Trailer Park Unschoolers

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

Hard at Work

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I’m going to take a break from everything (including an incredibly engaging religious discussion) to write a bit about our weekend. We’ve been surprisingly hard at work in a very unusual way for our family.

As I’ve already written, we’re a part of a pretty intense co-op this year. This is in part an attempt to open the kids up to some new and interesting things. The kids also begged me to be a part of it. It feels challenging for me because we’re adopting a more “school at home” kind of approach, something that doesn’t mesh with me at all. It’s mostly what the kids want, so I’m going with it. That’s what we’re all about.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. I don’t think Corde knew what she was getting herself into. Her math facts aren’t strong. Her writing skills are pretty weak. She can’t spell to save her life. She hasn’t really used any of those skills. You can even see by the way she forms her letters and numbers that she taught herself. I tried to teach her properly once upon a time. She just had to do it her own way.

Unfortunately for her, this whole thing isn’t as much fun as she thought. She wants to learn about Egyptian history and mummies all of the sudden. The last time she went through this phase, and every time before that, she’s had nightmares for weeks. This time might be different, but it’s in conflict with what she’s learning now. We’re on the modern era. She’s learning some pretty neat stuff that sets the stage for things that are happening now, or happened not all that long ago. One of the lessons was on events in Afghanistan that likely prefaced a lot of our current conflict there. She got to study Dr. Livingstone’s travels in Africa, which played a part in many of the modern conflicts there. They read about the opening of Japan’s borders to the outside world, which influenced Japan’s choice to be involved in World War II. That undoubtedly resulted in Japan’s change from militaristic towards being the leaders in many technologies. If it weren’t for that step in the chain of events, PlayStation and Nintendo may never have been created. Her beloved anime might never have been created. She may have no manga to read!

But all Corde sees is history is all about war. We’re going to spend three weeks on the Civil War and all the facets of that. She won’t be happy about that. She wants to learn about something fun. I’m interested to see what she thinks when she finds out the hippie revolution was a direct reaction to the Vietnam War. It will be even more interesting to see what she thinks of the last week of class. They have September 11th on the syllabus for that week. The events of that day resulted in our lives being where they are now. There is every chance the war in Iraq never would have started if the events that day had never happened. Her dad may have never enlisted. A deployment wouldn’t have given me a clear view of how unhealthy our relationship was, nor would we be in Texas. Oz wouldn’t have deployed either. He never would have gotten married and divorced from the girl he chose. Most of all, he and I probably wouldn’t have met, so Sanders and Luca may never have existed. Beekee might not have been born either as we only decided to try for another because we wanted to have one more before Corde’s dad left for the military. We weren’t sure when we would have another chance unless we waited until Corde was much older. History shapes a lot in the world, and one major event truly can be life changing. It will be interesting to see how she takes it, especially since, as far as I know, she’s the only one in the co-op with a former military parent. Maybe that’s why she has such a thing against war.

History is hard for her in so many ways. She has to remember facts. She has tests to complete. She needs to fill in answers and actually think about it. It’s not all edible maps of Africa. She also has to learn about a lot of things she just doesn’t care about. Some of it’s neat, like Queen Victoria and the Great Exhibition. Some of it just seems pointless to her. As we get through the Civil War there may be other topics of interest. They talk about Indira Ghandi and Eva Peron, two very powerful women in a world where politics is largely dominated by men. There’s the prohibition and women’s suffrage, of course. We might do a side project on Bonnie and Clyde. I think the kids would get a kick out of that. I want to find some of the old radio shows to go with that era, especially since they have the option to read War of the Worlds. That could be a fun radio show to listen to. There’s also my personal favorite. “Who knows what darkness lies in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.” I used to love The Shadow. We could make this a lot of fun, but not if Corde doesn’t want to give it a chance.

Math is another subject causing stress. Since Corde hasn’t been made to memorize her times tables, sums, and all of that, she can’t keep up on the math tests. They do speed tests to test their memory for math facts. Corde isn’t very good at this. As a result we’ve busted out math workbooks. Right now she’s working on place values, since she’s very bad at that. She understands the general concepts. She can actually say the numbers the way she’s supposed to. She just doesn’t get place values the way most kids do. I figure it’s a nice, light place to start. The workbook then goes into large number addition and subtraction, then into multiplication, and finally fractions, which should be easy as she likes to cook! Still, she’s frustrated because she doesn’t feel as smart as the other kids because she doesn’t have the same general education they have. She could talk your ear off about the American Revolution. She lectured her dad and step-mom on the evils of Walmart. She can tell you tons about the food industry and GMOs. Obviously she’s really bright. She just knows different stuff than the rest of her class, which is what I think makes life interesting. She seems to disagree.

