Trailer Park Unschoolers

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

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So Much for Phonics, Hello Sight Words

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m giving up. I always swore phonics was the path to good reading, but apparently not for my kids. I can’t fathom how it ever worked for my sister and me. Maybe it never really did.

After having so many people drill letter sounds and the importance of vowel sounds, blends, and all of that into my head, I swore phonics would be my tool for teaching my kids to read. All those days I remembered being told to “sound it out” and struggling my way through words. It gave me confidence in reading, at the cost of some early challenges. It may not have been fun at first, but I walked away with the ability to decode any word. It seemed like a valuable asset, something my own children would need to know in life.

Over time I’ve gone back and forth on this issue. I’ve tried teaching Corde through phonics with our every brush with reading. She fought me the entire way. She didn’t want to sound out words. That was too much work. She didn’t want to sound things out. She just wanted me to tell her, or just made up whatever word she felt like using. Hard work has never been a part of Corde’s goals. If she can do less work, she’ll do anything to get there. Shortcuts are her best friend.

I had no idea where I was going wrong! This was supposed to be the easy way to teach reading. You teach the child all the tools and they just take off, right? Apparently not…

After starting the same struggle with Beekee (who seems to have forgotten his alphabet, though we review it weekly and have for years), I’ve decided to give up on phonics, at least for now. It isn’t even coming close to serving us. Corde still can’t use phonics to sound out words (though purely because she doesn’t try, not from lack of skill), and to work it out phonetically, you need to know your letters at the least, something Beekee seems incapable of getting down at this point, and their sounds. Sadly, Sander is further on the path to counting well and recognizing his alphabet than Beekee. Apparently a weekly practice will at least get me somewhere with one of them.

Yup, I’m giving up. Sight words, it is! I hate the idea of sight words, since I feel it doesn’t give kids decoding skills, but it’s a start. Corde started picking up sight words at three, but I didn’t stick with building it because I was stuck on phonics. Now Beekee seems to be doing okay with it. You can tell the words he knows, he knows by sight. There is no decoding going on. However, it seems to serve him well. Clearly, he’s building a vocabulary of words he can read, so maybe it doesn’t matter too much for now. We can build in phonics later.

This week Beekee chose his own words. He selected: but, can, castle, not, play, sand, the, we, with, and you. So far he’s gotten pretty far along with memorizing them. I show him the cards, ask him to read them, then he spells them off the card. Maybe he’ll have less gaps in his alphabet this way. On Monday he gets to pick ten new cards to add to the list. It may be a slow pace, but ten words a week is a good start for him. We may make the list longer once he gets the hang of it. As much as I’m not so much for tests, I might give him a spelling test or review or something. It would help him with his writing. I may just take the words he gets familiar with and stick them in a spelling box in alphabetical order. Then he can pull them up when he needs help spelling it for his writing. My aunt suggested a book form, to make a “speller’s dictionary”, but the cards are already made up and an index card box is cheap.

Corde has twenty words this week. We’ve been doing a spelling bee kind of quiz. She’s been quizzed every day this week. Today she finally got all the words on the first try. “Laugh” kept tripping her up. Tomorrow is the weekly test. I don’t know if I will have her write them out or just spell them. I want to put her words in a box too, but I don’t know if I’ll use the same box or a different one. It may be easier to just use one for now. Right now Corde’s words are in black and Beekee’s in green. It means they can both benefit from the same box for writing.

I’ll probably bring phonics back into it in time. I know it’s a useful skill. Maybe giving them both some confidence in writing will help. They’ll both have a set of words they can confidently read and write to build upon. They can also look back to familiar words for decoding hints.

Thinking back, I’m sure this is how I must have learned to read, words first and phonics later. I could be wrong, but my mom probably didn’t teach me to sound things out. My aunt wasn’t a teacher yet, so I wonder if she even thought about phonics. I seem to remember doing most of that in Catholic school.

