Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!

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That Santa Thing

We’re not doing a whole lot of gifts this year. It feels like we’re getting back to our holiday roots, which is nice. But with the holidays comes the discussion about Santa. Do we lie to our kids? Do we tell them the truth?

Originally I didn’t really want to do Santa. I just went with it because it’s what you do. Everyone I know does Santa. Some families go all out with it, putting tons of toys under the tree. Some set a dollar amount per child. Others still do this something they need, want, to wear, to read, which I only heard about a couple years back. It seemed like a complicated subject, but I still went with it.

Not wanting to fill the house with tons of stuff, the kids were each given three gifts from the family, one from me, one from their dad, and one Santa gift. It worked out pretty well. Later we tried having Santa bring one big thing to share and a game for each of them. That worked out okay. The past few years it’s been a bit out of control. We got donations from various charities so we had a bunch of stuff attributed to Santa. It just spiraled into this out of control thing.

This year we’re going back to the way I want things to be. We’re not going to be asking the kids what Santa brought. We’re simply going to be giving gifts with no label. There isn’t going to be a whole pile for each kid either, but a couple things for each of them. We’re also going to start having an emphasis on picking things the kids can do together, not just toys that the kids get bored with anyway. If Santa were real, I’d like to think his goal would be to bring families closer together anyway, not filling the house with tons of stuff, pushing the consumer aspect of the holiday.

This year is going to be very different from the past. There will be no emphasis on Santa. It won’t be about a lot of stuff. It will be about spending time together. Isn’t that what the holiday should really be about?


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Holiday Chaos

It’s the holiday season. I should be updating more often, but it’s been tough. I had an abscessed tooth, which really stunk, and that messed up my sleep schedule a good deal.

This has put us back to unschooling. This is really where I wanted to be to begin with. We’re going to start doing regular game nights. I hope to get some cool science stuff going. I really need to look up some cool history stuff to do together. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to learn a lot together without standard curriculum.

Going into the new year we’re going to be holding on to a couple of things from the past year. We’re going to keep with the phonics program, for now at least. We plan to keep going with the math, at least until we can get in the habit of more practical math. But beyond that we plan to do very little. We’ll probably stick to Story of the World, too. The kids seem to like it well enough, so while they’re interested we plan to stick with it.

In other news, it looks like Corde may finally be coming back to homeschooling. She’s not loving school and has been looking for an excuse to leave. I suggested she at least do the career exploratory because she may not have access to that stuff any other way. It’s worth the experience, but if she wants to quit, I won’t stop here.

Funny, this time last year I was thinking about homeschooling Sander and Beekee. Only Luca was home. Now we’re getting the whole gang back. It’ll be nice to have them all home again, even if it ends up only being a few short years until Corde goes to college. That’s not far off, if she decides to go.

But the holiday season this year has been busier than last year, even if we’ve been doing less work. I had my abscessed tooth. We’ve been sitting for the neighbors two days a week, which means the kids have plenty of social time with their friends. We even managed to squeeze in a few holiday movies. It’s been nice.

Of course, part of this whole thing is what we would do differently next year. We hopefully will have a car by then, so we should be able to get to more events. I’d love to take the kids skating at the Frog Pond on Boston Common. It would be fun to do the colonial Christmas event at whatever historic site they hold it at. We could do a breakfast with Santa in there somewhere. It could be a lot of fun. Then there’s Christmas Eve at my aunt and uncle’s house. There’s just so much more potential on what we can do!

For now, we’re waiting to see what plans for what happens next week. We may have even more stuff to do, or it may just be quiet. Either way, it should be a good time. Christmas is almost here!

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Slacking Off

I know this page is called “Trailerpark Unschoolers”, though we haven’t really been unschoolers lately, not in the traditional sense.  We’ve been incorporating some “must do” book work into all of it.  It’s really where we’re at right now, and going forward we’ll see how things evolve.

However, recently we’ve been taking more of an unschooling approach.  Part of that is because Oz is working overnights, which makes it hard to sleep.  Me being up all night means I’m in no place to do traditional school in the mornings.  Instead the kids have been doing “TV school”, which is watching PBS shows and Magic School Bus.  Today was a lot of Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That.  It’s been kind of nice to not worry about getting through workbooks, so much so that it’s tempting never to go back to workbooks again, which would be extra nice.

Still, I’ve gotten to the point where, listening to my kids, I have to worry.  Beekee, for example, was asked by his friend why he homeschooled.  He said it’s because he wasn’t learning well enough in school.  He said he wasn’t smart enough to do his work.  I pointed out that it wasn’t whether or not he was smart enough, he was just bored.  Of course, his friend had to step in and say, “If you went to my school, you wouldn’t be bored.  My school keeps us very busy.”  I wanted to point out that busy doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be boring.  I also did end up pointing out that Beekee was learning tons of stuff at home that he wouldn’t be learning in school, and just tried to leave it at that.  It’s tough when their friends have a fancy private school education.  Something about private school seems to make people think it’s better.  Personally, I went to Catholic school.  I know it’s not necessarily any better, but that’s just me.

