Tag Archives: environment

45/52 & 46/52

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“A portrait of my child once a week, every week, in 2016”

We spent last week in Lanzarote.

It was a bit of an unexpected trip. We never normally go away in the autumn, and apart from places where people we love live we never normally go back to the same place twice. But after an amazing visit in the Spring we could not resist a return when the chance arose – and the way this year is panning out I was supremely glad to have the opportunity for a bit of an escape.

I’m still digesting the photos and the memories, but these two moments stood out for me: admiring the expansively beautiful view at Mirador del Rio and studying the otherworldly forms at the Jardin de Cactus.

Arthur was simply in awe of so much that he saw. It really is a very special place.

Perfect pumpkins

The unschooling diaries: week forty-one

This is not a reflection on my amazing pumpkin-carving skills, but rather just a realisation of how the humble pumpkin makes a perfect vehicle for learning.

Our pumpkin journey began back in May, with three tiny plants from Rocket Gardens. Arthur helped me plant them, and over the weeks that followed we watered them and watched them grow.

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And grow.

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And grow!

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To be honest I had probably been a little ambitious with the amount of plants we tried to squeeze in to our raised beds, but the pumpkins soon made a break for freedom and found the space they needed by crawling across the deck.

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Arthur has been asking since August whether it is Halloween yet – he has been desperate to bring the pumpkins inside and carve them into lanterns. And this weekend we finally did.

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He was bursting with excitement as we cut the pumpkins open and scooped out the seeds and flesh from inside

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He had very clear ideas about what he wanted to create from his pumpkins: a ghost, a spooky dog, and an astronaut (we had to pilfer a squash from our veg box for the third one).

We looked online for images that fitted his vision, and then he guided me as I drew the outlines on the orange skin. We worked together to carve the shapes out, using Arthur’s ‘ghost knife’ that we’d picked up this time last year and a handy little saw.

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As soon as the lanterns took shape Arthur sought out candles to illuminate them, insisting that we took them somewhere dark immediately for a better view and staring full of wonder when night began to fall and he could watch the flames flicker at the kitchen table before we finally dragged him off to bed.

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This was only the start for the pumpkins, though.

Whilst Arthur and I had been carving their shells for Halloween lanterns, Leigh had been busy making pumpkin pie for Sunday lunch.

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And once the carving was done, we dried and roasted the pumpkin seeds for snacking on – a real treat in my nut-allergic world where every packet of commercially available seeds warns of possible cross contamination!

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There is even a portion of pumpkin puree left in the fridge, waiting to be cooked up into Halloween cupcakes this afternoon.

Honestly, who would have thought a simple vegetable could bring so much joy – and so much learning? I think we’ll all be sad to see the pumpkins go once this week is out. I’d best get thinking about what we can grow next…

Learning (loads) in Lanzarote

The unschooling diaries: weeks eleven and twelve

We spent a week in the Canary Islands over Easter, and once again I have been blown away by just how much there is to be learnt from travelling. We weren’t even motivated by anything more than the desire to get away somewhere warm and spend some quality time as a family, but the tremendous scope for discovery and new experiences that Lanzarote had to offer completely surpassed our expectations.

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We were especially lucky, I think, with the base we chose. We stayed in the most wonderful eco-resort in the North of the island, away from the main tourist trail. We slept in gorgeous yurts, which was an experience in itself. Our closest neighbours were chickens, ducks and donkeys, and there was a lovely solar-heated pool. Not forgetting the playground, which was right outside our little complex: it had a trampoline, and climbing frames, and a boat, and sand, and dump trucks, and little houses, and for Arthur it very quickly became home.

Outside of our little idyll, there was a whole new world to explore.

Unsurprisingly, the sea was central to much of our experience: admiring it, travelling across it, eating its many fruits, and of course swimming in it. We found an incredible lagoon, and some magical tidal pools. Between those and the pool Arthur well and truly shook off any wintery reluctance to jump right in, and his confidence and skill in the water came on in (literal) leaps and bounds.

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He was mesmerised by the little fish that swam around our ankles as we paddled and splashed, but it didn’t stop him enjoying them on his plate, too… I’m not sure how many three year olds would demolish boquerones with quite as much relish as this one did. I like that he’s happy to eat fish that looks like fish, though – and that it gave us the opportunity to talk about where it came from and how it had been caught. I don’t want to freak him out about the food he eats, but I think it’s useful to be able to make the connections and understand our world better – especially when it’s him asking all the questions!

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Away from the sea, there were of course the volcanoes. In the run up to our trip we’d watched some videos and talked about the volcanoes we were likely to see there, and wherever we went Arthur was full of questions about the nature of the mountains around us. We took a (very windy) trek into the lava fields, climbing up to the top of one volcano to peer into the caldera and walking into the depths of another. Both were long dormant, but that didn’t stop the incredible power of nature being evident everywhere we looked.

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One of the other highlights of our trip was completely unexpected. I had never heard of Cesar Manrique, but he was an inspirational artist and architect who through his work and his vision had an enormous impact on the infrastructure of the island. We visited several of the sites he created, and Arthur soaked up the paintings and the sculptures and the unusual spaces, as well as being fascinated by the exhibitions about the landscape around us.

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Last but very much not least, inspired by an advertising board that caught Arthur’s eye in the airport, we took a trip on a submarine. It was the first time any of us had been on an actual submarine voyage, and it blew all of our minds a little bit – but especially Arthur’s. Just the whole mechanics of it was pretty exciting, watching the little screen at our seat compute our depth, the pilots with their illuminated control panel and the propellers at the rear. And out of the window we saw wrecks, lots of fish, and even a diver feeding a huge ray. It was pretty cool.

It was all pretty cool, actually. And it really got me thinking about how we can work some longer trips into the next few years. It’s one of the main reasons I’m not super keen about getting stuck back into the constraints of the school system any earlier than I have to, and why I’m trying to evolve my working life into one I can take on the road with me.

We shall see…

For now, though, we have plenty of memories to be mulling over. I’m going to make a photobook for Arthur so that we can pull it out from time to time and be inspired afresh by our experiences. It’s a lot to compute for a growing mind after all!