them in rotation every few days, and clean out their living areas thoroughly once a week, with daily litter pan emptying.  We feed them some greens and vegetables everyday, with a constant supply of timothy hay that is locally grown on the Saanich Peninsula.  They eat pellets, and a small amount of dried papaya to help their stomachs digest any of the long hair they swallow while grooming themselves.

All of this doesn’t take too long, but it certainly is a reminder of the commitment to have small creatures in our care.  It has been wonderful to witness the connections that the kids have made with the rabbits, and the level of responsibility that they have shown to keeping them healthy and loved.  My daughter put together a presentation for our home schooling group on angora rabbits.

I have yet to spin any of the fibre, but as I have collected it, I have been dreaming of the the super soft and warm scarves, hats, or shawls it could become.  Rabbits love greens!Every thing happens in it’s own time, and eventually I will understand the inticacies of the art of using the fibre, just as I am beginning to understand the procedures of care for our new family fluff balls!

Mushroom Gardens

                                                              Garden Giants (Stropharia rugosa annulata)

One of the many things that contributes to the diversity of Spring Leaves Family Learning is having guests share with us a special interest of theirs.  Some of these people are teachers, some are parents or grand parents, and some are simply members of the community that love what they do and love communicating with anyone else who is interested.  We welcomed a new resident to Pender Island by inviting him to share with our group his love and knowledge of building and growing mushroom gardens.

Don Ollsin has been doing this for a long time.  His own education in herbalism began in the early 70’s and has continued ever since.  Don received his Master Herbalist’s degree from the Emerson Institute and soon began teaching classes on herbs and healing, eventually broadening his activities to include lecturing and giving workshops with noted authors and teachers.  Over the years he has created many herbal programs and has taught at many colleges and universities.  He is the author of Pathways To Healing: A Guide to Ayurveda, Herbs, Dreambody and Shamanism.  In 2013 Don completed his MA in Environmental Education and Communication at Royal Roads University, and directs his teaching through environmentalism, community and sustainability.

mushroom gardenOn a sunny spring day, we met with Don to learn to create a fungi garden-a food garden consisting of wood chips, soil, edible fungi (in this case, Stropharia rugoso-annulata), and vegetables or herbs.  It becomes a thriving ecosystem complete with everything from microorganisms, plants, insects, birds, animals and people.

This is from Don’s website, Using a carefully calculated organization of wood chips and fungi in a properly chosen location we create the foundation of our future ecosystem. By the addition of some seeds, a bit of soil and whatever plants we want to plant we set the stage for the creation of life. As the spawn breaks down the carbon in the chips and releases oxygen, the seeds and plants begin to use these to grow. Once the spawn produces its fruits (mushrooms) the insects discover them and eventually lay their larvae in them. Then the birds discover the larvae and while feasting leave behind rich droppings of nitrogen adding to the primordial bed of fertility. Once there is food available in the way of mushrooms, plants and birds, larger animals and people enter the system. Now we have a complete ecosystem. That is why we create Fungi Gardens.
We picked a spot, with moisture and sun, and laid down cardboard over the grass.  Then we spread newspaper over that, and laid down the wood chips.  Don shaped the wood chips into small troughs, into which everyone placed a handful of the spawn- or innoculated wood chips of the Garden Giant mushroom.  Then we covered that with newspaper, which we also soaked with water before adding soil.  We went off into the forest to find some plants to put into our garden, and found miners lettuce, wild strawberry, dandelion, and a few others.  Don also had some clover seeds to spread over all the soil.

The most exciting thing we got to talk about was the relationship of exchange between the roots of plants and the roots of the fungus.  We explored the same thing during our forest school unit, and it was wonderful to revisit the same relationship in a new way.  When the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae called mycellium, makes contact with the roots of plants, then mycorrizae is created.  A mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular plant.  So, fungus roots connect with the plant roots, and where they meet, communication unfolds.  The mushroom is the fruiting body of the fungal threads spreading underground and essentially connecting all plants, including all large trees, together.  We heard it called the Wood Wide Web.  An exchange of resources ensues: “This mutualistic association provides the fungus with relatively constant and direct access to carbohydrates, such as glucose and sucrose.  The carbohydrates are translocated from their source (usually leaves) to root tissue and on to the plant’s fungal partners. In return, the plant gains the benefits of the mycelium’s higher absorptive capacity for water and mineral nutrients due to the comparatively large surface area of mycelium: root ratio, thus improving the plant’s mineral absorption capabilities.  (wikipedia)

mycellium connectionsI just find this whole system utterly amazing.  Thanks to Don, we created our own window into the world of this alternate web.  Eventually we will be able to see the growth of the mycelium, the growth of the plants’ roots, and the places where they connect.
Welcome to Pender Island Don!  We look forwards to more learning exchanges such as this.

