learning

The Photo Gallery | One Word – Metamorphosis

‘One Word’ is this week’s theme over on ‘The Photo Gallery‘ at Sticky Fingers blog and I’m going with ‘Metamorphosis’, after a magical visit to the recently opened ‘Butterflies Alive!’ exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

I visited on with my youngest daughter, age four. She entered the magical world of the exhibition with careful tread, mindful to watch for any butterflies on the ground. There was a mix of wonder and trepidation in her gaze. Numerous butterflies skimmed past us, seeking out nectar from the exotic offer of colourful flowers. She was a little concerned about one landing on her, and what she should do if that occurred, so I passed her my camera to distract her thoughts and she quickly became absorbed with taking photographs of them.

She proudly told me she knew what the word metamorphosis meant and enjoyed rolling all five syllables out on her tongue as she posed for photographs depicting the incredible transformation a caterpillar makes, changing into a butterfly.

All the while I couldn’t help but think what an incredible metamorphosis was happening in my own children, every moment, every day, every year.

Only four years ago she was a babe in arms, cooing to me as I pointed out nature’s wonders all around her. Now, here she was, striding along the pathways of the museum’s ‘backyard’, articulately describing to me all that her gaze fell upon.

Miss 4 taking me on a nature walk

A letter to our dear sensory seeker

Our dear sensory seeking eight year old, how we love you so much.

You seek out love, hugs, contact & friendship with such openness; just like your appetite for food is varied and sometimes exotic. You are the one to take the craziest roller coaster ride, seek out thrills and push your body to the limit. You will plunge yourself into a cold pool and climb the highest tree you can find. You prefer speed and would travel around on roller blades everywhere if you could. You are always running, jumping, swinging off bars and dangling upside down. Your mind is always so busy, just like your body. You will talk to anyone you meet and love to engage new people in games.

Your laughter is intense and contagious. When you hurt yourself or feel scared or anxious you are equally intense, dramatic and just as loud as when you’re happy.

You feel everything with extreme depth. Sometimes we urge you to remove yourself from drama, but you are like a moth to the flame. No matter if something will scorch or hurt you, sometimes you cannot resist the sensory experience. Other times your instincts of fight and flight bring you crumbling to a halt. All rational thought can sometimes leave you and hinder you from trying something you’d like to do in your heart.

For a risk taker and thrill seeker you surprise us in your fears of some things that seem so mundane to others. You find structured classes or scheduled events hard to handle, as your spontaneous nature can’t hold emotions to a clock.

We find your company both exhausting and exhilarating; at times frustrating but mostly exciting. There is so much noise and movement around you. Your presence fills every room you walk into. We are constantly surprised, sometimes exasperated. We worry what will become of you, whilst at the same time trying to trust our instincts that all will be fine.

You are living and learning a path very much of your own forging. We are learning alongside of you, every step of the way – sometimes ahead of you; but quite often chasing your crazy tail!

Lots of love Miss 8. You really are an incredible, unique, special, noisy, energetic and vibrant young lady!

Celebrating your eighth Birthday by seeing the film ‘Frozen’, & celebrating with a ‘summer garden tea party’ afterwards, was perfectly befitting.

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You are definitely a girl who is full of passion, with a deep love for her family and sisters and will make a mark on the world around you. You make friends wherever you go and make people feel excited and encouraged to explore the world with heady enthusiasm.

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So, ‘Do you want to build a snowman?!’

Keep living life to the full beautiful. Keep feeling with all your emotions. I suspect you’ll leave the snowman building to your younger sister before long – whilst you take to the steep slopes and spin circles on the ice… But she’ll be catching up with you! And she is so fortunate to have your zest and energy as inspiration in her own life.

Hoping the rest of your ninth year is full of ample sensory excitement and happiness. You’ve done so well adjusting to life in California this year. We shall look forward to celebrating your ninth Birthday back at home in New Zealand.

Lots of love, Mum, Dad, younger sister Miss 3 (nearly 4!) and older sister Miss 10 & a half xxxx

It’s the little moments of parenting that make it worthwhile

When you get out of the habit of writing about the little slices of life, that make it worth living, it’s hard to know where to start. Everything I write, which means so much to me, will be trivial to others; but I share it all the same, as I’ve learned that there’s a wonderful community ‘out there’ of parents that make sharing worthwhile.

