Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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A New Family Day?

The down side is I quit my job.  The up side?  It meant I could have some much needed quality time with the family.  I’d been missing having a day when no one worked, which now I have again, and it felt really, really good.

We decided to go to the park down by Beekee’s old school.  He always loved that park but was never allowed to play there.  Apparently that was the park the little kids got to go to, which I didn’t understand because it was awesome.  The kids really loved it.

IMG_20170729_153831_024The biggest hit were the tractor tires.  It was the first thing the kids played with when they got there and the last thing they played with before they left.  They absolutely loved them, just as much as I remember loving them when I was a kid.  Those were the secret reason I wanted to go to that park.  The kids asked several times to play there, so the tires won out this week.

Sander had a ton of fun at the park.  It seemed perfectly suited to him, with plenty of spots to climb on.  If ever a park could suit a personality, this one would be it.  He was able to sail like a pirate, climb on everything, and even found a wonderful little spot to lounge.  He didn’t want to come home!

Everyone had a really good time, mostly because there was so much to do.  There were a ton of other kids there, which definitely helped.  There were so many people to play with.  I think the kids really needed this social outlet with a new cast of characters.  They’ve been seeing the same faces all the time, so new scenery and new kids to play with was definitely a win.

 

I think one of the biggest hits was the number of things there were to walk and climb across that moved.  Luca nearly took a spill on this thing a couple of times, and Oz didn’t do much better.  It was fun enough that they kept going over it until Luca, at least, seemed to pick up the skill for it.

We were down one family member because Corde had left to go to Rainbow Camp, which is fantastic for her.  It’s her first week at an overnight camp, so she was thrilled about that, but maybe next time she can come with.  This park definitely has one of her favorite things (most parks do), swings!

So, it kind of stinks that my job really wasn’t working out, but I think in the end something fantastic came out of it.  We’re back to feeling whole as a family, something that definitely wasn’t the case when we weren’t ever all home together.  Sometimes the sacrifice is well worth the outcome.

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Baking with Corde

Okay, maybe it was just a mix, but Corde got some baking in yesterday. It was a Hershey s’mores cupcake mix that a friend gave us. It was a pretty simple deal, chocolate cupcake with a graham cracker bottom crust and a marshmallow filling. Corde couldn’t wait to make it.

Corde wasn’t alone in her baking. Luca decided to help her with the mixing. The two looked so cute together at the table. Corde mixed up the graham crust mix while Luca mixed the cupcake batter. Then they both worked together to fill the cupcake cups.

While they were waiting things got a little crazy. Corde decided to prove she could walk on the half wall to the stairs and Luca, Sander, and Beekee went nuts playing LEGO Batman. They had an awesome time.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the finished product. We all ate them too quickly and I forgot. Even I had one, and they managed to save one for Oz. They were definitely good and gave Corde some ideas for her own baking future, which is always a win in my book!


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When They Grow Up

I have to admit, I’ve been a little worried about my kids and their interests.  So many homeschooled and unschooled kids are doing incredible things.  They’ve got incredible interests and they really invest themselves in what they’re into.  It’s almost like they know what they want to be when they grow up.

My kids aren’t like that.  They don’t really play with LEGOs and build things very often.  They only build their own houses in Minecraft.  I can’t get them to do all the cool, creative things other kids do.  They’ve got no interest in playing music.  They really don’t want to do anything but play video games and watch Minecraft videos on Amazon.  All in all, their interests seem like they’re not all that diverse.

For Luca, I’m not really worried about that.  Luca is only five and is primarily interested in coloring, playing with toys, and having tea parties.  This is no big deal.  It’s age appropriate for Luca to have no special interests or any leaning towards what he’ll do as a grown up.  Crazy ideas are normal at that age.  Luca’s current dream job is to make teddy bears, which is a possibility when he grows up, but we’ll start with teaching him how to sew.  If he hates that, he’s never going to make it as a teddy bear maker.

I know Corde, the closest to being out of the house and on to the real world, is having problems with this herself.  She’s going to a STEM oriented program at a local community college right now, which she doesn’t hate, but she doesn’t want to be doing any of that as a career.  Her discovery is 3D printing is hard, coding makes her head hurt, and engineering isn’t her thing.  It’s not a total loss.  She’s having a good time with it in spite of it not being her thing, but she knows it’s not going to be her future.  At least she tried it and now knows she can rule out engineering jobs in her future.  I just wish she had more of an idea of what she does want to do.

