Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


Our First Day of Math

Today was the first day I busted out Math U See to work with all of the kids.  I have to admit, today was a total fail with Luca.  I pulled out the manipulatives, turned to Luca, and went, “Not today, Little Bear.  Maybe tomorrow.”  Luca, of course, was fine with that.

I think the lesson for Sander was really too easy.  I probably should have started him further into the book, but I wanted to make sure he had a solid grasp of the manipulative system before we got into the nitty gritty.  I have a feeling we’re going to cruise through this book and be ready for the next book by the end of the year.  I’ll be honest, I expected it to go that way, so this isn’t totally unexpected.  Tomorrow I think we’re going to try and cook through two lessons given the first one took almost no time at all.

img_20170131_092339_537Then there was A.J.  Let me tell you, today’s lesson was meant to be a review of multiplication, and to introduce the concept of area.  It was totally great to see the way he just lit up when the light bulb went off on what area is.  They’d only done perimeter in school and hadn’t started on area yet.  Then there was the light bulb over what rectangle means.  Then he joked about what a “wrecked angle” would be like.

img_20170131_093215_796I’m really liking Math U See.  The best part is the kids actually want to do it, so I don’t feel like it can’t fall into unschooling.  They get to play with blocks instead of just solving problems.  They get to build their answers.  Best of all, they get to do it in their pajamas.  This particular time we were doing it on my bed.  I like to stay in my room when Luca’s on the computer (that happens to be set up in my room), so that’s where we set up and we just stayed there.  I think that was the fun part, being able to sit in an unconventional place and do math.  (Though, now that I think about it, we spend a lot of homeschool time in my room on my bed!  It’s the most comfy spot to work in the house!)

IMG_20170131_094615_497.jpgI’m really enjoying this program and I’m glad A.J. is too.  I’m really liking that everything is so visual, and that the math concepts are applied to every day life.  Most of all I like that A.J. is doing division and he doesn’t even know it!  It’s also laying the groundwork for algebra as well.  I even told him that.

Me: Algebra is all about solving for the variable.

A.J.: What’s a variable?

Me: An unknown number represented by a letter, like the ones here.

A.J.: Wait?  I’m doing algebra?

Me: Sort of, on a very basic level, but it’s like the start to algebra.

A.J.: COOL!!!

Yes, those are the moments I missed and loved, seeing A.J. light up about a subject.  He’d been working on his times tables but never got to do it broken down like this before.  And reverse multiplication is really just division.  I had never thought about teaching division in terms of finding the factors like that.  I can definitely see where this is going to lead, both in division and in algebra.

img_20170131_101842_292Then there was the concept of area.  It was a great way to show why you would actually need to use multiplication in the real world.  I loved the way they described how you come to sq ft and sq in.  They represent it as ft x ft or in x in, which is exactly what it is, but no one had described it to me when I was that age.  It was just “When you multiply these two things, end up with this measurement as a result.”  It makes more sense that:

3 ft x 5 ft = 3 x ft x 5 x ft = 3 x 5 x ft x ft = 15 sq ft

That may look a little mind-numbing when all typed up, but trust me, it works and it makes a lot of sense.  It explains why you square the units of measurement.  AND it gets the idea in your head about squares, so when they get to squares it’s already seeded into their memory.  They come back and say, “Ah!  We did that with area!”

I was kind of on the fence about starting a math curriculum.  I hated that word, “curriculum,” it just sounded so wrong for our family.  “Curriculum” means structured lessons and a structured lesson plan.  That’s not who we are.  At the same time, this is actually kind of fun, for them and for me, so I’m totally feeling like this works for us.  Best of all, we don’t have to do it every day.  If I wake up tomorrow and say, “You know what?  Let’s not be bothered with math.” I can do that.  If the kids get up Saturday morning and go “What about math?” we can do that.

And, no, I’m not going to be posting about what we’re doing in math every day.  Today we just started so it was new and exciting.  We’ll definitely be talking about other things too, but I was so excited that this program seems to be a win!