Through sharing I’ve met great, interesting, inspiring people. I’ve felt empowered to make changes and I’ve felt that reassurance of ‘Thank goodness I am not the only one’. It’s not until you are a parent, or spend a lot of time with children, that you can understand the complexities of trying to be the right role model, all the time. I never knew patience like I do now, after ten years of parenting. I can add tolerance, empathy, sympathy, an ear that listens (and sometimes requires ear plugs) and much more; that I’m too tired to think of (a normal condition of parenting) to the list.

I’ve learned, above all else, to try and take stock, every day – or at least once a week, of the little things that have made me happy, grateful, proud or loved. It’s all too easy to get hung up on the negatives (it’s a constant battle in my mind not to!), but writing a blog over the years – ‘Catching the Magic‘, and now here, has helped me to keep a positive focus (or at least stop me from sinking completely underneath the trail of mess that is childhood creativity and learning in full flow!). I often look back on all we’ve done and am so thankful that I found the energy to record all those little slices of positivity.

I gave up paid work to spend every moment with my children. I have loved living in the moment with them and have totally immersed myself in being in their worlds – but perhaps too much (indicative of the sneaky white hairs). I feel more and more, as my youngest reaches four, that though I still am occupied so much with the lives of my children, I need to once again take back a little of me. I’ve been happy, for years, to give and give, but now I feel the emptiness of not taking time to refill myself with the essence of what makes me a person. As my eldest turned ten I felt the need, more than ever, to be once again more of the ‘old me’; an independent woman that spent time working, volunteering, undertaking hobbies to further enhance my physical, mental and spiritual health. I need this change for me, but also to set an example to my ten year old, whilst also being there and constant for my youngest child and middle daughter, that’s recently turned eight.

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Lately, I have really struggled to find any time to record the high moments of the week, or the desire, compulsion and motivation to do so. I nap when my youngest does, I sleep when my children sleep – they don’t hit the sack at night till around 10pm. I read a little, but that’s it. Writing, sadly, has left me. So, this post is the beginning of rectifying that. I doubt I’ll be as constant or diarise with such intensity. I don’t feel compelled to share the day to day moments as much as I used to – though it’s true that, on reflection, that’s what I enjoy looking back on. I don’t feel like spending hours putting photographs together in collages and tweaking them to edited perfection. But I do miss taking my camera and capturing a moment that might otherwise have missed.

Miss 10 rainbow looming

When I focus, with camera in hand, something else happens that changes my perception and depth of what my eyes naturally see. I feel immersed in a world of colour in a higher magnitude. I forget the washing, the piles of toys to sort and resort, the lunches to prepare and the dishes to wash. My perspective shifts when I practice being observant and my overall mental health is all the better for it.

Day to day happenings

This year, living away from our home in New Zealand, should – most would think – be all the more worth recording. But, with three children at home full time, and the pressure of making sure they are occupied, emotionally and physically well, happy and learning, is all consuming. The ‘big days out’ are photographed aplenty, but I don’t feel the need to write down every moment or blog about it – rather let the photographs speak for themselves. It’s the little moments, of every day, in the home, that are the ones I need to take stock of. The fairy gardens that our Miss 3 creates…

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The progress she makes, with such delight, in her drawings…

Little moments of contented achievement in the home

It’s only now, with this momentary time of reflection (all be it with Miss 3 sat next to me, talking away, pulling my nose, giggling and asking if dinner is nearly ready) that I realise how much I need to make time to take stock (however interrupted it is). It is this time that makes me feel better about how I’m doing and how my children are faring. They have come to a new country for a year, leaving behind their beloved home, friends, hobbies and routines. They are all at home, after schools here in the USA seemed so different that thrusting them into a different system – just for a year – didn’t seem worth it. They are living and breathing life together, 24/7, and the way they have learned to get on and entertain themselves in a way that makes me so proud. The unity of our family feels stronger than ever (even if I feel a little frazzled around the edges at times!). We are doing okay.

Keep calm and carry on

It’s forcing myself to take stock that makes me feel more upbeat and helps me to pick up momentum in taking a positive outlook each week.