More Saori Weaving

first market tableThe cool days of winter reflected in weaving… Here are a few photos of some of the things that have come off the loom in the last few months.  I had my first table at the Easter weekend farmers’ market- it was pretty fun to see all the colours out in the spring air and to connect with other islanders’ in sharing creations.  It was the first time I have really had a collection out in the public eye, and I was quite excited by all the supportive responses!

Here are a few scarves… lots of play with bright tones, mixing them randomly or with a preconceived design.  A few fibers in these include alpaca, merino, silk, and bamboo.  I love the saori philosophy that allows mistakes to be elements of design.  Eliminating the negative idea of a mistake opens the possibilities for unplanned creation.

I have also been experimenting with small vests, made in two ways- either cut in half and sewn up the back and sides, or a single length folded in a V in the back and sewn to the front under the arms.  The second way makes for a slightly more fitting cropped kind of vest, as seen in the yellow/blue vest.  The unfolded length of it can be seen in the photo above- I did some planning to make the yellow portion of the vest fall around the shoulders and the blue portion lie at the bottom, once it is folded.  The blue vest is made primarily with hand dyed merino and kid fiber from Fleece Artist in Nova Scotia.  It is cut in half and sewn up the back for a wider fit.

I often catch myself judging whether or not I like what I am doing.  As I work, the weaving gets rolled up to advance the warp strings, and my visual of the progress remains in the immediate ten inches or so.  It is not until I roll the whole thing off that I get a full look of what I have done, (unless I unroll it and peek, but that still has some visual limitations).  It is a chance to remember to work in the present, and trust that a complete picture of the creation will be revealed later… whether it is based on a preconceived idea I have attempted to follow, or a creation of random patterning, it is always a surprise to pull something off the loom and see it in it’s full form.


Forest School

sparkle forestOur group of home learners here on the Gulf Islands has made plans to be outside during our time together one day a week.  We are calling it Forest School, and while it is not a new or original concept, it is a new intention for us as a group to meet at a local farm (which has lots of forest) and play games, explore, honor values, and create team building opportunities.  Our mild, west coast winters make it quite easy to be outside, providing we are moving and have a warm fire to sit by.  The “original” format of Forest School came out of Wisconsin, but also Sweden, Denmark and the UK, all places with more difficult winters than ours!  Wikipedia says this about forest schools:

bio-regional mapForest school is a type of outdoor education in which children (or adults) visit forests/woodlands, learning personal, social and technical skills. It has been defined as “an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment”.  Forest school is both a pedagogy and a physical entity, with the use often being interchanged.

Forest school uses the woods and forests as a means to build independence and self-esteem in children and young adults.  Topics are cross-curriculum (broad in subject) including the natural environment, for example the role of trees in society, the complex ecosystem supported by a wilderness, and recognition of specific plants and animals. However, the personal skills are considered highly valuable, such as teamwork and problem solving.  The woodland environment may be used to learn about more abstract concepts such as mathematics and communication. Forest school provision is also called nature schools.

mushroomsIn Denmark it became an embedded part of the curriculum for pre-school children (under seven years) stemming from their småbørnspædagogik, or ‘Early childhood education’. Children attending Forest kindergartens were arriving at school with strong social skills, the ability to work in groups effectively, and generally children had high self-esteem and confidence in their own capabilities.  In 1957, a Swedish man, Goesta Frohm, created the “Skogsmulle” concept to promote learning about nature, water, mountains and pollution. With an increasing focus on measurable outcomes, forest schools have gained acceptance as an educational method in their own right.

Beyond primary school age children, forest school is frequently used to further develop social skills and explore creative learning and focuses on developing firm foundations for continued personal and education development.

cedar's sit spotForest School Canada says this on their website~

Our vision is for all Canadian children to play and learn in local forests, creeks, meadows, prairie grasses, mountains, and shorelines with a wise and skilled educator who understands the power of play and child-directed learning and how this can contribute to a more sustainable world.