Leave a comment

Their First Martial Arts Class

So, there’s no photographic evidence of the class, but the boys and Luca had their first martial arts class today.  The classes are in Brazilian Jujitsu.  If you don’t know what that means, I’ll simplify.  It’s grappling, or in overly basic terms, think wrestling.

The classes are really kind of short.  The 6pm class doesn’t start at 6, but ten minutes or so after.  Then they end about ten minutes early so the kids end up running around.  The older class runs a bit longer, but with older kids, I’d expect it to be more serious anyway.  I’d call it more of a 45-minute class for the older kids and a 30-minute class for the younger ones.  Still, I think it’s a valuable experience.

Both classes are structured pretty much the same way.  First they do their warm up.  After the warm up they learn a new technique.  After they learn their new technique they practice it a few times through.  Finally they get paired up practice what they know.  My kids didn’t participate in that part because they’re all too new and aren’t experienced enough, understandably.  However, this will teach them patience, following directions, respect for their instructor and their classmates, and to sit quietly while listening and watching the skills be demonstrated.

Luca was adorable to watch in class.  Luca’s little half ponytail bounced from place to place.  Luca was a little uninspired by the grappling technique, but I think that’s largely because Luca was confused as to what was going on.  There were several points where Luca looked very confused, but still remained seated or standing, eyes forward, listening to the instructions that were being given.  I think it’s definitely a good match for Luca.

Sander, on the other hand, was definitely in a class with kids much too big for him.  The techniques they were learning were much to advanced.  More than anything, Sander kept giggling anytime the other kid so much as touched him.  I think next class we’re going to talk about putting him in with the younger kids.  That group is supposed to be up through age 8, so I think that’ll be a better match, but if Sander is going to be goofing off, we may decide he’s just not ready for classes.

A.J. on the other hand was really into it.  He had a sharp focus for what he was doing and picked it up pretty quickly.  I haven’t seen him that intensely focused on something that involves another person perhaps ever.  He was definitely picking it up quickly and I think he’s going to excel.  He could have found something ideal for his personality.

The best part about it is the classes are both decently large.  There are enough kids in each class that I can see them finding friends fairly easily.  Luca might be the one that has the hardest time, being what seems like the youngest and least mature in the class.  Still, age isn’t necessarily a factor in friendships, and as Luca gets older, undoubtedly younger kids will filter into the class.  It looks like it’ll be a great environment for the kids.

Now for the down sides.  The place is walking distance, but in this weather that’s a little more touch and go than I’d like.  It’s a good half hour walk at Luca speed, which equates to exactly one mile each way.  Two miles of walking with a class in between is a bit much for Luca right now, but we’ll get there.  At Luca’s age Sander was walking about three to five miles every day.  If Sander can manage it, Luca can get used to it too.  Being a mile long walk won’t be fun if we’ve got any kind of bad weather coming up.  I think we can hack it in the rain, but I’m more worried about snow, which is still a possibility for a few more weeks now.  We’ve been known to get snow all the way through March.  It could also be out of our price range, which means we’ve spent all this time working on getting the kids into this just to have to pull them back out again.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed on being able to work something out.  The uniforms don’t exactly look cheap either.  They’ve got nice embroidered patches with the name of the place on it, as well as the Brazilian flag and a few other things.  They look like really nice uniforms, if a little covered with patches for my personal taste.  I prefer a simple, clean-cut look, but the school does what the school does, and it’s standard across everyone, both kids and adults.

I’ll be honest, doing this is going to have to come with some sacrifices.  I’ll have to go out in poor weather.  I’ll have to walk a mile each way until we can afford a car.  I’m going to have to invest in uniforms.  The cost of classes is going to mean our budget has to be cut somewhere else.  Overall, I think it’ll be worth it.  The kids will have a physical fitness element and they’ll be learning some valuable skills.  Undoubtedly you’ll be hearing more of about this as the week goes on.  We’ve got one free week, so we’re going to make the most of it!