As a result of all this, we’ve been hard at work. We covered three chapters in history this weekend. Corde did a bunch of pages in her math workbook. Tomorrow we start on her writing homework. She has to make a list of keywords from a story. This week we’re going to focus on her math and writing skills. We’ll be doing a lot of workbook pages and a bunch of stories to practice her keyword exercises. That will also help her spelling skills as she writes the same words over and over. We have one and a half chapters to cover in history, which will bring us into the Civil War. We also need to start reading Heidi.

For Beekee, the work seems to be fun. He likes his writing and grammar. We’ve been learning about nouns. I like the First Language Lessons way of teaching grammar and all, but the first few weeks seem to be so short. I can get through the day’s lesson in less than ten minutes. The Writing with Ease format is kind of easy for him too. However, it’s got Beekee writing. Today he did copy work from Alice in Wonderland. He only wrote two sentences, but that’s more than Corde was writing at that age. She was mostly working on letter sounds and single words. I feel a little funny having him copy words he can’t yet read, but he’s building familiarity with the words, writing his letters, and all of that. I have no idea what he’s doing in math class, but I suppose I need to get working on his math facts too. For now my focus is on getting him writing a bit more independently. That will make my life easier. Plus, he will undoubtedly start learning to read by learning to write. If you write a word enough times it tends to stick with you. I know Beekee has always lover books. I get the feeling teaching him to read will be opening a door to something that will always have him busy. Boredom may be something he and I don’t have to fight over, at least not for a while.

On top of everything else we’ve been doing, we’ve started on the memory work. Corde and Beekee have the chance to earn character cards. They have to memorize the name of the trait, the meaning, and five things they will do to display that trait. They don’t have it down yet, but Corde’s pretty close. They also each have to memorize a poem that’s due in three weeks. I started them early because I thought it would be a challenge, but they’re doing surprisingly well. Corde has to do How Doth the Little Crocodile. She’s just working on polish and delivery. For two days of working on it, I’m impressed. This is from the girl that claims she has a bad memory! Beekee has The Caterpillar, which we made more fun with a couple of gestures for the second half. Hewags his finger when we talk about toads. His hand swoops through the air for the birds. When they talk about spinning he rolls his hands around each other, then accents the final line with a shadow puppet hand motion for a butterfly. He’s having fun with it. I hope we can get a video of that to share. I know the kids would like to show off their poetry reciting skills! They’re both very excited about it since Corde loves poetry and Beekee just loves showing off.

Sadly, today we didn’t get as much done as I would have liked. We had to deal with our most recent CPS problem. Keep our family in your thoughts, prayers, or well-wishes. Things have gotten better, but we’re not out of the woods yet. We’re taking it one step at a time. Oz is once again looking for a second job. I’m looking for a job I can work while still homeschooling or working around Oz’s schedule. We’re looking to upgrade to a nicer trailer park, you know, one that actually takes care of it’s properties. We have leaks and our refrigerator is slowly going out, but they won’t replace it. That’s not even mentioning the bug problem and the waspscthat keep getting in somehow! We’re taking all the positive energy, prayers, well-wishes, whatever you have to offer! We want to find ourselves back on solid ground so we can keep doing pretty cool things and writing all about it!

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Author: Fox

With four kids in the house, who has time for much? Well, we're trying to make it work, trying to get as close to our unschooling roots as we can while state restrictions and family pressures try to stand in our way. Every day is a new adventure.

4 thoughts on “Hard at Work

  1. Just a quick math trick for Corde. 9 times tables are super easy to do on your fingers! This might be hard to explain without seeing it, but I will give it a try. Hold your hands out in front of you. 9 X 1, put your left thumb down = 9 fingers left = 9 x1 = 9…. 9×2, put your left index finger down, you have 1 finger left before the finger which is down, then you are left with 8 fingers after the finger which is down, 9×2=8. 9×3 put your left middle finger down, then you have 2 before the finger which is down and 7 after, 9×3=27….. It worked wonders for my sister who struggled with math as the higher the number the slower to takes to count it out. I found it much easier to memorize the facts then to memorize/master tricks to do the same… I’m wishing her luck!! I dislike math!

    • I’ll have to teach her that one. I still use Schoolhouse Rock for my multiples of three! It’s a catchy little song, so that helps. I know she’ll get there. She’ll need math if she keeps being interested in science.

  2. Wow; you guys have been up to all kinds of fun! I’m sure you’ll get all the kinks worked out soon and then be on your way! 🙂

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