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!