30 October 2005
It's been almost a year since I've updated. For now, I'm finding it easier to post on my LiveJournal . I had to come over here and fix my links page, though. We recently discovered that the server for Jonathan's old website has been sold to a porn site. Why no one told me - I have no idea!?! Maybe people were thinking that my son the computer guy was a porn king? Dang. Hope not. Maybe very few people are accessing the links page. Heh.
Jonathan may currently be found at his LiveJournal. (I've linked to it on the Links page, also). He has kindly volunteered to assist any parents who have video game questions after reading the "benefits of video games" articles. You can write to me to talk more about why I think they are beneficial. You can ask him more specific questions about the games themselves.
Those who have written me recently about video games - thank you for your interest - and we're in the process of replying.
09 September 2004
Here is a collection of photographs of Jesse and Roxanne's beautiful family. Jacob and Katie are there too. The pictures are about a year old but I still wanted to link to them. :-)
Here's a bit of what I've been doing this summer. Out into the field at 6:00 AM before the high desert heat climbs into triple digits.
This has to be my favorite time of day to work, the earliest part of the morning. That will change, of course, as the days grow colder!
As the day moves into midmorning the beautiful scene above morphs into something like this in the high desert:
There are interesting creatures and things to see, but the magic of the early morning is gone...
Finally, a look at what I spend some of my time out there in the desert doing. I spend a lot of time walking around, looking at the ground (and occasionally finding something of note!) and some time measuring out lines on the ground and across creosote and junipers ("the grid") with other people. Then I get to dig holes from time to time, like the test pit, below. We get excited when we get to dig. Less so when it's time to fill in the holes...but, oh well...
I do love my work. I'd have to since it's taken me decades to get to it. On a monitoring job this spring, the construction workers who were on the project with us couldn't believe that our work required at least six years of college. If we had told them what we were earning compared to what they earn, they would have throught we were entirely, instead of almost, insane. I never expected to get rich doing archaeology, which is a good thing...
31 July 2004
Okay, here we are. I think I forgot to mention that we did find a rental. It’s almost big enough, too. For us, that’s a good thing. It has a wonderful, expansive deck across the back of the house which makes up for any lack of space inside. After all, a place has to be pretty big to house ten of us…and if it's not quite big enough, having an outdoor space to retreat to is a very good thing.
On the top is a view from the deck in the daylight and on the bottom, at night.
We have a two-year lease this time. Ha -- that's a new experience! That means we shouldn't have to look for a new house before I get out of grad school. We'll see. Anyway, it's close to most of the projects I work on, really close to the college where my thesis advisor spends too much time, close to the freeway for Mike and for Sarah who will be commuting to Cal State this year, and it's close to the amenities of modern life. Do I miss the country life? Yeeaah. We're hoping to try to buy a piece of property once I'm out of school. Back up among the junipers, I hope.
24 April 2004
Uh oh. Katie (13) and Jake (11) just took a look at the page A Quick and Dirty Guide to Video Games" and told me it needed some serious updating. They are going to help me compile a new list of more recent games that unschoolers in particular might want to check out. Look for it soon. They also said I needed to update the family photos very soon. Okay. Soon. ;-)
Meanwhile, Brande has put together a nice collage of Roxanne (isn't she beautiful?!) and Kira Rose (and isn't she!) right here. Enjoy!
18 April 2004
She's here! Jesse and Roxanne's latest adorable baby has arrived! I'll get some pictures of her up soon. She's Kira Rose of the thick black hair and wise gray eyes, watching everything. Roxanne, as always was incredible in birth, and Jesse was a wonderful coach. I cannot express what a privilege and a miraculous experience it is to sit with them as they bring forth a new life. Thank you, again, Roxanne. Thanks, Jess. I love you all.
8 April 2004
Good grief. We’re moving again. I hardly know what to say. What is it with these landlords in southern California? I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to look at it is to expect a certain amount of lying and a certain amount of greed. Four moves in four years is a bit much. Stress is mounting. It is so hard to find someone who isn’t afraid to rent to a large family. We have until May 8th to find a place and move the belongings of...oh...nine people into it. How generous of our current local Big Man landlord to give us a month. He just sold his large house for $750,000 and needs a place to live. State law says that if he needs to live here, he can get by with giving us 30 days notice, whereas if he didn't need to live here, we would have to be given 60 days notice. Oh WELL. As Jonathan once said, we're getting very good at this.