Again, this is another change that makes me think we can’t rightly call ourselves unschoolers. It’s been really positive for us so far. Corde is finally learning to spell and doesn’t hate writing near as much. Beekee is learning to read. Sander is starting to get comfortable with reading. Even Luca is starting to build a strong vocabulary. It won’t be long before reading and writing are no big deal around here. Better yet, I may be able to get Corde back on track for the classical co-op, if we can manage to get back in. She’ll be ready to handle her writing assignments and reports before long! That day can’t come too soon!

Once again, written in advance, in case the sequence of days is all crazy…



Oh, For Reading Out Loud!

We’ve been doing a lot of reading together lately. When I say a lot, I mean it’s dominated half our day. The other half before Oz gets home is chores, workbooks, spelling, reading lessons for Beekee and Sander, making lunch, eating lunch and snacks, and a little bit of play time. It’s amazing how much better things are going here.

Our usual days included a lot of fighting. It would probably be easier if the kids all had their own private places. They could get more of a break from each other. They also constantly complained of being bored. It seems to be a problem with unschooling with a larger family. Unless you have a big budget for art supplies, a huge selection of LEGO blocks, and a box of supplies for science projects to stave off boredom, the kids will inevitably revolt. It doesn’t help that unschooling is best with highly motivated, self-motivated kids. Mine seem to buck the trend that suggests giving kids unlimited time to do what they want and they’ll eventually start seeking out opportunities to learn. After a few years, the kids still need to be lead to the opportunities, sometimes kicking and screaming. They always enjoy it once they’re doing it, but it may take a lot to get them into it. If left to their preferences, they’d do nothing but veg on television, play outside, and fight. Oh, yeah,and whine at me every five minutes that there’s nothing to do. Okay, I take that back, Corde would complain there’s nothing to do. Sander and Beekee seem content to cap off at fighting. Poor Bear gets nothing more than feeling left out.

As a result, I decided we need to keep boredom at bay. The only way I can do that effectively is to keep them busy. I feel more like an activities planner than a parent in a lot of ways and I’ve really had to put my foot down on a lot of things. If Sander cannot be quiet during read-aloud time, he has to be sent to the bedroom. I feel bad, but there are times where I have to pick him up and move him there himself. I have to do this when he throws tantrums, too. I’ve tried all the unconditional parenting techniques and none of them work. Some just seem to egg him on more. As a result, he’s sent to the bedroom where he can yell and scream all he wants. He’s still bothering everyone, but the effect is at least limited. His fits are far shorter that way and he can kick the bed, flail around, or throw things without risking anyone else getting hurt. I’ve had to strictly enforce chores, too. If I spend most of my dedicated to lessons, reading, spelling reviews, planning and making meals, running baths, nursing and cuddling with Lucabear, finding the lost Minket, and planning out future lessons, I have little time left to clean, never mind relax! But the chores are having the added effect of keeping the kids busy, so they have less time to fight and argue. There’s less boredom time, too.

I’m starting to like this new routine, even if it means constantly staying on Beekee to do his work. I need to monitor him 100% of the time if he’s assigned a task, any task. If he’s cleaning up the toys, I need to remind him to clean up before he picks up anything, when he picks up anything, once it’s returned to his home, approximately every two to thirty seconds. With his writing, if I don’t remind him what he’s doing after every third letter he writes, he’s off doing something else. The only time he ever seems to be able to stay focused on an assigned task is when I sit everyone down for some quiet reading time. After all this time, I still think there’s something different about Beekee. He can’t seem to keep his hands off technology. If the Kindle is out, he cannot resist playing it. I literally have to hide it because the temptation is too much. Corde has to hide her Kindle, too. He can’t stay on task. He’s easily lost in books, too, always has been. He’s also presenting other problems, like an apparent inability to count properly past nine and (try as I might to help him) can’t seem to recognize letters and their sounds. It’s not through lack of exposure either. Homeschooling Beekee is a full-time job!

The reading time really has been a blessing. It’s the only time the kids don’t fight. Luca and Sander actually sit together in peace when I read stories to them. Beekee seems to absorb none of what I read to him. He’s too busy staring off into space, stuck in his own little world, but he picks up details from the shorter selections. We need more of those read together books, where the parent reads one part and the kid reads the other. He actually participates in those. Even so, when we read as a family, he’s quiet and doesn’t cause problems with Corde and Sander. It’s the one time I don’t have to feel like I’m the ref in so,e sports game that never has an end.