And Corde finally asked me if she could homeschool again today.  She’s in a voc/tech now, which she likes for the shop classes, but she really hates the academics.  She feels like she’s just learning the same stuff over and over again and would really like to move past it all.  Besides, she hears about all the fun stuff the boys get to do, and it would mean she could sleep in and wouldn’t have to go out when the weather is bad.  Honestly, I want her to stick it out until she’s done with her exploratory, that way she can decide if it’s really worth it to stick in school for a shop she loves.  I want her to at least give it a chance.  I also told her to ask her guidance counselor if there’s a way she could still do the shops, but do the academic portion of her schooling at home.  That may also be an option.

But we’ll see where it goes from here.  I honestly feel like I may not be the most engaging of unschooling parents.  I’ve kind of got the whole mentality of “let them be free!  I’m not guiding them to anything!”  I’ve seen in a local unschooling group that the idea is to teach kids through alternate means than books and curriculum.  Honestly, I feel like teaching them is the wrong way to look at it.  If they want to spend all their time watching Minecraft videos, so be it.  They eventually go on to do something else.  They’ve been playing a lot of Dungeon Defenders, which teaches them strategy.  We’ve been reading Harry Potter every night.  We haven’t done too much on the science end of things, but that’s something we’ve been observing a lot on our own.  The kids are noticing the weather changing, the effect it has on the trees and the animals.  They’re talking about the prospect of it snowing, and calculating how long until spring comes back around.  They’re observing things from life.  I just don’t feel like I should hold their hand and lead them where I think they should go.  To me, that doesn’t feel like unschooling.  It feels like an alternative method of teaching, changing the parameters of what “curriculum” means.  I know that’s probably not what people are getting at, but still.

Anyhow, it feels more like we’re getting back to our roots.  I’m going to start looking for some recipes we can bake together.  Even just using the same tired cookie recipe gets the kids in the kitchen measuring.  Corde, Beekee, and Sander all like to help with the cooking, though Luca is getting to the point of wanting to get in on it as well.  I really need to have them help me with the grocery budget, though that will probably be more the case when we start shopping together again.  Then there’s the time they spend knitting gifts for Christmas, which is a good life skill.  It’s only dishcloths but still!  It’s something!  Then there’s all the stuff they watch videos about (they’re way into Minecraft and animals).  They get a lot of education from everything.  I feel like leading them to it so that they can learn from it only takes away the joy they get from discovering things for themselves.  The best thing I can do for them is make stuff available for them, that way they have the opportunity to discover something new.  Strewing…  I’m really good at that!  And that’s what we’ve been doing a lot more of lately.

So, here’s to slacking, and here’s to getting back to where we started in this crazy mess.  Hopefully we can find our balance here soon.  And hopefully I can have the courage to stand up and say “This is how we’re going to roll!” without worrying about what people will think.  Chances are that’s going to happen right about the time we get a car and start going to co-ops in the area.


WWII Reenactment

We got a chance to go see a WWII reenactment this past weekend with some of my family. They had all kinds of vehicles and planes to look at. We spent much of the early day inside because of the rain, but it gave us a chance to see some really great stuff.

They had two camps set up, one allies and the other German. We were out by the German camp, where the kids got to sit in one of the trucks and Luca got to see the rounds they would be firing for the event. On the American side Corde got to hold one of the guns. She commented on how heavy it was.

They had a small group of the German side set up, complete with some kids portraying Hitler Youth. It was surprising to see such young kids out there.

The battle itself was pretty intense. There was smoke and explosions all over the place. The kids loved seeing the tanks ride out. I think that was their favorite part.

It was an awesome experience and I hope we get to go again next year. It was a lot of fun. Besides, it’s a great way to experience history!


The Trip to the Children’s Museum

Yesterday we had another unexpected field trip. I was watching a friend’s son and she suggested I bring all of the kids to the Children’s Museum. It sounded like a great idea, though I think I was a little crazy taking five kids to the museum. Thankfully Corde was a great help. She took the day off of school to come with us.

The kids got to explore the whole museum, though they definitely had favorite spots. The water tables were one of them. I thought the kids might be to old for that, but even Corde had fun with it.

They all loved the climbing tower, though I was surprised Corde was able to get through there. Some of those areas were pretty tight squeezes. Luca was the only one that didn’t climb. It was too scary.

The construction stuff was fun for the younger ones, though Corde could have done without it. The rest of them played until Corde suggested we move on.

Another favorite was the dance pad floor with games. Their favorites were dodge ball and musical squares. They were here for quite some time. We even came through twice.

My favorite part was this house they all built together. It took almost every one of those blocks to do it. They had a blast building it, which took some time and engineering skills.

Of course, equally as much fun was demolishing it. That took a lot less time, but was a whole lot louder. They’ve decided that goes on the list when we go again!

Another favorite, and the space the kids spent the most time, was the little grocery store in the downtown area. I remember spending a ton of time there as a kid. I wasn’t surprised that they all wanted to play store for quite some time. My kids love play food and this was a great place for it. Plus, it was a store, which is even better!

The downtown neighborhood had these sitting outside the door to the store, which were a lot of fun too. They also had dominos and checkers, which the kids thought was pretty great.