Of course, I can’t truly say that.  Corde’s got thoughts of possibly wanting to be a detective or a lawyer.  She’s been toying with the idea of being a chef for years.  She hasn’t really pursued the idea of cooking at home, though she’s got an opportunity to do it through the local voc/tech.  It’s something, and she really should have some direction in her life, given she’s so close to being out in the world.

But what about Beekee and Sander?  They need to have some direction in life too.  I mean, they’re both still young and have time to figure out what they want to do with their lives, but it’s better they at least have something they’re passionate about.  If nothing else, it’d be nice if they had some things they wanted to try.

So I finally broke down and asked them today, what would they like to do when they grow up.  If I knew that much I could help guide them to their passions.  We could get on board with the unschooling thing again because we’d have somewhere to start.  They’d do something other than play Minecraft all day and watch movies.  I mean, I know that’s part of deschooling, but the state is going to want to see they’re doing something educational with their time.

Beekee was the first one to respond.  First he said he wanted to make mods for Minecraft.  I told him that was a great goal, but what if he couldn’t make a living that way?  He might want to have another plan for his future, just in case modding Minecraft turns out to not be profitable.  He settled upon making a new game console, preferably one that could play the games of more than one system on it.  Then he got into talking about how he’d like to get into stuff that falls under the heading of “electronics”.  Well, that’s definitely a direction he could go.  Electrical engineering is totally a job option for him when he gets older, and not a bad choice when it comes to income either.

Sander’s first thought was he wanted to make video games.  He decided that might be hard and might not be as fun as it seems, so if he doesn’t like making video games he wants to be “a worker”.  When I asked what that meant, the answer was someone who builds things, like houses.  I can totally see Sander getting into that when he’s older.  He’s a sturdy, strong kid that likes doing physical things.  I can see him having the creativity to make video games too, but right now I think that takes a level of patience he’s yet to master.  He has a lot more patience with physical, hands-on stuff.  That may just be his age, but it may also be what he’s cut out to do in life.  He’s talked about building houses on and off for the past couple of years, so maybe this really is a passion of his.

These are things we can work on now, and I feel pretty good about that.  We can start working on getting the kids started with electronics.  We can do a little bit of programming, if I can find some stuff that’s age appropriate.  And we can definitely start working on some wood crafting projects.  I work at a home improvement store.  I’m sure we can come up with something!

I have to say, I feel a lot better about my parenting skills.  I think it was just they weren’t ready to think about it.  I’d asked several times and they never really were interested in thinking about it and whenever I brought up ideas, they’d brush it off and go back to playing.  Now it looks like we’ve got some good places to start.  They’re finally ready to get into some pretty cool stuff.

So, we may not know what they want to be when they grow up, but at least we’ve got some ideas to start with.  Maybe they’ll love what they’ve chosen as life aspirations now.  Maybe they’ll try it and hate it.  Whatever it is, at least I’ve got kids that are starting to get passionate about things.  We’re back on the unschool train for real!


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Sparklers

We went to a birthday party last night.  It was kind of unplanned.  We were invited over by our neighbors last minute after I got out of work.  I really wasn’t in the mood to go, but I figure it was for the kids.  These are their friends, so they may as well get the chance to go, right?

The highlight of the night was getting to us sparklers.  The colored ones didn’t have the same kind of effect that the traditional ones did, but the kids still loved them.  It’s funny how the simple things in life can really make the night.  They all had so much fun with them, which was awesome.

I suppose we could follow this up with a learning experience.  What makes the colored sparklers colored and all of that, but I think in this case we’ll just let it be.  Sometimes fun is really just for fun.  If they want to know the why, they’ll undoubtedly ask.  They always do.  That’s what makes this whole learning thing so awesome.


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Unschooling Is Back, Baby!

This week I did something I didn’t even realize I needed to do.  I called to find out where I have to send in a progress report for my children’s year of homeschooling.  I had expected to go in with portfolio in hand to show them the work we’d done (which is why we even bothered to keep a portfolio in the first place).  As it turns out, I don’t need to do that at all.  The process is much simpler than that.

So what do I have to do?  I need to send in a progress report for each of my children talking about what we covered in every subject.  I was also told I have to send in samples of their work, though I’m not sure how that works.  I was told it’s standardized testing OR a progress report OR samples of their work.  I’m still ironing out the details of what exactly I have to include, but we’re getting there.  One thing at a time, right?  For now, I’m going to be compiling a progress report covering what we did with each subject, and putting together my education plan for next year.