Corde, Sander, and Luca seem to all be getting something out of this reading time. Corde is sucked in to story and facts in a way she wouldn’t be if she actually had to read on her own. Sander enjoys the stories and wants to read his favorites again and again. He may not read yet, but he’s learning to love books. Luca is learning more and more words by the day. He’s starting to interact with the books, too. He likes to point things out and say the words he knows, or just say “that” so I’ll tell him the word. His vocabulary is still on the small side. He’s not uttering full sentences, like the authors of so many books seem to have their kids do by his age. Still, he’s starting to find something he can enjoy about books, too. The only one that seems to have no positive reaction is Beekee. He’s not improving in attention span. He’s not choosing to look at books on his own any more often than before. He’s no more engaged by the stories or the facts. It seems like he could take it or leave it.

There are so many great books I want to get to. It’s great that the kids are starting to eat it up. The stories that get the most attention are silly, adventurous, or full of action. We’re learning that “classics”, like Heidi and Caddie Woodlawn are just too boring for the boys. Corde prefers long stories with lots of description and words. She has since she first weighed in on Frankenstein when she was six. She could sit and listen to me read just about anything, no matter how dry the story may seem. It may mean we need to vary our reading. Corde and I may need to tackle a read-aloud just for her. The whole family can get something with plenty of action, like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Beekee can sit down for some level readers to follow along and absorb new words from and the read together books. Sander will enjoy the books with lots of pictures. He especially seems to like Celtic myths. Luca is starting to get into the same books as Sander, along with his all-time favorites, Duck & Goose (aka “Guck Gook” as he seems to have problems with the “B” sound.)

I really hope this love of books lasts. The read-aloud time seems to be doing us all some good. The structure seems to be helping, too. We really needed some change around here. I can only hope this is the first of many steps towards life getting better!

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Libraries Are Dangerous…

Our most recent library trip was, well, a little too successful. We hit a point we never imagined possible. We hit our limit on books!

When we first got our card at this library, we knew movies were going to be tough. A limit of 20 at a time seems like a lot, but when you have four or five documentaries, six for the kids, three more for Oz, and a whole series you want to catch up on, that adds up quick. More than once we’ve hit the limit and we haven’t even had the card for long. We like our television, which is probably horrible to say as a homeschool mom.

However, books should not have been a problem. Our limit is 75 books for the whole family. That’s enough for each of us to have ten books at a time, a crazy amount to read in two weeks, and still have 15 left over.

At first the book craze just didn’t happen. Corde got out a chapter book and a manga. I pushed Beekee and Sander to get a couple of history books we read together. It was a slow start. Mostly we just got movies. I got a few books, but no one else was really interested.

Then Beekee started learning how to read. We went to the library and he picked out a bunch of books. The next week we were going back to our classical inspired adventure. As I said, we’re changing things up and I’m trying to cram in all of the ancients before fall. We had some ground to cover, so I went, armed with a list.

I hate the idea of subjecting my kids to books they have little to no interest in. At the same time, Horizons needed to be broadened. We needed to start branching out from the same boring subjects. It seems like the only history we’ve covered was the American Revolution and the Civil War, both of which we’ve done to death. We were going to have to work at it if we want to have more variety. That might mean bringing books into the house and trying to get the kids to read them with me.

Somehow I didn’t expect the reaction. I couldn’t find the books I wanted, not most of them. I had to have some sent in from another library. The rest just didn’t exist. I decided to improvise on the rest.

Since then it’s been pretty wild around here. Every morning we start with a chapter of Caddie Woodlawn. Today we read two. We moved on to learn about how the Great Wall of China was made, about the Roman Army, Hadrian’s wall, and Alexander the Great. Yesterday we read about Cerberus and the Minotaur. We also learned about Pegasus and Balerophon. We were introduced to Theseus, and reintroduced to Hercules. Just to change it up, we also met Finn McCool. We still have some Eyewitness books, books on Athena, Jason, and Perseus. We have a myth about Pandora’s box and a story about Ananzi.

