Friday, September 27, 2013

Her wisdom

On a grey Wednesday morning, we headed for the Sentier des Crêtes, a beautiful trail in Orford National Park. Mara picked up every maple leaf she found on the ground, smelling each of them, trying to find the sweetest-smelling one. "This one smells just like maple sap, mama!" And in the same breath, she chatted away: "Can we make maple reduction this year?... Oh no! We don't have maple trees big enough to tap here... Can we go to the sugar shack? Hum! I can't wait to have some maple taffy on the snow!" This sweet child of mine is almost always happy... Further up the path, she was delighted to spot a moose trail, the smell of the decaying leaves, touching the birch bark, saying how soft it was and how waterproof it was, how the first nations made recipients with it to collect the maple sap in the spring, sealing the seams with fir pitch... All the while, Mathilde was not in a great mood, complaining of being too cold... and soon too warm... and a million things in between...

:: Homemade dehydrated fruit leather: the best energy-packed hiking food! ::
Aisha was running in front as the little mountain goat that she is, training for her upcoming run up Mount Orford with papa, not wanting anybody to pass her. Mara found a caterpillar and carried it all the way to the top, "because she'll like to see the view too, mama!" and fed her some date.
On the way down, even our charade play did not quite cut it. Lil'sis was still complaining... and it was driving me nuts, sucking the joy out of me... Mara looked at me and said: I wish Mathilde could appreciate how lucky we are to be hiking here in the colorful leaves, on a Wednesday, together. Such simple wisdom. Some people truly have a gift to see beauty in everything, a propensity to happiness. This sweet girl of mine truly does. We call her Mara-bonheur (bonheur means happiness in French) and she truly helps me to see how blessed we are. That amazing teacher of mine.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The seasons

Fall is here, with its crisp air, rain and golden light. The leaves in the maple trees in front of our house are turning red already. I used to love fall and I think I still do, but I am cold. So very cold. My body is not used to it anymore and my mood either. Getting up in the morning for some yoga is an exercice of will, so very different than getting up (much earlier!) in Costa Rica, feeling fresh and alive to do the same thing... I realize even more how much the sun affects me, how it charges me and makes me happy... On a gray day, I only want to curl up on the couch and read, feeling the inertia of nature slowly going to sleep.

However, as a real northerner, I truly love the 4 seasons, their peculiar smell, the giddiness of spotting the first snowflakes or the first buds in the Spring... the seasonal food and maple sugaring in March... it is such a big part of me, of my internal calendar, I am not sure I could live without the seasons for many years... or maybe I could. Following fall for 4 months from the Yukon to Arizona last year was such a treat! I would do it again in a heartbeat! It was the perfect weather to hike and we were catching the harvest season in all the farmers' markets! And it was even better knowing that we could enjoy fall without a winter afterwards!

But for now, it feels pretty good to be celebrating fall with all its little rituals with my girls. Drying apples, making peach sauce, hiking in the fallen leaves trails I have known since I was their age... And drinking every bit of sunshine while we are at it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

It takes a village...

The more we stay home, the harder it is to leave. Every traveler knows that. We wanted to offer our girls the experience to take the classes they wanted to take, but it was clear to me that while doing this, we were growing roots a little more... running the risk of making it just a bit harder to leave...

The more we stay, the more I realize how much a community is important with older children (when they were younger, the community was still important, but more for the parents I feel). Having our family nearby gives a lot to our girls. Their new little cousin, my dad explaining the girls how blood circulates in our body, my mom spending special dates with each of them, my grandma showing them how to crochet... Our friends, their friends. Taking more space in their lives. In their hearts. An almost full moon walk with a dear friend, a surprise birthday party, a beautiful celebration for our godson, a last minute trip to the orchard. A great homeschooling group with inspiring families.  

When you homeschool surrounded by meaningful people, you make sure the children have lots of beautiful models in their lives. On a regular basis. And that is very different than when you travel long-term, where you are pretty much the only reference they have 24/7. Are we ready to be that only reference again? I am not sure. I might have found the limit of my comfort level. I feel less and less ready to completely let go of my community. But I still want to travel with my girls. We will find that balance I am pretty sure. Or it's more like it will find us.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The blessing of adaptation

Since we got back from our big roadtrip, I spend my days mostly at home, helping little girls with their awesome projects or practice their instruments, cooking fall food, sewing, knitting, felting, all the while wondering what is around the corner for us... What if they all want to stay? Are we going to be able to travel again? I feel stretched... and blessed... and once again questioning what is our mission on this earth. Is it to simply provide our girls with the experiences they seem to be needing at every stage of their growth? What about me? Can I be happy while wearing the traveler AND the stay-at-home mom hat at the same time or do I feel like I need to pick one and run with it? Maybe I can just hang the traveler's hat for a while and put the apron back on!