I’m employing a mantra about the things that sustain me. My spouse, my kids, my grandkids, my work, dear friends. The high desert and the mountains and everything that lives on them sustain me. The sun, the wind, the clarity of the night, the clouds rolling over the San Gabriels, the fog filling the Cajon Valley. All of these sustain me.
Will update when a place of refuge is found! Prayer, vibes, workings, stirrings -- of course -- are most appreciated!
3 February 2004
In case you were thinking it doesn't snow in the desert...
October 12, 2003
There is now a disclaimer in our Unschooling section. Sometimes people want to know why our site isn't explicitly Christian in its approach to unschooling. For years we were placed into a Christian taxon, as "Christian unschoolers." We were never very comfortable with that, even as practicing Christians. We could only speak spirtually, for ourselves, not for anyone else. Today, it's far less appropriate to accept that classification.
Since changes have taken place, we wanted to be as clear as we could for those who come here seeking unschooling information. As always, we welcome conversation with all homeschoolers, whether they are religious or not.
April 15, 2003
I guess updating every six months is better than never updating at all.
I'm getting accustomed to change. This must be my (very long) season for change. I said a while back that I was choosing to experience change as something potentially good. I haven't wavered from that...not exactly...but there are those days that I long for my more than a decade-and-a-half idyllic life as an at-home, homeschooling, mini-homesteading, baby-every-two-and-a-half-years, birth-at-home, work-at-home, mom...*sigh*
But *grin* if I were magically plugged back into that life I'd be recalling, all in a rush, the overwhelming challenges of that life, also. That's life: the heartbreak and the joy, the challenges and the beautiful moments of peace...And all things being equal, the rigors of those days were probably more intense than those of today.
Today, Desert Trails is back in the country. Some of us (heh) are more pleased than others to be up here among the Joshuas and the junipers again. Below are three photos from the new digs. (Thanks Brande and Jonathan)
So we've come full-circle in our environment. And it's kind of nice to be back out in familiar territory while we sail out into the unknown in so many other areas...In a large, multi-age family there is always something going on. Transformations are always happening. Some of them are welcome, some are difficult, and a few of them are intimidating. Life, being what it is -- we do eventually make it through them. It helps to have each other and good friends to hang onto when the going gets really scary, feels out of control, and we're breathless. More than ever, I'm grateful to my incredible kids, their significant others, my grandkids and my friends. And after my narrow escape from Scary Religion, I never thought I'd have close friends again. I was wrong. I'm so glad I was wrong.
This Spring is shaping up to be a time of transformation around here. And what isn't being transformed seems to be waiting in the wings for it's turn at being transformed. Is that cryptic? Maybe I can write more about it later. I don't want to tell someone else's story before that person is able to tell it in their own words.
On the other hand I can go on about my own stuff. :-)
Homeschooling and working are gradually coming together. I can say assuredly that unschooling kids when you're a mom who has to work part of the time...can work. Take heart if you're in those shoes. You can do it. This I will write about soon. In the break between spring and summer semesters.
School is still wonderful. The honeymoon is over and it's still lovely, so I guess that's a good thing. I have finally bumped up against ageism in my academic environment. I figured I would sooner or later. My advice to any mother returning to school after a long time away would be to search out a trusted mentor as early as you can, grab onto him or her with both hands, and be grateful to have that person. Show your gratitude often. If you can find more than one mentor, you are truly blessed! I've been more than fortunate in that area, and it has made all the difference.
I'm getting ready to finish up my final year and then I'm applying for grad school. Yea. When I get done with that I'm having one hellacious party.