When I go back to the library I have to remember to bring the books we’ve finished. We have a number of books on hold. Some will be coming in from other libraries. We’ve got a lot of reading to do. I still want to pick up books on Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, Confucius, and maybe Ramses or King Tut. I need to hunt down more Greek and Roman myths. It would be nice to find some more Celtic myths. I hope to find some good books on Egypt, too. There may be more books on the Great Wall of China and other aspects of Chinese history. I would love to read some old Japanese stories, too, but those will probably be hard to find. We’ve got Aesop’s Fables waiting for us, too. The list just keeps growing!

Of course, by the time you read this we’ll probably be a week or two in books beyond this. I’m writing our posts in advance until I can get regular net on my phone. I should have it before this posts, but I want to give myself some breathing room. We’ve got a lot to plow through! If there’s one thing I can say about all this, we certainly aren’t at risk of being bored!

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Home Alone

I don’t even remember how old I was the first time my mom left my sister and I home alone. I know I was younger than Corde, and she had just gone to the store. I must have been seven or eight, and my sister is a year and a half younger than me. It might have been younger than that.

When I was in fourth or fifth grade I took a babysitting class with Girl Scouts. I know because I had a green vest, and we stopped wearing green by sixth grade for our cadet blues. Some of the kids had already had babysitting jobs by then, mostly watching younger siblings. All of us had been left home alone.

It’s strange to think my kids need me by their side every moment of the day. At the same time, our culture seems to think that kids can’t be trusted without a nearby adult until they’re teens. Kids need to be watched like hawks. They can’t be treated like respectable and responsible human beings. Why should I be surprised that Corde doesn’t act more grown up? Why would she when she’s not allowed to feel grown up?

It dawned on me the other day. I was talking to the kids after I had gone to hang out with Misti in her room for a while. We came out of the room and it was like a hurricane blew through. The place was trashed, toys, food, packaging, and cups were everywhere. I wasn’t even gone that long! Then it just popped out of my mouth, “My sister and I never would have let my mom catch us acting like you guys are. We always did our best to have everything back in order by the time my mom got home. She would have killed us if she knew half of what we did while she was gone.”

That was it! My sister and I learned to have respect for our home and at least let my mom believe everything had been good while she was gone because she actually left. She gave US a chance to go wild and break the rules. We could jump on the couch, investigate my mom’s makeup, dig in the closet to admire that fur coat mom never wore, or whatever else we weren’t normally allowed to do, as long as everything was in order by the time she got back home. Sure, sometimes my mom flipped out over something we did and couldn’t hide, like my sister putting her foot through the bottom pane of glass on the French door in the living room. In her defence, I had held the door shut so she couldn’t get out. In my defence, that girl had a temper! I was only trying to defend myself in yet another one of our fights. Being the smaller sister, a victory like that was rare, so it was worth it in my book.

But what do my kids have? Constant, unending supervision. Corde did get a break now and again, before CPS last reared his ugly head. It was a case worker that told me that, at almost ten, Corde was not old enough to be left at home with her brothers. The nearly six year old was fine with her. The barely three year old was questionable. The seven month old baby, however, that would show me to be a negligent parent, even if I were going no farther than the mailbox only fifty feet from the house or the dumpster at the end of the street and he were asleep. How crazy is that?

What’s worse is because of this whole CPS thing, Oz and I never get to go out without the kids. All of our sitters need to go through a CPS background check, just in case anything were to happen. No one we know wants that kind of invasion of their privacy. I know I wouldn’t either. So the kids can’t visit friends, have overnights, or even be watched by a babysitter. As a result, they never get a break from parental supervision. Oz and I never get a date night, to run errands kid-free together, or anything. This is causing serious damage to our relationship. We can’t even leave the kids home in the hands of their very capable sister so we both can enjoy a peaceful run into town. Having a break from each other is healthy!

More than that, how will the kids ever learn the lessons I learned? When will they cut loose and act wild if their parents are always hoovering? Isn’t it better for them to learn it now when the wild fun is jumping on the furniture? Before they feel the need to do something extreme because they were sheltered for so long?