A Day in the Life Plus LEGO Day

It’s been a while since I posted anything about what we do on a day to day basis.  The last time I wrote about a regular day for us, Corde wasn’t yet a teenager and was still a tween.  Well, gone are the days when Corde was wrapped up in little kid things.  Life is changing, and the kids are all growing up, which must seem especially fast if you see the gap in the posts from two years ago.

So, what does the average day look like for us?  That’s soon going to be changing, but right now it looks like math and writing in the mornings with Luca, and on Monday the boys are going to be joining in.  Math with Luca generally means building with the manipulatives, now that we have them.  We’re working on counting, which is apparently too much fun.  Today we counted tickles, pokes, belly pats, and other crazy things, just for fun.  We generally move on to some form of writing after math.  In this case the last sentence was written by Luca with just help in figuring out what letters to write.  I think Luca is picking up on writing faster than math, and I’m okay with that.

As for the afternoon, there tends to be a lot of lounging and laziness.  The boys like to play DS and Minecraft.  Corde likes to watch movies and videos on her iPod.  It tends to be pretty chill.  Even Nika gets in the lounging around, when she’s not being harassed by Luca.  Thankfully for her, Luca prefers to watch Netflix in the afternoon.  I’ve stopped limiting afternoon screen time because everyone has just wanted to chill after school so having a quiet house is good for that.  We’ll see how that changes when everyone is home.

Then there was LEGO day at the library.  We haven’t been to one since the last time I wrote about one.  That was back when Corde was still willing to participate and build.  I guess she’s gotten too old for it now because she had no interest in building.  I’ll be honest, our local library doesn’t have the greatest selection of blocks.  The library when we lived in Texas was much better.  Still, the kids had fun and built some awesome creations.  I think we’ll be going back in the future.

I think if we ever decide to downsize and do the tiny house thing, or road schooling, or whatever, we’re going to send our LEGO collection to the local library.  Their build days are a great idea, though the room they’re in is a bit small for the number of kids they get, but they could really use more LEGO blocks to their collection.  There’s some real potential to build, but nothing like the setup when we were in Texas.  We’re actually thinking we may want to move back that direction some day.

So that’s what we’ve been up to.  This next week is really going to be a big trial run for school with the boys, so there should be some big changes coming up.  For starters, we are going to have three kids home, so that’s a change.  I picked up some books from the library to do with the kids.  We’re going to be studying frogs (for Sander), turtles (for A.J. and Luca), and we have a couple books for Valentine’s Day.  We’ve got six books to read this week, hopefully, then (provided the weather is good enough), we’ll make another library trip in a week.  Though if the weather doesn’t stay warm we may end up pushing that three week due date a little bit.  We’ve had such unseasonably warm weather that it’s hard to imagine spring is right around the corner already and library dates will soon become a weekly thing without doubt!

After today I’m a lot less worried about socialization for the kids.  There were plenty of other kids to play with at the library.  Sure, none of them were regular friends that they’ll see on a constant basis, but it’s a start.  On Monday they start their trial run of martial arts, which will hopefully be another good way to keep the kids active, moving, and making friends.  We’re moving on to some pretty good things.

To cap the day off we decided to eat out at Subway.  We eat out once for every pay period (every two weeks), which is a big deal because it costs a lot to feed four kids and two adults.  Eating out is never cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but Subway was a special treat, and a nice change from our regular go-to of pizza.  The kids absolutely loved it.  We may make that our regular spot for our dining out.  It’s not a horrible choice.  It’s healthy enough, healthier than a lot of the inexpensive options, so it’s worth it.  Besides, the kids were absolutely stuffed when we got done, so our early dinner will definitely hold them for the rest of the night!

Now they’re all playing Minecraft with Oz while listening to music, well, everyone but Luca.  Luca (who has not had a nap today and I’m surprised is still up and functioning) is laying on the bed watching Netflix.  In not that long we’re going to start our wind down procedure for the night so Luca can settle in for bed.  It’s good to end the day on a note of feeling really positive.  Everyone had a really good day!