We had a great day out and everyone was pretty tired on the train ride home, even after getting some ice cream to perk everyone up. It was a great highlight to out otherwise quiet week.

Though, there is another field trip coming up this weekend that we’ll be talking about soon. It’s going to be interesting with a lot of extended family there. It’s proving to be quite the week.

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Busy, Busy, But Totally Not…

It’s been busy around here lately, and by busy I mean in the “busy work” kind of way and not in the fun and crazy stuff way.  Okay, that’s not entirely true.  Some of the stuff we’ve been doing is pretty fun.  The kids have been watching a lot of Minecraft videos and the like.  They’ve been having fun with that.

Meanwhile I’ve been doing a lot of knitting.  I knit while they’re doing workbooks.  I knit while they’re watching television.  I’ve even been knitting to podcasts, my personal favorite being CraftLit, which does classic literature.  It’s been a great time for me to do something I love, plus the kids get a bit of freedom to do whatever it is they feel like doing without a hovering mom, not that I really hover, but you get the idea.

As for the podcasts, the kids have really enjoyed some of CraftLit’s premium content.  It’s all of $5 extra every month to get access to the premium books, which is kind of fun for us.  I’m listening to Three Men in a Boat (to Say Nothing of the Dog) with the kids.  They’re all getting a kick out of it.  With the younger three we’re listening to The Wizard of Oz.  I think when we’re done we may check out the other books in the series.  There’s a lot of them.  While it’s mostly something I do for me, it’s fun when I can get them involved, even if they do check out for a lot of the books.  They would probably like War of the Worlds, which I’m listening too now, but it’s a bit wordy.  I think I may read that to them later, or go back and listen again.

Well, can you tell I love books?  I’m really into classic literature.  There’s something about old stories that makes me happy.  I love that I have a format where I can share it, even if it’s not so much something we do together right now.  Still, I notice them popping in time and again when the story gets good.

So that’s what we’ve been up to, and will continue to be up to for the next few weeks at least.  We’ve got a WWII event coming up over Columbus Day Weekend.  After that there isn’t much.  We’re even planning to go simple with Halloween this year, and stuff the kids can wear in layers.  It was pretty cold last year.  Luca is going to be Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon.  Sander wants to be a pirate minion.  I’m not sure how that will work out, but it’s creative at least.  I think A.J. may go as Rainbow Dash again, or he might opt to go the pirate route too.  That one’s easy.  We have pirate stuff on hand.  Corde will probably do an assassin from Assassin’s Creed again, something quick and easy.  We’re trying to go cheap, aside from Luca’s costume.  Getting something for Toothless was kind of expensive, but as Luca’s missing his top front teeth, he’s kind of bonded with toothless, so it works out.  It’s definitely going to be a chaotic month.

As things stand we have no real plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.  I think we’re going to aim to keep Christmas cheap.  We’re probably going to do a board game for each of the kids, maybe an inexpensive video game, and some Pokemon cards so they can all play together.  The last thing we need is a bunch of stuff cluttering up our house.  We need to simplify as is, so it’s better to have a couple things, but have them things the kids really want.  I’m thinking next year I’m going to start sooner and knit them each something for Christmas.  If I’m feeling really ambitious I may go for sweaters, but I think I’ll probably be practical and go with hats and mittens or fingerless gloves.

Yeah, it’s been a long day.  We’ve had a lot of cleaning to get done.  Every once in a while we go through huge binge cleanings where we go behind and inside of pretty much everything to get the house looking as good as it can.  This happened to be one of those days.  I’m tired, and so are the kids.  I guess that’s the reason I’m going on and on like this.  Well, I’d better get these kids settled down for quiet time.  We’re all in need of it!

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Fort Warren and George’s Island

(Posted a week late because it got lost in draft limbo…but it’s up now, so that’s got to count for something, right?)

We had quite the adventure this past weekend. We ended up going on Monday due to weather, which worked out well because it was a beautiful day.

The trip in started with a train ride into the city. The kids always love a good train ride. Luca got to read a Cat in the Hat book about sharks, which was exciting because we were going to be taking the ferry in.

This was the kids first trip on a boat of any kind. Beekee was a little worried about being on a boat, but he got over it quickly when he realized how exciting it was. Luca loved watching the white waves coming off the side of the ferry. They all loved the ride out.

When we got to the island they wanted to do a couple things right off the bat. First they wanted to eat a quick lunch. Then they wanted to go touch the water, since we aren’t near the ocean much. After that they went to check out the playground that looked like a miniature version of the fort.

The trip into the fort was a lot of fun, once we got in there. It started with a walk around the fort, then we got in to investigate. The younger three loved getting to use flashlights to look around. I think that was the best part for them. Perhaps if we get a chance to go in the future we can take a ranger guided tour, but for now exploring without being bogged down with the history of the place was a lot of fun.

wp-image-145841421The kids have already said they want to go back again next summer, but I think first up on the list is a whale watch. The kids are super excited to get to do that in the future too. It seems this trip inspired a whole lot of excitement. It was a great way to end the summer!