But I feel a bit done with that part of me. My girls are looking forward to our old Fall and Winter celebrations (from our Waldorf days). In all honesty, I don't. I thought it was all behind us. Great memories from their early childhood days. But I can bring that alive again for them and find delight in it simply because I love to see their eyes twinkle. However, I also know they were twinkling on top of a mountain in Glacier NP or at the bottom of a canyon in Utah...

I feel like I should be changing my blog tagline to : an unschooler who is using a Waldorf curriculum, a vegan that just had fish for dinner while wondering if traveling as a way of life is really what suits her family best...!

I know that in our society (and especially in some of my circles...), that kind of back-and-forth (I like to call it flexibility and adaptation...) is not always valued and well perceived. It looks much better if you stick to your guns even if something tells you it would be time to reassess your choices. 

:: Igloo water color ::
:: By sprinkling table salt when the painting is still wet, we create an impression of snow. ::
:: We are exploring fibers right now ::
:: We made a birthday fairy for a dear friend ::
:: Sunday morning family run/hike in the beautiful National Park in our backyard ::

:: Looking at the beaver's hut and talking with the naturalist about frogs, lizards and snakes ::
:: In our homeschooling group, we talked about the pioneers who came to North America. Here the children are role playing the people rowing on their boat across the Atlantic Ocean ::
:: Role playing the Native Americans preparing their camp and fire ::
:: In the afternoon, we explored the wisdom and spirituality of the Native Americans.  The children got to experience a smudge and some beautiful singing. ::
:: Even the little ones got to participate! ::

:: They then made a medicine pouch, made some bead ornaments for a talking stick and drew their totem animal ::

Since we came back (and even a couple of months prior), our girls clearly indicated to us that they needed more structure in their days and weeks (it could be because this is what they were used to as younger children or simply a temperament thing). When we moved back home, I resisted creating a schedule. It was summer and who wanted to have a schedule anyways. Not me! But even with the vast amount of projects I brought forwards, the new board games and library cards, something was off (of course, the "re-entry" as it's called in traveler's lingo was hard on all of us... ). Mathilde kept asking to "do school" and I thought that all the artsy projects and games I was offering "should" have been enough...

A bit reluctantly, I picked up the second grade curriculum we never finished two years ago and started using it, doing more formal school periods during the week as per the girls requests. They loved it. They were disappointed when we were not having a lesson in the morning... I was flabbergasted! I kept thinking it was the newness of it, but so far, they are truly loving it (and needing this very strong rythm or so it seems). Maybe it is simply a transition thing, maybe it is just what they need right now.

I am trying to go with it. One day at a time. Realizing even more everyday how impossible it is to draw a line and follow it forever. It is easy to feel like we have failed where we truly only adjusted instead of going against what seemed obvious. I am still an unschooler at heart, as for me it means partnering with my girls to listen to what they feel is best for them at every given moment. When I remember that, the internal conflict dies down and I feel peace and harmony filling my soul and heart. Because in the end, this is all that matters. Peace, harmony, love and joy, not the labels we think describe us best.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

At home

:: Mathilde and I made some felted matryoshka ::
:: We made some clay magnets with leaves imprints ::

:: A little bit of fall gardening ::
 :: Everybody wanted to try Mara's violin ::
 :: I see lots of improvised concerts in the near future! ::
 :: We made an Iroquois long house ::

We also made a wigwam and a whole clan of native Americans out of clay and playdough. The girls worked at it for over two hours! Mathilde and Aisha made a woman cooking the fishes and soup over the fire.
I love that Aisha made some lacrosse players (did you know that the native americans, actually the Iroquois, invented that sport? I sure didn't know! I love learning new things alongside my girls!).

 We went to a Native American celebration and the girls got to make a dream catcher, taste bannock and hear traditional singing.

 :: We received a beautiful package from our penpal in Tasmania : handspun wool, and homemade wooden memory game, a beautiful picture book of the amazing corner of the world and a felt pouch full of great activity ideas. She even included a felt platypus pattern! The girls were over the moon! ::