Leave a comment

Last Day of School

Well, it’s here, the last day of school for Sander and A.J.  I won’t lie.  I cried over the whole thing.  I was upset that the kids were going to lose their friends, especially Sander, but I’ve done everything I can to try and make contact with their friends’ parents, so there’s nothing more I can do.  I know this is best for my kids, I just feel guilty about the whole friends thing.  Sander only has one friend at school, and if it took him that long to make friends with the other kids, I can’t help but think he’s going to take just as long to make friends outside of school, maybe longer because he won’t see the other kids as long or as often.  It could be hard for him.

That aside, I’m also happy about this.  Once I get past the guilt and the constant nagging feeling that I’m in over my head, I’m happy to think my boys are going to be home with me.  Sure, it’s going to be more complicated to have all three of them at home, doing their work all at the same time, but I think we’ll get through this.  I can do well by my kids, and that’s why I’m doing this.  They’ll get more individual attention and should be able to get more done that much quicker.

Of course, Oz is totally supportive.  He was reminding me that I’ve already got the first project lined up for the kids.  We’re going to be making fantasy maps from a project I saw on Water Street Academy.  Then we’re going to make myths that go with the maps we make, so we’ll be working on writing as well as art and creativity.  We’re going to be stalking other homeschool blogs for ideas of projects we can do with the kids as well.  It’s not going to be bad.  I know I’ve got this.

Now I just need to work on getting Corde home.  I know she’s waiting for the date, but I’m not sure she really wants to just yet.  I want to make sure she’s really in it before I make any kind of final move.  I don’t want her to change her mind two weeks later, if that makes sense.  I’m also going to try and pick up some more curriculum stuff for her.  As much as I want to unschool, I want to get this kicked off in a way that eases my concerns when it comes to state regulations.  I need to trust in my kids but I think that’s a bit of a leap right about now.

So here we are, officially a homeschool family for more than just a preschooler that’s working on kindergarten level stuff.  We’re back on track and where we’re supposed to be again.  I’m not going to say we’re back to unschooling yet, because we aren’t, but as I’ve discussed before, name changes on wordpress aren’t something you can do, so that’s something we’re going to have to stick with, and we hope to get back to someday.

Leave a comment

Computer Time for All!

Today, after my bout of homeschool jitters, I decided (since Corde was home from school) that we had to make the most of the day.  She was home because she missed her bus (again) and decided it was better to take the detention than to show up late (and probably still get a detention anyway).  That made it the perfect time to do some homeschooling.

img_20170126_125942_309Corde spent a good bit of time on Time 4 Learning today.  Originally it was just something to do to keep her busy, but she kept at it for a good long while.  It was good to know that the math program covered subjects she hadn’t learned before, and it seemed like the science curriculum was all new to her too.  That was definitely a good thing.  She enjoyed the “Gameroom” time at the end of the lesson too.  She played some classic arcade games and had a pretty good time with it.

img_20170126_171539_168Since Corde was enjoying it so much, I busted out the laptop.  It had to be attached to a cord during use since I didn’t let it charge fully, so I set it up on my bed where it would be comfortable to use.  The plan was to let A.J. sit on my bed and work on the laptop while Corde was on the desktop.  There was a slight problem with this plan.  Some of the lessons required more reading than A.J. was ready for and it was a little complex for him.  I ended up reading the lessons to him instead.  The mouse was a little hard for him to use so we may look into getting a mouse as an extension to help that out.  It means his work is something I’m not necessarily going to be able to leave him to do while I’m doing math with the other kids, but we’ll get his reading there.  It might not be something I can have him do while Sander and Luca are working on math, but we’ll get there.

img_20170126_171626_462Once Corde was done, Sander wanted to jump on too.  Even after a full day of school Sander still managed to squeeze in over a half an hour on the computer.  He’s really become a fan of the school program.  I have a feeling we’re going to get some really good education time out of that program.  Downside to this, you can see how cluttered and messy my desk really is…I am not an organized person at all…

img_20170126_182005_700And, of course, since everyone else was doing it, Luca wanted to play again, sitting on my lap (which made taking this picture a little challenging).  I was excited to see that Luca was all about learning again, even though we’d done school earlier in the day, Luca still wanted to do more.  This program is really working out for us.  I’d say we’re getting our money’s worth.  It’s been a real hit, especially with Luca, who logged nine hours on the program last week.