So, what’s so wrong with leaving my kids home alone? Are kids so much less capable than when I was young, or are we just giving them less credit? Maybe it’s time society cut kids some slack and realize Corde, fast coming up on eleven, is more than capable of keeping a nearly seven year old, a four year old, and a one and a half year old out of trouble for an hour so her parents can get a break. In a year or so we might even be able to leave long enough to get a real date night in! Maybe then the kids will be less under our skin. They get a little freedom from the parents. We get a little freedom from the kids. Everyone wins!

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Maybe More Math?

I’ve come to the conclusion that my kids are just no good at math. Beekee gets mixed up with counting past ten, and wants to skip ten entirely and go to eleven. Corde is horrible with her math facts. She has no memory for even addition and subtraction. Sander and Luca will likely suffer the same fate if this trend holds.

It’s really not their fault. Unschooling makes it difficult to be a math whiz. Something about coming upon the drive to learn it yourself just doesn’t lead to practicing something that just may not seem so fun. I haven’t pushed them, or even encouraged them. I just kind of let them figure it out when they discovered it.

Unfortunately, the state is invasive. They expect my kids to hold certain standards. That kind of kicked off my need to get the kids rolling on math. I need to play the model image of a mom so the state will stop harassing me. That means having workbook pages and things to show off when they invade my home for their next violation of my private life.

On the bright side, this emphasis on playing the game has had a benefit. Corde doesn’t like the way other kids talk to her and judge her based on her math skills. She feels like other kids think she’s dumb because she can tell you about biotech, but can’t do basic addition without counting on her fingers. She feels like she’s not on the same playing field. In some ways she’s far more educated and grown up, but in other ways she feels dumb.

Maybe this is a sign. Maybe we need to take math more seriously. We need to start working through more and get the kids on track. It feels so strange to turn my home into a schoolboys every morning, but if it’s what they need, I can work with it.

Sadly, I’m finding I’m a horrible math teacher. I really have no idea how to teach it. This means we may take some of the money co-op would have cost next year and use it in math books!

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One of the things I miss about our co-op was the use of timelines. For the older kids’ history classes, they did a timeline.  They were supposed to construct it at home, which we sadly never did. However, I thought it was a great idea.

The whole classical education routine has the kids break up their period of study into four segments. They only post to the relevant timeline. The rest is put away or just gotten rid of. As much as that seems like a practical thing, space-wise, I’d rather have the kids study the full picture, just throw cool events on there as they find them. I don’t want to leave a cool fact about the gold rush because it’s not the segment of history we’re studying. It would be a good reminder to revisit it later. If we find out something that happened in ancient history, we can go back and add it. It also doesn’t make for those awkward periods where putting something in perspective means reviewing an old timeline. I just have to figure out how to do it.

It also helps put things into perspective. You can’t visually note history repeating itself if you don’t have enough of a broad scope to review. This would give us a chance to view all the facts at a glance. It would be easy to point new things out and carry on the constant dialog. There is something to be said for having that kind of fluid continuation.

Given we’re probably not going to be able to swing the co-op next year either, we’re free to our own thing. I want to clear the ancients and be on to the next segment of history by fall. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but classical education is designed for a 32 week year. We’ve always worked on a 52 week year. That gives us 20 extra weeks to work with, meaning we can cover more ground in less time and catch up. It also means we can spend a lot of time on things we otherwise would have missed. I’d love to clear the whole four years of history. By that point Corde will be high school age and will have a good foundation in history. If it works for Beekee, we’ll just roll on through and do it all again for him. Corde may join in for more advanced lessons. Sander will pick up sometime in the next three years. I’m betting he’ll start having interest when we hit the third or fourth year of history, when he’s hitting kindergarten or first grade. Then again, he may surprise me as I read with the kids. Luca will probably be old enough to join in just in time for us to finish the first four years of history. If we start up again, he’ll be old enough to join in for that round from the start. By then we should have all the kinks worked out and will have a big list of books we like to use. It’s just too bad I didn’t know about all this when Corde was small. We’d be on round two of the cycle. By the time we got to Luca, we’d have a whole list of great resources.