Forest School Canada runs a practitioner’s course in conjunction with the the UK Forest School Association. The course is “a program steeped in the tradition of Forest School abroad, but grounded in the realities of the Canadian experience.” Julie Johnston, our Spring Leaves resource teacher and facilitator attended their July 2014 program held at UVic — a wonderful week of outdoor learning about how to engage children in outdoor learning. They focused on risk assessment and management, practical outdoor skills (fire building, tool making and safety, flora and fauna identification), woodland management, the theories of holistic learning and development, and the establishment and delivery of a Forest and Nature School program.

Our Spring Leaves Forest School is a blend of Forest School ethos with the themes in Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature, which is a book about the principles, games and other activities in Coyote Mentoring, a program and “way of learning” based on Tom Brown Jr’s Tracking School and Jon Young’s Wilderness Awareness School.  Julie’s background in outdoor and experiential education and the combination of these two programs has created a wonderful foundation in which our group can explore the needs of our large span of ages (preschool to 13, plus adults!).

the walk to forest school

the walk to forest school

We have had three weeks of our forest school so far.  Each week we have left our cars and made the 5 minute walk through agricultural fields and up to a place with a fire pit surrounded by bench seats.  We have a circle, where we each have the chance to say how we are doing, feeling, or what we are grateful for.  Julie introduces the theme of the day, and offers an activity or game that gets us involved in the theme.  We have spent time practicing our owl eyes, deer ears, and fox walking, and considered what around us we can catch, gather, eat, climb and tend.  We have made ourselves aware of potential hazards of the area, and made sure everyone understands what to do in case of getting lost.  We did some tracking and observing of landmark features, and we spend some time in our own quiet meditative sit spot.  We also have a growing list of fun games to play.

Our kids have grown up in nature.  Their everyday world provides them with opportunities to connect with nature, from looking out the windows, to walking or bicycling down the road to a friend’s house, or  spending time kayaking, or looking up at night to see the brightness and clarity of a sky full of stars.  I have seen them, as babies, toddlers, and little children, fall in love with rocks, sticks, clouds, trees, and fields of grass.  It seems very clearly inherent, instinctual, and life supporting for us as an earthly species to understand and feel our place as interconnected, as a part of the natural system.  I think it leads to a deep sense of well-being and confidence, a foundation for children to bring into the adult world strewn with so many detrimental substitutes.  Here is my own list of benefits to being outside as a form of education:

magic sit spotIn nature we find peace, reflection, micro systems, macro systems, observation, exploration, growth patterns, elemental effects, cascade of reaction, challenges, physical movement, high intake of fresh oxygen, moving up and down, scrambling, reaching, walking carefully, stillness, problem solving, understanding safety, being closer to the reality of survival, understanding comfort, help from others, learning skills and then doing them, leading others, helping others, asking questions, seeing our effectiveness or consequences, fun, playing games, imagination, diversity, seasonal cycles, life cycles, beauty, creativity, symbiotic relationships, healing, spiritual connections~ mind, body, spirit.

I am sure this list could be plenty longer.  I am also sure that some things on this list are attained in other ways.  This is what I experience, and what I see my children experience when they are outside.  Over many years together as a changing group of home schoolers, other parents also agree that basically, being outside together seems to be the most satisfying and uplifting scenario, for the kids and for the adults.  Finding that this type of “education” is recognized as being consistent with Attention Restoration Theory, where children taking part in forest school have been described as more relaxed, is not surprising.  Relationships between the children and each other, with adults, and with the environment, are important.  Forest schools have been found to help children with additional support needs, including Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and autistic children.  The Biophilia hypothesis argues that a love of nature is instinctive. The term ‘nature deficit disorder’, coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, recognizes the erosion of this by the urbanization of human society.

Forest Schools are being created all over the globe, with classes filling to capacities.  It is no surprise that we recognize the need for such educational reform, especially in the early years, but also as we grow.  There is a Hopi word, koyaanisqatsi, which means life out of balance, or a state of life that calls for  another way of living.  The way we bring our next generations into the world is a vital part of all systems that we as humans need to change to bring ourselves back into balance.