By way of my field classes, Nate has discovered a strong passion for field archaeology. He puts it on the same level as professional soccer, field archaeology. He even loves the surveying. Heck, he even loves laying out the grid lines. And that's saying something about loving archaeology, warts and all, believe me! He now professes that he wants to be a pro soccer player *and* an archaeologist. Cool. Mom likes that. Companions on the journey are a good thing. If they're your kids, so much the better!
I've been awfully glad to find a way to mingle my lifelong work as The Practical Anthropologist (bearing, raising, educating, feeding, observing, loving, and appreciating eight young primates...) with my former education in earth sciences and my dual love of lab research (aka "poking into/at things") and working outdoors. Sound good? Choose archaeology. *grin*
A certain Zen text says:
"The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which..."
That would be just the place to which I've been led by Life. I'm filled with gratitude.
October 10, 2002
Summer's come and gone and here we are in the midst of a hectic fall. A very warm, dry hectic fall. We've had fires in the Cajon Pass and in the mountains and it's been unusually warm, even for autumn in the high desert. Sarah's back in school and I'm back in school which means I'm also back to work, and the youngest five kids are enjoying their fall, living and learning in freedom. We're still finding ways to combine all of our activities and various interests with my new busier schedule. It's a steep learning curve and when I think that I can manage it, I'll offer some thoughts on this website about how to combine working with unschooling. It can be done, but it's certainly different...
In August I had the opportunity to help Sandra Dodd and Dan Vilter present a workshop on "The Many Benefits of Video Games" at the HSC conference. In other words, I got to have fun talking about homeschooling, unschooling, and video games with Sandra Dodd, Dan Vilter, and a bunch of really nice homeschooling parents and kids at the Radisson Hotel in Sacramento. Our respective kids helped with the workshop and it was an all-round wonderful experience. If I'd known that doing workshops was that much fun, I'd have offered to do one sooner!
The workshop inspired me to put a few more articles on our site, about video games and learning. Here's where you'll find them:
A Quick and Dirty Guide to the Benefits of Video Games
Could Video Games Be Good for Dyslexia?
And a thought-provoking article by Gerard Jones about Media Violence
February 3, 2002
This place definitely needs an update. So much has been happening in the last several months. I'm getting ready to put some new articles up that a couple of friends have written, stay tuned. And maybe I'll upload another recent one of mine. I'm not done ranting about Religion Gone Bad yet. :-)
And J, thank you again (and again) for your work on the site. And for your ongoing mentoring.
So what's up at Desert Trails? Just as we were getting settled in our little home by the lake, the landlord sold the house and split with the (sizable) security deposit he'd extracted from us a year ago. Yeah, I know, it's not legal...but he seems to have disappeared from the area. Grrr. We're pursuing the options that ripped-off renters have...and moving on again. Also, and this is a weird one for a die-hard unschooling family...Mom's back in school. Yep. I'm aiming to finish this time. :-) I'm looking for a way to combine my prior work on a geology major with my new major in anthropology. Old rocks, bones, shells, even old dirt and old pollen, fossils of all kinds, stuff trapped in ice, and all things archaeological, are going to be my companions for the next three years or so. I hope to have a masters completed or almost completed by that time. If it takes longer, so be it. I Plan and Life switches it all around. And so it goes.
I've utterly enjoyed being home with my family full time for the past 18 years; being here, birthing these kids here, living here and learning side by side every day has been such a gift. It's made me into the person I am now; my kids have given me more than I'll ever be able to express. Being here at home with my kids has given me a perspective and an outlook that I'll carry with me, even as I begin to do this new thing. I'm continuing to search for ways to integrate family life with the work that I'm doing now. Drop me an email if you're a mom who has to leave the home some part of the day, but you're still homeschooling. Eventually I'm going to put up a page for families like ours. It can be done and it can be Very Good. There are challenges involved, for sure, but I know that it can work, there are a few of us out there doing this thing. :-)
As for school, severe financial pressures nudged me back into the academic grind (and tutoring, I'm tutoring again for the first time in 18 years), but I really am loving it. The family is behind me completely, they've smoothed my path in this endeavor in ways I could not have imagined. I'm a fortunate woman.