Miss 8 writing down her looming creations

I have felt so, so lost living in the USA, away from everything my children and I know. I have felt reflective of the past and full of questions about the future.

What I feel about my life and how I’d like to move forward is weighed upon, heavily, by the desires of my children and my husband. I must continue to think of my family and the best way forward for the whole, no matter how much my heart pines for something quite different in so many respects.

Taking stock of the little moments, that occur on any normal day, are what keep me sane and positive. I feel better for writing already. Time to ditch the laptop now and go ‘be in the moment’ with my family 🙂

Sarah x

A week in reflection: Moments to love & be thankful for.

It’s Friday. The weekend is nearly here, which means family time with the man of the house. It’s so much easier to keep all three of our children entertained when he’s at home. As much as I am enjoying having the girls all at home, I do have moments of feeling like I’m being held under ‘house arrest’ by my own children! There’s always someone that doesn’t want to go out, or a discussion about where we should go and why. Thankfully the house we are staying in is a very lovely environment to spend hours and hours, but I definitely need a couple of ‘outings’ to keep me sane – even if it’s down to the local village for a cup of coffee!

This week we had one outing which was particularly lovely, to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. We’ve been once before, enjoying the outdoor setting, water course, fort building and nature glen. This time around we discovered a ‘Planetarium’ and a new dinosaur discovery pit, where my junior palaeontologists got to work digging and brushing away the sand to reveal a skeleton. They enjoyed discussing what type of animal it would have been and whether it would have been a land, sea or air animal.

Dinosaur excavation at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

We were also opportune to visit on a day that an insect expert was sharing his knowledge. He had a ‘pet’ Vinegaroon to tell us about, otherwise known as a whipped tail scorpion (though it’s not a scorpion at all… See! I was paying attention!). He demonstrated the difference between six-legged insects and eight-legged arthropods and arachnids. He had some wonderful exhibits to show us and was so interesting to listen to.

After listening to him for a while, we made a speedy getaway as a big school group approached, thanking him for his time and feeling quite sorry for him as the crowd descended! We ducked into a fantastic display of more insects and bugs, trying to make our own spider web from a single piece of rope.

Learning at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Talking of rope, there’s been quite a lot of activity happening on the end of one too. Miss 7 has joined the Santa Barbara Rock Gym and, after her Dad took a belay course, she’s spending many an evening scaling the walls and hanging around. We all went along on Monday evening, with even young Miss 3 having a go – but she didn’t like wearing the climbing shoes or a harness, so had to be pulled back down the wall every time she climbed higher than my head!

The rock gym has a super friendly atmosphere and is definitely a great way to expel a little of Miss 7’s seemingly unstoppable energy (and there’s some good eye candy for me when the college lads are scaling the wall!). She went on Thursday evening as well, as a reward for working hard with her tutor that now visits twice a week; just for a couple of hours at a time.

Santa Barbara Rock Gym

I am so loving having a tutor in, to help with Miss 7’s learning. She’ll be eight by the end of this year and has only ever spent a total of two terms in formal school since turning five. It has been great for me to hear, from a professional teacher, that Miss 7 is achieving above average and not at all behind in any of her learning areas. She has a very ‘natural learning’ home environment, where I don’t so much ‘teach’ – rather I ‘facilitate’ her learning, with resources and encouragement. I see her reading, writing, applying mathematics in her every day life, as well as conversing confidently with people we meet in museums, cafes and so on, but do sometimes worry a little about ‘where we are heading’. Thankfully, I know a couple of inspirational people, through the blogging and homeschooling communities, that give me inspiration and faith to ‘trust in the process’. Nevertheless, I appreciate the input of a tutor.

The tutor brings in fresh ideas and energy, such as organising a fabulous practical experiment of ‘goo’ making on Halloween, tying in with the science of understanding the difference of a solid, a gas and a liquid, as well as sitting around the table doing formal learning.

Goo!

Our first ‘US’ Halloween was a very creative one and the evening was spent with lovely ‘Kiwi’ friends, enjoying ‘trick or treating’ in their friendly neighbourhood, where the home decorations were fantastic.

Trick of treating

Everywhere we went, in the weeks building up to Halloween, there were decorations in shop windows, cafes, restaurants – even the local Zoo!