I’m thinking to start we’ll put all the dates and events of interest on index cards. We have no place to put up a timeline now, so we can stack them in order as we learn about things. At the end of the fourth year we can take the whole thing apart and start again with Beekee. When we get our own place we can put up a line in yarn and connect everything on. It’s too bad we’re getting away from trailers as their long, blank walls would be perfect. We can start over again at the beginning for Sander and Luca until Sander outgrows the interest in doing it.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how this timeline comes together. It will be interesting to see what connections the kids make, what they come up with. I’m really excited to take this journey with them. It’s going to be a pretty fun adventure!


No Web Means No Updates

I miss my readers. I miss writing about all the cool things my kids have been doing. I miss feeling like I’m making a difference in the world, even if it’s just changing the image of unschooling.

I hate to admit it, but with CPS still harassing us over six months later, we haven’t done much unschooling time. We watched a few more documentaries, compliments of the library. Beyond that, we’ve been taking a more traditional bend. It’s been fun at times, but I remember why we don’t do this kind of thing as a rule. It’s stressful. I’ve been more stressed out with staying on top of the school thing than anything else. The kids hate it, too, especially Corde. Beekee has been taking forever to do his writing and I’ve given up on Spanish for now. Reading with him has been like pulling teeth most days. Most of the time it’s because he’s too tired. Corde takes about six to eight hours to do her workbook pages, which drives me nuts because she only has five or six workbook pages and a chapter of a book to read. It should take maybe an hour, and does, if I sit over her and remind her to focus on her work every two seconds. That’s not an exaggeration. She’ll write one letter and start going off on other things, or ask a million questions. And she wonders why she can’t spell! How can she ever learn if she never writes the word as one continuous act? Instead she writes one letter every minute or so and is all over the place in between. It’s frustrating.

Unfortunately, CPS seems to be on our case because of the homeschooling thing more than anything else. They’re pushing to have the kids evaluated by a psychologist, or put into counseling so they can assess whether or not the kids are meeting their milestones, but only the school age kids. It sounds like they’re trying to prove the kids aren’t up to par, which means pushing. It really feels like they’re digging for dirt on us. They even made me go in for a second drug test. If I had the money, I’d get a lawyer involved. Even my counselor, the one I was forced to see, seems to think there is no problem with our family, beyond Oz’s poor choice in friends and the family he surrounds himself with.

It’s been a frustrating journey. Even more frustrating, the kids aren’t allowed to truly be themselves so long as we’re going through this. Their hair must be brushed and neat at all times. They must always be impeccably clean. They’re not allowed to skip meals if they’re not hungry. I’ve been told I have to find something they’ll eat. Simply offering food is not enough. I can’t even leave to go out without the kids. According to CPS, Corde isn’t old enough to be responsible for her siblings, even though kids younger than here successfully care for their siblings in other countries. Kids I knew in school started babysitting at a house alone with no cell phone to contact the parents at her age. No one we know wants CPS to do a background check on them so they can watch the kids. Even if Corde were old enough to watch her brothers, CPS doesn’t want the kids unattended by Oz’s dad or sister because they haven’t undergone the background check. The kids hate the CPS case worker. They complain every time she shows up. I’ve never heard Corde say she hates anyone but her dad, but she hates this case worker. They hate her rules. They can’t have sleepovers, even if I’m staying with them. They can’t visit friends’ houses unless a parent is present. Corde can’t just go on a walk on her own if she wants. Why? Because CPS would be to blame if something happened to the kids if they’re out of my sight, because background checks will catch every person that would ever harm a child…