The plans for next year are pretty simple, really.  We’re going to keep with the phonics program and the math program, but my goal beyond that is to try and do a year of totally unschooling.  I know I’ve got daily exercise books for the kids that my aunt got me, and if the kids have interest in doing them, great.  I may suggest the geography and science ones on a regular basis because the kids really liked those and they cover some good topics.  I’m thinking we’re going to do Story of the World again next year, though if they don’t totally soak it up, I’m not too worried about it.  But beyond that, anything goes.

More accurately, I’m going to stick it out with math.  We’re going to try and blow through the remaining phonics.  Once we’re done with phonics, we’re going to be done with everything but math, and then it’s back to unschooling time!

So, why are we sticking with math and phonics?  Well, phonics has really helped Sander with his reading, so I figure the more we can give him tools to be successful, the better he’ll be.  I know as long as we live near family, a lot of pressure is going to be put on the kids to be reading.  While I’d love to let them learn it organically, I know things will go much more smoothly if the kids learn how to read and we go from there.  And math?  Well, that’s a life skill that they’re going to need if they ever want to go to college, and while I’m not holding my breath that the kids will want to go to college, I want to keep that option available to them.

As if gearing up for a more unschooling heavy year wasn’t enough, we’re also working on getting back to a more unschooling life in general.  Once we have a car we intend to take to the road a lot more and visit some historic places, museums, and other cool places filled with learning.  We’re definitely going to start going on more nature walks.  It may not be until spring that we have a car, but we’re totally going to be looking forward to that in the coming school year.

It feels so good to know we’re going to be getting back to the roots of it all again.  I can’t wait to take another step forward, progressing into the next phase of our schooling life.  I’m looking forward to filling the house with experiments, talking about crazy inventions on Minecraft, and all kinds of other cool things.  We’re in for an absolutely fantastic “school” year!


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Independence Day (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)

This year we were planning on a nice, quiet night at home.  Oz was working that day and I really just didn’t feel the drive to do anything.  That’s when the thought came to me.  “We should go to the fireworks in Boston!”  Yes, I know, don’t give away where you live, but you can get a LOT of places in the state by train, which is exactly how we went in.

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The trip in was fairly uneventful.  The Corde was busy texting her friends and listening to her music while Sander, Luca, and Beekee kept switching seats at every stop so they could take turns at the window.  They always did like taking the train into Boston.  They enjoyed the subway too because there were no seats, so they all had to stand, which is always an exciting adventure.

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When we got to our spot on the river we all sat and chilled.  We read a chapter of Percy Jackson.  Sander, Beekee, and Luca all played in the dirt, no matter how many times I told them not to because it was kicking dust up into everyone’s face.  Corde took a nap.  Luca looked at a book on snails and we read a Rookie Read About Science book together.  It wasn’t the most entertaining time the kids have had, but they kept themselves occupied, which is good.

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The kids loved being by the river.  They don’t get to be by the water much, so they loved getting to watch it.  The weather was pretty nice, with a good breeze.  We were lucky enough to find a spot that was mostly shady, so that helped too.  The only down side to our riverside location was Sander dropping his 2DS in the water.  I’d warned him not to bring things near the edge of the water, but he didn’t listen.  His DS slipped from his hand and into the depths it went, along with his favorite game, Animal Crossing.  We almost lost a book that Luca tossed at me the same way.  To be honest, I would have preferred to lose the book than the DS, but such is life.  We’ve agreed that Sander can earn a new DS if he does enough reading.  He can earn his game back too.  Sadly, he had to learn his lesson about things falling into the water the hard way.  I just wish we could afford to replace it again so easily.  It’s going to be a good while before we can.

As it got dark, Luca started to get cold.  I handed over my flannel and that solved the problem (and looked absolutely adorable).  The kids were given glow necklaces by one of the people next to us, which was a lot of fun.  I wish we’d thought to bring glow sticks!  Maybe next year.  After all, this is becoming quite the tradition.

The fireworks themselves were amazing, as always.  I didn’t get a lot of good pictures, in part because my phone doesn’t have a great camera.  It also didn’t help that I was watching the fireworks and not my phone (so the framing is a little off).  Luca also wanted to be picked up for a large part of it.  We all enjoyed the show.  It was great to see Luca’s face when the show was going on.  At first there was disappointment because they shot off a few fireworks, but then there weren’t anymore for a long while.  Luca thought the show was already over, but I promised there would be more.  Sure enough, there were, and Luca was entranced.  Both last year and the year before Luca slept through the fireworks, don’t ask me how.  This was the first year Luca got to see the display.

