Trailer Park Unschoolers

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

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The Last Day of Future Leaders Program

It’s finally here, the last day of the Future Leaders Program. I think Beekee is a little relieved. He didn’t even want to go today. I think the only reason he agreed was knowing it would be the last day. It’s been tough on him having so much commitment. I have to wonder how he ever made it in school. He must have been so burnt out all the time.

In honor of his last day of his program we did almost no homeschooling today. We really got nothing done. I half watched Tree House Builders while Luca napped on my lap and that was about as educational as we got. That and Luca did one more row of knitting. Beyond that we’ve been all on the unschooling train.

So while we wait for the last class to end, Luca and Sander are playing with the iPads the library has. Usually they’re pretty hopping places, but today they can both play with no one waiting. It’s good for them to have a chance to play, especially for Luca, who never gets a chance to play on them.

Even Nina is having a chill day. She’s normally swarmed with children. Today She’s tucked up under my chair and out of the way. She’s napping while the kids play. Every once in a while a grumble let’s me know she’s still with us.

All of this is happening on a reasonably nice spring day. The walk wasn’t too bad, which is a nice change from the earlier days of the program. Even so, rumor has it we should be getting snow this weekend. We are not excited. At least warmer days have been the trend lately and it shouldn’t be long before we can sign up for these programs knowing it will be good weather to walk there and back. Hopefully that will motivate us.


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Today our “school” was rounded out with LEGO kits and Bubble Guppies. The bots remembered we had LEGO kits in the basement that hadn’t been built yet, so what better time to build them than now? They even have Luca out of their hair because Luca is busy with Bubble Guppies.

I know these kits don’t stay together long. They never do. They fall apart when getting moves around or get demolished. That’s just the life of LEGO builds around here, but when they’re done they still get used to build other things.

To be honest, these LEGO kits are pretty cool. There’s a mix of pirate and Star Wars. The kids are going to have fun with these while they last. At least that’s something. Beekee just built a pirate cove with a sneaky skull door hiding the treasure chest. That was pretty awesome. I think I would have liked these kits as a kid.

Though, the one thing I think I’ve realized at this point is how the boxes of LEGO blocks are probably the better way to go. They offer the boys the most generic building stuff. The specialty blocks almost never get used for any new builds, aside from car wheels. They tend to stick to basic builds. It’s just how it works around here.

I have to say, I feel like we have (dare I say) too many LEGO blocks. There’s a whole big bin but most of the builds the boys make are fairly small. They don’t go for the elaborate builds I see other kids go for. They just like making people and aliens and things, sometimes a few cars, or a phone or a building now and again. It feels like this is an area, like many, where less stuff actually does us better than more stuff. After all, these LEGO kits have been in the basement for a year, completely forgotten about. If Oz hadn’t been down there, finally putting the Christmas stuff away, we probably would have continued on without anyone being the wiser.

LEGO building has me thinking maybe I would be better to get rid of some of the extra toy clutter. The boys would have more room to build if we got rid of some of the toys that are hardly ever used or have gone for months without being touched. We may even have more room to put the LEGO stuff up where it will survive a bit longer if we had less toys taking up storage space. Can you tell I’ve been in a spring cleaning mood?

Well, it’s time to make dinner while the kids enjoy their time. Corde and Oz should be on their way home from Corded Minecraft event. It’s been a totally creative day for everyone but Luca. I look forward to more days like this and a cleaner house!


Because We Have to Go

We went to jujitsu today, even though I didn’t want to go. We need to be going at least twice a week. We’re paying for it so we should go.  (And since the video works fine from my phone, but not from the computer, I’m adding it in YouTube format too.  Please tell me if the WordPress video works for you.)

So why didn’t I want to go? Well, Luca and I aren’t just matching for fun. Luca wanted to match me because it’s my birthday. We took the day off from homeschooling. I played Animal Crossing New Leaf with Sander and Beekee. We watched Yard Crashers and Cupcake Wars. We saw someone I met at con last month on Cupcake Wars, which was pretty awesome. We did almost nothing productive, so I had to do jujitsu.

I’m not sure how the video of Beekee will turn out, but you can see Luca and Sander are having fun waiting. They usually have a pretty good time of it. I’m doing exactly what you can imagine I’m doing, typing away on my phone.

Tomorrow everything goes back to normal. Course goes to Teen Tech Time at the library for Minecraft Design. She had her hair done on Saturday. They straightened it and everything. Today she asked me to buy her a straightener, and forgot it was my birthday. Teenagers…

But for today I will try and enjoy the rest of the day. We can’t afford to do much, but I get to order sushi for dinner when we get home. It’s the small way I get to be spoiled, and sushi for my birthday is becoming a tradition. We will see. I may go with fried ravioli and a salad, just because I’m craving a salad. But one way or another, I get my special dinner. Then we do another special dinner for Beekee this week. Let the birthday marathon begin!