Living at Oz’s dad’s house is no great joy either. He doesn’t support unschooling. He doesn’t support gentle discipline. Let’s face it, he doesn’t support any of my beliefs. He thinks I should put the kids in school because Corde is behind and the kids don’t get enough socialization. If I don’t spank the kids and put them in timeout, I get lectured about how I have no control over the kids. They walk all over me. It’s gotten so bad that he believes we should use the belt he used to use on Oz and Misti, as if making my kids act out of fear will work. Fear doesn’t work. The kids take their spanking and just go right back to whatever bad behavior they were engaged in. Nothing changes. A little pain does nothing in the long run but make Corde more defiant and brazen about it, Beekee more sneaky and conniving, and Sander more prone to temper tantrums, outbursts, and scenes. They’re expected to have a strictly enforced bed time and they’re not allowed any chores. Oz has heard a lot of complaints that I don’t cook because I tell Corde what’s for lunch and she makes it. I don’t even ask her to. When I step away from the stove for any reason, Corde is right there to take over and won’t give up the spot by the stove. They like to help and that’s a good thing, but I must be lazy because I expect my kids to clean up their own messes. I’m not a maid. If I spill something, I clean it up. Even Lucabear has learned to clean up the drinks he spills. He’s learning to pick up the food he drops on the floor at meals and to pick up his toys with the other kids. I think that’s a good thing. They’re all messy eaters. Even Corde dropped food on the floor. If they’re going to be messy, shouldn’t they learn to handle their own mess? And why should I follow them around with a collection of cleaning supplies to clean up every mess as soon as it happens? They should just learn to be neat or learn to be independent. It’s not like I have them scrubbing toilets, mopping floors, and cleaning the stove. They sweep the dining room and kitchen after meals, work together to do the dishes, and pick up their toys. My job is teacher, not maid.

In all of this, some really cool stuff has happened, too. It’s been an adventure of a year already. It may have had a rough start, but it’s rolling in a better direction. Oz’s newest job is going great. He should be getting his first raise this week. It’s a standard raise for the first 30 days on the job, just $0.50, but that’s a lot, especially considering he gets at least ten hours of overtime each week. He has the option of another ten on weekends when there’s extra work to be done. He’s not exactly bringing in the big bucks, but it’s enough to live off of without child support. Once we pay off his car we should be pretty comfortable, especially since he’s due for a raise at 90 days, too. Apparently they’re known for giving a raise every 6 months after that, only somewhere between a dime and a quarter an hour, but it adds up. The hours kind of stink, but if we move closer to his job it could be good. Keep your fingers crossed that he can hold this job.

As for me, I just inherited Fairy Fest, now known as Texas Fantasy Festival. That means I have my own business. We’re already planning trips to four faires between now and my faire date to promote. There’s two more to hit this summer and one in fall before our fall date. Then there are two left in fall before the end of the year. The kids and I will get to go to faire at least 11 weekends this year, if all goes well. Next year we may add another faire to the list and maybe a few more weekends. This could be quite the adventure, especially as Oz slowly starts to build his own business. If he starts vending his swords and games at the faires and festivals, the kids could have a lot of faire weekends in their future, not to mention working at the festival the two weekends I run it. Corde already has her own persona in the works, Violet the Dryad. Sander is working on his, too. He will be Ribbits the Frog Goblin. Beekee is set on some kind of knight.

Given the kids aren’t so much unschooling as they once were, and we haven’t lived in a trailer park since August (with no intentions of moving back to one if we can help it), I’m thinking of changing the blog’s name. I was thinking of maybe going with something like Classical Unschoolers, as we’re using a blend between unschooling and Classical/Thomas Jefferson Education. I’d thought about Four Little Fairies as the kids are all making their fantasy characters, and goblins are technically fae beings, but Corde may not like being called “little” much longer. Fairy is also associated with gay men, and I don’t want to pin that on my boys. I’d thought about Those Rennie Kids, or maybe, The Faire Kids. Something like My Faire Children could be cute, too. Our faire schedule would make that fitting. I need to think of something. I hate the idea of misrepresenting ourselves, though, for the time being, we do still live in a trailer, just not in the trailer park!

Before long I hope to be back on track. We should have pictures of Beekee’s painting projects. We need to put up the kids’ costume making efforts (though the tutorials will be on the blog of the Texas Fantasy Festival website). If all goes well, I’ll have pictures in March from one faire, two in April, and a third in May. I’ll have plenty to talk about, too. We’ve got a whole list of books to explore to get on the classical schedule. I want to blow through ancient history in the next six months so we can begin next school year with medieval history. As much as they recommend full immersion, I’m planning to let the kids add facets of other time periods as they choose. It should be a good year. We just need to get things rolling!