July 31, 2001
Me again. I changed the layout of the pages slightly and I added a couple of things. The most noticable one is the pictures in The Kids section. Although it's not only pictures of the kids. And believe it or not, there is at least one kid missing from the whole thing...
July 27, 2001
This is Jonathan. Dunno if you can tell, but the site is getting revamped. I'll be done here quickly*. So, please bear with me until I can get everything to a semi-working state. Oh, and while you're waiting, you might as well sign the guest book.
*Please wait 6 to 8 weeks for quickness to kick in.
What's Up at Desert Trails
A new place at last! :-)
This photo of the Mojave River appears courtesy the generosity of the US Geological Survey. Be sure to visit the pages of the Mojave Desert Ecosystem study by U.S. Geological Survey
Visit Our Advent Pages!
At the Autumn Equinox
Here in the high desert the heat has begun to lose its hold on the land, the nights are positively chilly, and the sides of the mountains are golden with cottonwoods and aspens turning in the canyons. Some days bring clouds over the western ridges and I'm really anticipating the rains and snows of autumn and winter. One morning soon, after some blustery night, the tops of the mountains will be dusted with snow.
Between the first day of fall and Thanksgiving we begin collecting items on our walks for our seasonal table: dried seed pods, late blooming daisies and autumn desert wildflowers, swelling rosehips, lunaria pods from the herb garden, dried branches from native plants, leaves that are turning, berries from the native evergreens, flowers from the ubiquitous sagebrush, fruit from our apple and pear trees or anything from any of the gardens, even a lovely rock or rounded stone that's washed down from the mountains. If it's been warm and flowers are still blooming, we'll make an autumn arrangement and place our other fall treasures around it. Anything that catches anyone's eye when walking through the desert or playing could end up among our seasonal treasures.
Apple Harvest - Apfelernte, 1904-06, Watercolor by Carl Larsson
From the Bonnier Art Collection, Stockholm Back
Desert Trails is moving -- not our website but ourselves! I just *wish*
we were acquiring a dot com...another day perhaps :-)
So after more than 10 years here on our ramshackle little mini-ranch we've
had to make some tough choices. In the best of all worlds we might
have been able to stay on this little piece of land in the shadow of the
San Gabriels forever, raising all of our little ones to adulthood, right
here in our adopted home, the Mojave. We might have continued to enjoy
each other and the high desert skies, continued to learn from the land and
improve our little wildlife sanctuary for many more years. In *this* particular world, though, times have changed over the last decade
and our fortunes are going to whisk us away to something new.
It's a bittersweet season for me as I pack boxes and begin to put some of
my herb garden into planters to move (the rest I'll leave for our midnight
and early morning visitors, the jackrabbits and desert cottontails). I'm
going to miss all that we leave behind but I'm going to carry away powerful
memories along with the many things I've learned on this land and from this
It's not an entirely bleak time, however. :-) It's usually fun to work together
to figure out What's Next. I've lived long enough to know that change
can be good and radical change can be radically good. I know that being
shaken loose from my contentment promises to teach me much. And one
way or another we'll get through the hard parts. I'm very thankful
for my husband and children and grandchildren. I'm thankful for the
land itself and all that live upon this land, creatures that were here before
we came and that will be here when we leave. They all help me
find my balance.
We are not going to be moving terribly far, not yet anyway. For now,
Mike's job and Sarah's school will keep us within reach of the western edge
of the Mojave. We are going to be spending a year or three deciding
what makes sense for the longer haul; there are decided drawbacks to trying
to establish any kind of a homestead in southern California, most of them
monetary. We have a lot of thinking and talking to do. All of
this is good.
This move marks a time of transition for Desert Trails. The vision
that began this leg of our journey has changed, it has altered in some small
but very significant ways -- but what it is to become next is still hidden
To all of my friends: I love you and I thank you for walking with me on this
part of my sojourn. I thank you for holding onto my hand during the
really weird and difficult parts of the path. Some of you have literally
lifted me up and helped me put my feet onto the path of life and light, of
health and honesty, again. Some of you have brought a light into the
darkness that otherwise might have overwhelmed us. My family and I owe you so much. I
love you. May all blessings come to you. May those blessings be bright,