Knitting Is Homeschooling?

That’s the question I was asked today. I had Luca on my lap, helping little fingers so their work. Beekee looked at me in surprise when I asked Luca if knitting school was the best.

This is really where unschooling comes in. Anything can be a learning moment. Why does it need to fit the traditional label of “school” anyway? Isn’t learning for the sake of learning enough? That’s really the root of unschooling.

I still remember the day Luca went with me to the craft store on a mission to find some knitting needles I needed. I pointed out the cute kid’s needles and Luca announced that they had bears, so Luca needed them. I always thought they were vaguely animal of a non-specific sort, but bears never occurred to me. This was met with telling Luca “no” and stopping the ensuing meltdown of tires kid by changing to, “If we get them, you have to learn to knit.”

Just like that we had needles in hand and a quest to get some yarn, blue yarn, Luca’s favorite color. The first ball Luca liked was a pretty deep blue, but at $5 for a ball, I opted to keep looking to see if we could find a cheaper solution to the probably swiftly abandoned new hobby. Luca clung to that ball like it was treasure, needles clutched tightly alongside. I feared for whoever tried to separate the two.

Then there it was, this perfect, bright blue yarn with a sparkling rainbow strand twisted in. The best part? It was on clearance for $2. Not only did Luca love it, but the other ball was swiftly tossed back into it’s bin and Luca came barreling after me to grab this new, sparkly treasure.

Guiding Luca’s hands, we started knitting the next day. Luca was excited to start the day we brought everything home, but it was too late and everyone was too tired. The first few days we went one row at a time across twenty stitches, me guiding Luca through the steps.

Then one day we just stopped. The bag of yarn and the needles were stuffed on the shelf under my nightstand and forgotten. Soon Luca’s brothers were home and Luca’s knitting was forgotten.

Just yesterday I unearthed the bag while looking for I forget what. We sat down together and Luca worked through the first stitches, seemingly not needing my help at all. I was just there to steady the needles and to help slide the stitches and hold the needles in place when Luca changed grips. We worked through two rows then and there.

Today it was back to knitting again. Luca cruised through three more rows, stopping now and again to count how many stitches were left. I guess now is as good a time as any to work on counting to twenty. The work was almost easy.

For not even being five yet, Luca’s stitches are incredibly near and even. This little garter stitch scarf is looking pretty good. It’s a sport weight yarn, so the weave is a little loose, but I don’t think that will matter much to Luca. Luca just can’t wait to get to wear it. If course, at a row or three a day, it could still take a year, but we’re getting there.

Now Sander and Beekee want to learn. I can get them each their own set of knitting needles and a cheap ball of yarn and they’ll be on their way too. It’s nice to have them interested in the hobby I pursue, and it’s a lifelong skill. Knitting may not be as useful as car repair or something of that nature, but it does allow you to make some pretty nice, quality stuff. Plus it’s a hobby that results in a wearable product, making it both fun and useful!

This is what unschooling is really about. Sharing your passions and helping them discover theirs. This is all of why we do it.


So Much for Spring

Spring is supposed to bring nice weather, isn’t it? Flowers are supposed to bloom and it’s time to take off the winter layers. All I can think is how much I wished I were in Texas still. It’s cold out there! So much for spring…

We had to go out today, and by “had to” I mean I signed Beekee up for a program, of which he already missed one week. It was the day after the concert and I had nowhere near enough sleep. It was also crazy cold. I couldn’t justify yet another day out of the program. It’s only four weeks long! It’s good for him to get out and social with other kids his age, especially because he doesn’t quite fit in at jujitsu. We had to go out today. It was pretty much required.

So here I am, sitting at the library, guarding the coats while Sander plays on the iPad and Luca plays on the computer. This isn’t much change from the tech time at home. We can’t get any books because I forgot my library card, and neither of them wants to read while we’re here. With a half hour left in Beekee’s program, if they end on time, we’ve got a whole lot of tech time going on. I’m starting to wonder if they’ll ever get off of it.

All of this has me thinking. Do the kids really need all the toys they have? They really only play with the LEGO blocks and sometimes the stuffed animals. They would all rather be playing on tech, and since I don’t limit screen time, I don’t see why they need so much.