Decorations

And of course the girls loved carving their own plump, orange, pumpkins – which are in very short supply in New Zealand in spring!

Pumpkins

The man of the house turned up to a very different office on Halloween too…

Halloween at work!

In the home this week my older daughters have loved designing and creating, both on paper with traditional pencils (which will probably be found only in a museum in another generation or so!) and on their computers. On paper they’ve been doing fashion design and looking at how fashion has changed over the last century. On their computers they’ve been designing virtual advent calendars on Minecraft.

Miss 3 has been doing lots of drawings and made a ‘turkey’ out of her hand and foot shapes. Her drawings always come with long explanations that I am asked to ‘write down, with arrows’!

Miss 3, 7 & 10, creating

She loves her drawings to be stuck into her ‘Dinosaur Book’ of treasures, that she likes us to read through every night before bed. She is quite taken with animals and dinosaurs at the moment, so we’ve been creating with play dough, as well as paints and drawing. She comes up with some interesting fictional species and tells me their behaviours, what they like to eat and the environments they live in.

Playdough creatures with Miss 3

Alongside her creativity Miss 3 has been showing great progress with recognising all the letters and sounds of the alphabet, numbers and doing simple addition with numbers under 10. She’s trying to write the letters of her name and creates letters with anything she has to hand – straws, play dough, skewers, in the sand or with water on the dry ground. When she’s not writing or drawing, she’s swimming and diving in the pool with great enthusiasm. She makes me smile with her wonderful imagination and living ‘in the moment’ – an art young children practice with ease.

Miss 3 picking me wild flowers and making me smile

So, that’s my week, the first since the clocks went back, throwing us into darkness from 5pm onwards. My body still thinks it is in New Zealand and expects spring sunshine and light till 9pm. I’m trying to compensate, with fairy lights and red wine… but feel totally confused and disorientated after over a decade of adapting to a southern hemisphere build up to the festive season. Thankfully Santa Barbara’s day time climate is beautiful, but I do miss getting out in the light of an evening, when the man of the house is home from work, for a run or some exercise by myself.

Ah well, candles and fairy lights are my friends for now (and my two bears, to make me feel close to my ‘two’ homes, where my heart sits, split in two, on opposite sides of the world).

Fairy lights and teddy bears

Miss 3 takes her Chumash Indian book and puts it into practice

I’ve been reading a lovely book with Miss 3 about the way the Chumash Indian people used to live in Santa Barbara ‘The Chumash Through a Child’s Eyes‘. The book compares their life to our modern day life in a lovely way that young children can comprehend. On one page is a Chumash Indian child helping his mother to cook, next to another page of a young boy helping his mother to cook in a modern day kitchen. The book shows how the pattern of our daily lives isn’t that different, but the way we do things has changed through tools and technology.

Whilst reading the page on cooking, my three year old decided to try and recreate the way the Chumash Indian cooked acorn flour.

Chumash Indian cooking acorn flour

First she looked for a stick, finding a skewer in the kitchen pantry. Then she looked for a stone to attach to the stick. We talked about how a stone could be attached to the stick. I suggested putting a marshmallow on the end of the stick, but Miss 3 rightly explained that a marshmallow is soft, not hard like a stone. She suggested they may have made a hole in the stone to put the stick in it – but we talked about how it would be hard to make a hole and perhaps they would have bound the rock to the stick (we used a hairband for this purpose).

Then we needed fire, to heat the rock.

Miss 3 brought me a candle and a lighter.

She then asked for a bowl. She gathered acorns from the garden and asked for water to mix the acorns in.

We acted out heating the rock and then placing it in the water to heat the water and help ‘cook’ the acorns – adding conventional flour to the mix.

This learning was led by Miss 3, with my role helping to facilitate, respond and observe. It was a joyful experience and an example of how natural learning frequently happens in the home.

 

New country, new species, new discoveries

We’ve seen the groundhogs, (also known as woodchucks), playing peek-a-boo, we’ve stopped in our tracks as a little (or not so little) lizard dashes across our path (or up a wall of the house) and we’ve noticed the colourful, varied birdlife and numerous damsel-flys and dragon-flys. Living in a new country offers great opportunity for exploring and last week the girls and I visited the lovely natural history museum here in Santa Barbara, to learn a little more about all the wonderful new species we are coming across. We had a very interesting time and a fun visit.