Deep thanks to the family of the Valley Home Farm for opening their beautiful land to us.

A Path of Education


Taeven’s 2015 collage of learning

January has headed us in a new direction, once again, as home learners.  Responses to our past experiences in our individual paths has created new choices and ever evolving explorations.  My oldest daughter (12), decided to return to home learning after a three month period of being in the classroom, with a renewed sense of what it is to be home schooled.

It was an interesting journey, witnessing and discussing the new environment and learning format that Taeven experienced while in school.  She did not dislike being there.  Most of the kids in her grade 7/8 class were familiar friends in the community in which we live and play.  Her reading and writing ability is strong, so keeping up with assigned work in a larger body of students was not difficult.  She enjoyed the opportunities to work with the other kids on learning projects.  Her teacher was young and fun and easy to get along with.  Taeven knew that any extra help was always available, and she felt no hierarchy in terms of social pressures and competitive academic results.  Lovely!


exploring calligraphy

Without any negative influences that can be layered over the simplicity of education, Taeven had the chance to really compare with clarity the new learning situation with her past 7 years of home learning,  which was spent mostly in a state of free play, individual direction, and spontaneous exploring.  She found that she liked the framework of assignments, but was having a hard time focusing energy into a topic that wasn’t in her interest.  She liked constructing essays, for example, but it was so much work when the topic was handed to her rather than of her own choice.  Without a goal for her to apply the topic of the essay towards, the assignment became more tedious than interesting.  It felt like a really long day at the school without accomplishing any learning in the areas of life that really sparked her spirit.  She also found that being inside so much made her always feel sleepy.  One day when Taeven was splitting kindling outside with me, she stated, “I feel so alive!” I was a bit surprised by such an enormously simple self-observation, and when I asked what spurred her sentiment, she reflected that, compared to being in the classroom, being outside and active makes her feel alive and happy!  And therefor, more ready and eager to soak up her experiences.

moss and fernsTaeven missed our land, missed the forest, missed the beach, missed her little brother, and missed having so much time to just be.  She is not a twelve year old looking to be sixteen and head off into social peer world.  She wants to be at home with her family, but have opportunities to be with her friends, and play in the forest.  There have been things about school that she has asked to bring into our home learning schedule, like a certain spelling/language program, and researching and essay writing assignments.  Since our return to home learning in January, we have outlined interests and activities on a mind map, drawn them out in a Venn diagram, and organized ourselves into a loose weekly schedule.

back yard hike

our backyard hill


snorkeling excursion

We head outside in the morning for about half an hour, as often as we can, either hiking up the hill behind our house, bike riding around the closest loop, or testing out our bootcamp style cardio/strength moves.  Then we open the grade 7 JUMP math book , do a few pages, move on to a music practice (violin for Taeven, cello or drum for Cedar) and hopefully explore some language arts of any kind before lunch.  The afternoons are more random, but usually we are focusing on independent study topics, which for Taeven, are documenting what she sees when we go snorkeling, or researching angora rabbits (which we all want!) discovering permaculture, or writing stories.  We also foray into a variety of art projects, which recently have been zen doodling and sketching.  She often attends a history class with other home schoolers in our group, and she is pretty excited about Forest School with the Spring Leaves. We split cedar kindling to sell in bundles at a roadside stand as a small business.  She does karate twice a week, attends a dance class once a week, and we go to the big island where she swims every friday with the Otters Swim Club.  If it works, we also go skating and climbing at an indoor climbing wall.  She still wants to learn more about cooking, stained glass, and typing.  She still has lots of time and energy to play with Cedar in an infinite amount of ways in which they connect.

zen doodle

Taeven’s zen doodle

Taeven’s time in school was a great way to clarify what direction she would like to take with her life learning experiences.  We discussed how a classroom format may be something she will encounter as she continues, either as high school, or as college, or university.  She may want to pursue an interest that takes her into a classroom in order for her to attain certain skills and knowledge.  She may need to be inside a whole bunch taking biology classes so that she can get outside and be a marine biologist.  Keeping those educational roads open is important when a passionate goal is being followed.

happy outsideHowever, Taeven’s passionate goal right now is being happy!  I think that is so wonderful, and I hope to support her in this time of being herself as a happy, joyful, and exploring spirit.

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