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I have to say, as great as the fireworks were, this was my favorite moment of the whole night.  Luca was taking pictures on my phone and happened to catch this one.  Pretty good for a kid that wasn’t looking!  I held the phone where it was aimed and Luca pressed to capture.  Such a sweet little kid!  I’m going to miss moments like these when they’re all grown up!

IMG_20170704_161858_891However, there’s one thing I’ve got to throw on here as a PSA kind of thing.  While most people were great about Nika, respecting that she was a service dog, not everyone was.  There was a teenage girl on the subway that declared excitedly that there was a dog.  She got even more excited when she saw it was a service dog.  What’s the first thing she does?  Pets my dog…  When Nika decides to lie down, this girl sits on the floor of the subway, pushing into me, and attempts to smother Nika with affection.  She got Nika all riled up to the point that she was circling me, something that wasn’t all that safe to be doing on a crowded subway train.  She was with some of her friends and I didn’t see a parent anywhere (though she was pretty young).  It was definitely inappropriate.

For the most part I don’t have to deal with stuff like this, especially to this extent, I do find a lot of people making kissy noises, whistling, calling to her, and other behavior that distracts her from her work.  I’ve got to say, the kids are great in informing people she’s a service dog and she’s working, but none of us should have to say anything about it.  I know a lot of families have no contact with service dogs, but they’re out there, and the number of service dogs is growing.  So, please, for my sake and for the sake of service dog handlers everywhere, teach your kids about service dogs and the important job they do.  If this girl had been educated, or at least had an adult present to correct her, my Independence Day out could have been blissfully pleasant (aside from the DS in the river).  It’s little things like teaching your kids that goes a long way to the health, happiness, and even safety of everyone around them.


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Why She Wants to Go to School

I’m honestly really sad about Corde wanting to go to high school next year.  Part of it is her grades.  She’s a B/C student and feels like she can’t aspire to anything better.  I have a feeling reliance on grades will only hold her back and make her that much less ready for college, if she decides to go.  But there are other factors in all of that.  I just feel like she could get so much better of an education at home.

For starters, no one is teaching her how to write, and I mean properly write.  I’ve heard this complaint from a lot of high school students entering college.  No one taught them the proper way to write a research paper.  No one showed them how to craft a properly supported argument.  They struggle when they get to college because they don’t know how to do these things.  I can honestly say that was the hardest part about peer editing in college, I felt like I had to make a lot of comments and edits.  Actually, that’s not true.  I had a wonderful time in my literature class, but my history class it felt like I was working with a lot of people that didn’t know how to write.

And then there’s other aspects of education.  Corde is tracked into a specific plan for next year.  While she’s not doing great in math (a solid B student, so not horrible), she’s getting through the material quickly.  If she was homeschooled she could advance through the material and get “back on track” that much quicker.  There’s no reason she couldn’t be through Algebra 1 right now if she just applied herself.  We could have easily gotten through it this summer, but what’s the point if she’s not going to be able to advance to the next level next year in school?  She can’t move forward at her pace.  She has to move at the pace everyone else sets for her.

Let’s not forget her woes in science and history.  Those classes are all about memorizing facts, something she’s really struggling with.  I know college will be full of that.  She may not have to remember names and dates in science, but she is going to have to remember things like the laws of physics, or the parts of a cell.  In history it’ll be names and dates.  However, I could teach her to study those things and improve her skills.  Going to school she had a study block, which was where she did all her work.  None of her work came home, so she didn’t study, and because she didn’t study, she didn’t do well in her classes.  These are things we could easily improve upon with homeschooling.

However, she doesn’t want to homeschool.  It’s not about the high school experience.  It’s not even because she’s really interested in the things she’ll learn in tech school.  She’s really only interested in going to high school to be with her friends.  She said, “You don’t understand, Mom.  Once you no longer go to school with kids they don’t have time for you anymore.”  I hate to say it, but there’s every chance her friends won’t have time for her in high school either.  She may choose a different vocational career than them, or they may all choose the same thing to be together, which is the wrong way to choose something.  There’s every chance she and her friends will drift apart anyway.

Going to school just for her friends isn’t a good answer in my opinion.  If she works hard to maintain her friendships, she won’t have to worry about losing her friends when they go to different schools.  They’ll make other friends, I’m sure, but she’ll still be able to hang out with her friends after school.  She’ll have even more time because she won’t have homework to worry about.

Still, I know I can’t change her mind, so we’re going to see how it goes.  I think it would be different if we had a car and could get her to homeschooling events.  That’s going to be a while in coming though, so we’re doing the best we can.  Maybe she’ll decide she wants to homeschool her academics and we can work something out with the school for that.  We may have a compromise yet.