Of course, getting my family on board with not getting us more stuff to clutter up my house is hard. I don’t want to be storing things in the basement to cycle through. Sander is proving me wrong by just starting to play with the trains at the library, but he doesn’t often play with toys at home, beyond the LEGO blocks. Still, I have an aunt that likes to buy the kids lots of stuff for birthdays and Christmas. The problem with this is we just don’t have room for it all. The kids aren’t reading the books. They’re not playing with the toys. It’s just taking up a lot of space that our big four bedroom just doesn’t have. And to be fair, it is a big four bedroom. I just don’t want toys up in the bedrooms because the kids play instead of sleep and their rooms are always messy. That means the living room is where it’s at. There’s just not room for a lot.

And even if I did allow the kids to have toys in their rooms, I don’t want their rooms to become a cluttered mess. That would mean only a small number of toys to play with in the rooms anyway.

Now I’m remembering why I wanted to live in a minimalist way. I’m tired of living under all this stuff. The summer I was in limbo was the most freeing thing ever. We lived out of one suitcase per person and still managed to have stuffed animals and some small toys. The kids appreciated what they had so much more and I was so much less burdened. I could breathe without feeling like my house was trying to suffocate me.

I think it’s time for a grand scale purge again. I’ll call it spring cleaning, even though spring hasn’t really found us yet. I can cut back on all the stuff we’re collapsing under and bring it back to the basics. We’ve got bags of toys in the basement that mostly just need to go. Some stuff needs to go back to the kids, but most of it is just stuff that’s been long since forgotten. I think that’s the big thing we need a car for, to get rid of all this extra stuff we no longer use and needs to be removed. It will make quite the Goodwill donation, that’s for sure! And we really need to do it too. I wonder if any of those places do pick ups. They’re good toys in practically unused condition, most of them. They just need to live with someone other than me and the family.

So maybe it isn’t spring outside. Maybe I’m longing for our little trailer again. I’m secretly plotting to go back to the trailer park days. But while all this is going on, some positive has come. We’re thinking ahead to the point at which we cut back the toys in my house to almost nothing again. It doesn’t feel like spring, but spring cleaning is coming.

Go stream of thought writing. I can tell I’m bored while waiting for Beekee’s program to let out. Any time now…any time…


I Would Like A Voice, Please

Learning has been interesting this week. Last week I went to a concert and didn’t lose my voice. This week, out of the blue, I have no voice. Doesn’t that figure? It’s made it an interesting week of homeschooling.

However, not having a voice allowed me to make some interesting observations. For example, I really don’t like Primary Phonics. Doing it right requires an obnoxious amount of talking, and I feel Sander isn’t getting as much out of it if I just say, “There are the workbooks pages. Have at.” It feels like I should be putting in the effort to read through the lessons. I’ll be honest, this is why I haven’t put more effort into doing Primary Phonics with Luca. I think Explode the Code does the same basic thing, but better. The only advantage to Primary Phonics is the basic readers that really make it easy for Sander to build some confidence with reading. I prefer the phonics box sets for that kind of stuff though. To be honest, Primary Phonics seems like a dated system of learning phonics. Will I still use it? Yes, if for no other reason than feeling guilty that money was spent on it for both Sander and Luca, but I much prefer Explode the Code. It’s a lot more fun for both Sander and Luca.

I’ve also realized that having a curriculum doesn’t suit me so much. We really are unschoolers at heart. I hate sticking to the curriculum and the workbooks. I feel like I’m spending my whole day working through books, even though we really don’t spend that long. It’s not my favorite thing. We’re it up to me we would do Explode the Code and Math U See and call it a day after that.

It’s also struck me how much time I spend reading to the kids every day. Our homeschool days have been really short without having reading as a component. We cruise through our daily workbook time without it. It feels like our last few days have been severely lacking. We usually read so much!

And it’s not just the reading we’ve been missing out on, but the discussions as well. We generally spend a lot of time talking about what we’ve been learning or doing. We haven’t been able to do that because my voice (when it’s there) sounds like talking through gravel. As a result, we haven’t been able to do much of that either. It’s been tough losing that whole part of it. I never realized how much talking I do as a part of homeschooling these days!

As for what you missed in the last six days I wasn’t able to pop on the computer (which I’m now posting from my phone, so I’m still not on the computer…) there’s been some good moments. I think I need to share some pictures to show what kind of week it’s been.

This was when Luca decided to serenade me with Beekee’s guitar. It was super cute. The song was called “I love mommy!” Can I just tell you how that made me feel? Luca is awesome like that.

We took last week off of jujitsu, and we’re taking today off as well due to Luca’s dental consultation. (Poor kid needs caps on a bunch of teeth, so that’s a whole ordeal…) We did, however, go on Monday. The kids had a blast on the walk and they loved getting out in the warm weather. If only it was warm like that today!

Sander had crazy spiky hair after his shower. He looks so much more like himself since we hacked off his crazy mop of hair. He wants to keep it that short and spike it up every time he showers. He thinks it’s the most fun part of having short hair.