And the final touch to this day of massive educational victory?  The kids are going to be doing a trial run at the martial arts school next week!  They’ll be going three days next week to try it out and see if they like it.  At the end of the week we talk price, which scares me.  I kind of wish I knew what I was getting myself into financially before we started all of this, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough.  Keep your fingers crossed that this is in our price range to afford.  It would be so good for the kids!

Leave a comment

Luca’s Math Day and Homeschool Sadness

Today Luca and I had a productive day.  We were working with Math U See Primer, which was the curriculum I bought to get Luca started with.  Sad reality, Luca’s not up to it.  We need an intro to our intro.

It never really occurred to me that Luca and I don’t do terribly much counting.  We don’t do much in the way of letters either.  I guess you could say I’ve really been lax about that.  The older kids learned to count when they learned to count and that was just it.  They picked it up by daily language.  I guess you could say I was a bad unschooling mom back in the day and have been with Luca to this point.  I don’t engage enough with Luca, and when I do it’s all play.  We don’t worry about things like counting and letters.  Why should we?  Luca’s only four!

Well, now I’m starting to feel the pressure.  Kids Luca’s age can already count to ten.  I’ve got to admit, I’ve been trying to work with Luca on this all year but it doesn’t seem to want to stick.  We’ve got one to five down, but the rest of the numbers are a bit of a mix.  Luca doesn’t recognize written numbers either.  I have a feeling this is going to be a long road ahead of us.

So today we just worked with the Math U See blocks.  I pulled out nine of the little units (because Math U See focuses on zero through nine, not one through ten) and we went to work.  I started out with putting out blocks and having Luca count them.  Then when it got to the point where I was making no progress, Luca would line them up or stack them and we would count as we went, starting with zero blocks and I would pick up the slack for the numbers after five.  We went on like this for about twenty minutes, then Luca started to get distracted and we moved on to something else.  We may not get into the Primer workbook until the end of the year, but I’m determined to get Luca through counting to nine, and then we’ll go from there.  If I have to pull out those blocks every day to count with, so be it.  We’re going to do this.  I might have to start picking up with counting other things around the house too.

Man, this makes me realize how bad at this I really am.  I’m really starting to get nervous about pulling the boys from school because I’m obviously not making that much progress with Luca.  I’m getting there slowly now, but I feel like I was somehow failing before and now I’m working much to hard to make the progress I should have made before.  I mean, what am I even doing?  I must be insane!

But then I take a deep breath and realize I’m doing things differently this time.  I’m more engaged with the learning this time.  I have a math curriculum.  I’m going to do more read aloud books (even though the kids glaze over and space when I read aloud, it’s worth a shot, right?)  I’ve got my mind set to work on a lot of things that we’ve neglected before.

Then there comes the homeschool regrets.  While A.J. is fine with homeschooling, Sander suddenly doesn’t want to do it anymore.  Earlier in the week he was all excited and wanted to quit early.  Now he’s thinking about leaving his best friend and he’s all upset about it.  He doesn’t want to homeschool anymore, at least not until summer.  He wants more time with his friend.

That’s when Oz did something that surprised me.  He told me to stick to my guns.  I made the decision to do this.  Sander wanted to do it.  Yes, it’s going to be hard for him to leave his friend behind, but that’s something he can and will get over.  It’s not something we’re going to regret.  Taxes will get done.  We’ll find a car.  We’ll start going to homeschool play dates, and Sander will forget all about missing his friend from school.

Or there’s the possibility he won’t have to miss his friend at all.  He was sent to school today with a letter for his friend’s mom with my phone number and email address.  He was told to give it to his friend so hopefully his mom will call and we can set up play dates.  A.J. brought letters for three of his friends too.  Hopefully we’ll see them, but if not, it’s no big deal.  I’ve done everything in my power, and that’s all that can be asked of me.