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At the museum there is a wonderful collection of insects that can be found around Santa Barbara (some of them we hope not to see in a hurry!), as well as a fabulous exhibition explaining the migration of the monarch butterfly, which come to Santa Barbara, amongst other places, to rest over the winter months (more information on the Ellwood Butterfly Preserve here and the Coronado Butterfly Preserve).

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We are familiar with this beautiful species, as it frequented our summer garden in Wellington, New Zealand, and we loved to plant flowers and ‘Swan Plants‘ (a species of milk weed) to attract them to stay and lay eggs, but we’ve never seen them in such numbers – so definitely a ‘must see’ whilst we are here!

The museum itself is located in a beautiful area, with plentiful outdoor exploration spaces – of particular appeal to children and families. The girls thought pulling a chord to discover how long a blue whale is was a lot of fun (and amazing too!).

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They also spent time enjoying the nature discovery areas – where there are large bamboo poles for fort building, rocks to climb on and a water course – offering plentiful learning opportunities! They spent a while toying with little wooden boats on the rapids, filling buckets with water and working out how many they could carry using a pole, rather than just their two hands, and making the water pumps work.

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And whilst they played around the water course, a very friendly, inquisitive squirrel scampered down from the trees to watch us too!

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We very much enjoyed the opportunity to explore and learn both indoors and outdoors at the museum. Next time we’ll have to take a picnic and stay for longer (there are vending machines, but that’s all).

Finally, I must add this write up on the mineral exhibition by my eldest daughter – a lovely piece of expressive writing;

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A Cave Filled With Minerals

I was treading carefully through the dark room filled with exquisite minerals and crystals including ruby and pyrite. In the dark room filled with riches there was an old abandoned mineshaft filled with amethyst and more priceless gemstones.

As I left the abandoned mineshaft a group of rocks captured my attention, out of the corner of my eye. 

On a small information board I spotted a small red button.  I was curious to what it was, so I pressed it.  After about 5 seconds an ultraviolet light appeared and instantly the once old, and not colourful rocks, became a cascade of fluorescent colours. My neon green top was not nearly as bright as these rocks, but there was one especially that captured my attention; it had the same pattern as a bright green and black poison dart frog, it even looked like one!  I had a look at what it was called, as I was curious to know, I have to say it had such a ridiculous name, it was called a ‘Williamite’! 

Finally it was time to leave and return to our home.

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Linking this post with the wonderful ‘Country Kids’

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Decisions made & always some things to love!

What a crazy couple of weeks we have had here. We’ve finally settled into the house we’ll be based in for a year. It’s very pleasant here – the climate, the people, the environment – tick, tick, tick… but after spending over a decade of our lives making New Zealand our home, we don’t have our hearts in starting all over again. This time here is definitely an ‘adventure’, an ‘experience’, a ‘temporary thing’, not a permanent move, for sure (but then I’ve also learned to never say, ‘Never’… so who knows how we’ll feel in a year’s time).

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We have made a few big decisions this past week. Our eldest daughter, who is ten, was very committed to her schooling in New Zealand and so we’ve decided to continue with the NZ Curriculum and sign up to the Te Kura Correspondence School. Our middle daughter, age 7, is continuing with natural learning using the fabulous ESA Publications – such as ‘Start Right’, along with online learning on the likes of ‘Study Ladder’, ‘Mathletics’, ‘Sum Dog’ etc. Our youngest daughter, age 3 and a half, is happy living life and learning as she goes – every day is something new for her and she has a beautiful spirit.

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All this means we can travel with the man of the house on his various business trips around the USA and Europe over the coming year. We can be flexible with our learning and still feel a connection to our friends and the education system in New Zealand. Everyone is happy (and I’ve find a place that serves Latte just how I like it!).coffee French Press

We are beginning to make friendships and the climate here is very convivial to outdoor entertaining. There’s a positivity in our family that feels very hopeful, after the bleak feeling that felt so heavy. Adjustments take time. There will be peaks and troughs, but we are feeling more hopeful that the troughs won’t be deep or long lasting.

With such strong characters in our family, how can life not be interesting?!!

Three wise monkeys

Linking up with….