And then I got this. It’s perhaps the best picture I’ve taken of Beekee in a long time. He’s hard to get a picture of at the best of times. This one just worked out well. He was in the middle of doing his math work for the day. Homeschooling seems to suit him. He still gets easily distracted, but we still get through the content, and that’s what matters, right? It’s working out for us.

Then this happened to my living room. Luca had one tent from last Christmas and got another one this Christmas with a tunnel. This makes for an epic fortress in my living room. Thankfully, they fold up flat so I can put them away when not in use. That means I get my living room back most of the time, aside from when Luca decides to set up the tunnel towers again. I need a bigger living room. That’s what it comes down to.

Today Luca had the consultation for the scary amount of dental work (surgery! Yikes!) I’m glad Oz is going to be taking Luca in for that. Luca needs caps on the upper front teeth and an extraction. I don’t know why either. Luca’s teeth have been treated the same as the rest of the kids. We would have had it seen to earlier but there was that whole moving around thing a couple years ago and once we were settled it was already too late. So that being said, we’re doing the best we can with a bad situation. (Also, this is why I think even radical unschoolers should encourage their kids to brush their teeth!)

Luca came home with an apple fritters as a special treat for being good at the dentist. Luca called it an “apple critter.” It was super cute. That made my day!

So now you’re caught up with us. Now I’m off to watch Jurassic World with the kids. It’s their first Jurassic Park movie. This should be interesting


All Work and No Play

Today it took Beekee forever to get through his work.  Today was like the days his teacher used to complain about at school.  The difference here is he can keep working on a task until he completes it, even if it takes him all day.  If he gets distracted a few times, it’s no big deal.

Sander, on the other hand, cruised through his work like it was nothing.  It was one of those days where he was on it.  We had a couple millisecond meltdowns about reading words he was unfamiliar with, but we moved on quickly.  It was like it was all too easy for him, and maybe it was.  I have a feeling once he gets the routine down he’ll be flying through his work today.

And then after Sander’s work was done, we started talking about bees.  This started because there was a spider in the house.  Normally I would insist on the spider being taken outside, but given the cold, I decided it could stay, so long as it keeps out of our way.  I’m not responsible for it accidentally being squished.  We talked about how spiders are arachnids, but that makes them bugs.  Insects are also bugs.  I said that some examples I could think of as insects were ants, wasps, and bees.  This got the kids all excited.  They really like bees, and I have no idea why.  They have a personal want to save all the world’s honey bees, which is a good thing because we’re well aware of the worlds vanishing bee problem.  It’s good to know my little nature lovers are geared towards saving the bees.

And it’s not all about work and play for the kids either.  I’m going to have fun tonight too.  I know I don’t mention what I’m doing much, because this blog wasn’t started about me, but we’re all a family, which means what we do impacts each other.  So tonight I’m going out to a concert, Dropkick Murpheys!

Now, what’s important about this in a greater family context, aside from Corde being really jealous that I’m going, is that I have a chance to do something for me every once in a while.  It’s good to know I have a chance to be someone other than mom now and again.  This has been a more common occurance in more recent times.  I get to have more time to be me, which makes me a better mom in the end.

This brought up another idea I was thinking about.  I’m going to start looking for all ages shows that I can take Corde too.  She’s old enough now that she’s interested in that kind of thing, and I think it would be fun for her to go.  I’d love to be the person to take her.

Years ago my dad took me to my first concert.  It was a free concert at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River.  We went to see a bunch of artists, the biggest one being Paula Cole.  At the time I’d heard her on the radio quite a bit and was really excited to get to see her performing live.  It was quite the adventure, and a great day in the cuty.

I hope that I’m the one that gets to take all my kids (if they’re so inclined) to their first concerts.  I know I won’t be able to afford taking them often, but it would be great to be able to say I took them to their first one, even if we can’t afford to do anything after that.  Concerts are expensive!  And so many of them are not all-ages shows.  It would mean I’d have to look around for something that is, and those are generally bigger shows that are much more expensive.  I’m sure we can find something good for the kids.

But for tonight it’s about me and my fun.  Since my birthday is in a couple weeks, this is kind of a birthday present for me.  As an added bonus I’ll be picking up a shirt or something from the show, because I want something to remember this by.  I’ve only wanted to see them for I don’t even know how long.  As they’ve only been around since 1996, I guess you would say I’m an early adopter of the band.  I’ve wanted to see them since high school, so I’m thinking it can’t be long after they became a band in the first place.  This is one thing I can check off the list of life experiences I would love to have!

So, here’s hoping you all have as wonderful of a night as I will!