Still, I feel guilty taking them away from their friends.  I guess that’s the hardest part of all of this.  It’s sad to leave your friends and start over somewhere else.  We faced this every time we moved and I really hoped the kids wouldn’t face it again, but I know this is the right choice for them.  I also know they’ll make other friends.  Once we have a car again (taxes could not come back to quickly!) we’ll be going to homeschool play dates again.  We can look into a homeschool co-op.  I’ve called about martial arts classes for the kids and I’m waiting to hear back on a price for that.  We’ve looked into the local YMCA.  We plan to go to the LEGO days at the library, and there are plenty of parks to go to when the weather turns nice.  The kids will not lack for opportunities to make new friends.

Just keep your fingers crossed.  I’m looking forward to this, but it’s also crazy nerve wracking and intimidating.  I have to admit, it’s times like these that I miss the trailer park, where there were always kids around to make friends with.  Keep your fingers crossed that the kids can stay in touch with their friends, and here’s hoping they make many more along the way.


Back from the Plague

It’s been far too long since I updated everyone on what’s going on with us.  I got a nasty stomach bug that lingered for days.  Thankfully the kids weren’t hit with it too hard.

So what have we been up to?  Well, aside from the stomach bug thing, we’ve been trying to focus on staying “normal” for this week.  By that I mean keeping in the school schedule and continuing on the way we have been.  I’ve got to admit, I’ve been horrible about that in one way.  I haven’t given the slightest care if Sander finishes his homework.  Friday will be his last day, so he’ll turn it in for what purpose?  It really isn’t worth the fight.

To a certain degree I’ve been letting the kids get on with the deschooling process, even though that can’t properly happen until they’re out of school.  I’ve stopped caring about their mandatory reading every night.  I let them play Minecraft and watch Once Upon A Time.  We’ve been doing pretty much nothing “educational” at home after school.

There’s a reason I use quotes there.  I really do think that these things are educational.  The kids are experimenting a lot when they play Minecraft.  Once Upon A Time gives them an alternate look at fairy tales.  In this case there’s also a good bit of mystery because the kids try to guess which characters belong to which stories before it’s made obvious.  Since we don’t do a lot of Disney or fairy tales, that can sometimes be challenging, especially since the show has a very Disney bend.  Belle is shown in her traditional blue and white dress.  Later Elsa shows up, apparently.  It’s very Disney.

And our math books came yesterday.  I still haven’t dug into them to check it out yet.  I opened the box with the manipulatives, just to take a look, but I didn’t want to get into messing with all the curriculum pieces until I was ready to go through them and give them an actual look through.  Still getting over the plague yesterday meant it didn’t get done.

I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit nervous to have the boys home again.  I’ve been working with Luca quite a bit (though this week has been pretty well a waste thus far).  We haven’t done much, but we work on some writing and on the computer every day.  We’re making progress there.  I’m just not sure how well it’s all going to work out when I have three kids at home instead of just the one.

Originally I’d planned to pace myself.  Start with Luca home, then bring A.J. back from school.  Sander would be next.  Finally Corde would come home at the end of the school year and just not go back after summer was over.  Then I could slowly add my amount of responsibility.  Instead I’m bringing home two at once, and waiting for Corde to stop being wishy-washy on when she wants to be home.  Last week she wanted a few more weeks.  This week she wants it to be on Friday.  She needs to make up her mind!

Anyhow, in anticipation of the kids all coming home I’ve needed to do some serious thinking on how our household is going to need to run. We’re going to need to do breakfast and lunch at home, which means buying more food every week.  I need to figure out a schedule that will work for the whole family.  I don’t know if schedule is the right word, but maybe routine.  We’re going to have to figure some stuff out and that’s intimidating.  Have I said that enough about this change?

At the same time, I’m excited to have them home again.  I anticipate a lot more days of Minecraft, watching movies, and in general relaxing.  I mean, sure, we’re going to get school done, but we’re also going to have more freedom to do other things throughout the day as well.  Homeschooling doesn’t take near as much time as going to school does.

Well, Luca is up from a nap and A.J. is soon to be home, so I guess that means it’s time to hop off this thing and get on with my day!