Trailer Park Unschoolers

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

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Busy, Busy

Things have gotten a little chaotic around here. I took a job to help make ends meet. We want to be able to get a science curriculum for next year, so having the extra money would really help. We also want to do a handwriting curriculum because Sender’s writing is awful and I want the kids to learn cursive. It’s more curriculum and less unschooling, but the kids seem to think it’s fun, so why not?

With all the fuss over starting my new job we decided to take some time off of jujitsu. It’s just more in the week than we can handle right now. I know that’s the only real socialization we do, but It’s just too much. Even the kids were pretty burnt out on it. I think we all just needed a break.

Because we’re spending a lot of time on curriculum, we’ve decided to take two days out of each week for “TV school” where we watch documentaries as our daily work. I may just make that the end point to all our school days, but two days each week we try to do nothing but. So far we have four shows going. Two are on animal life. One is on castles. The last one is called Mega Builders and is about incredible building projects. It’s a good mix of stuff for the kids.

All of this end of the year stuff has me planning for next year. Luca has already made it through the first book of Get Ready for the Code. Sander finished his first book of Primary Phonics. That’s two things we can just put aside and call done. Thankfully I have the next set of Primary Phonics for Sander and up to Explode the Code book 2 for Luca. That should keep us going on phonics skills for a while. I’m less of a fan of Primary Phonics as it seems to really be set up for classroom use. I don’t have a board to write on, nor do I have the cards that go with the set. Still, It’s free, so I’ll use them.

The big reason I want to go with a curriculum for science next year is the experiments. I’m kind of rubbish at coming up with projects to do and I’m even worse at making sure I have the supplies on hand. I kind of stink at explaining the science behind things because It’s hard for me to explain things I haven’t studied in years. Having a curriculum gives us projects to start off with that are age appropriate with all the resources to explain what’s going on. The kits I’ve seen with all the experiments aren’t cheap, somewhere between $100 And  $200 per grade level, but I think It’s worth it. It may not be so much for someone else. The way I see it, I would probably spend just as much coming up with experiments to do myself. And we can always try it for a year and see if the kids like it. It doesn’t have to be a heavy curriculum with lots of writing and reading. Just some fun experiments should be enough.

This year I’m really not getting so far with the science I was hoping to do. I wanted to get some plants going on the back porch so we could use gardening as one of our lessons. I haven’t even started on that. Our budget has been too tight to really allow it, and the weather has been too gross to allow for much gardening anyway. I’m hoping this new job opens up some more opportunities for growing a garden. I’ve got some great ideas, though I’m not sure how practical all of them would be. I found these really cool apple trees called Urban Apples. They grow in a narrow column instead of branching out, which makes them ideal for urban settings. I may have to try some. Right now fruit trees are my main focus. I think those are easiest in the long run because I don’t have to replant them every year, which makes them more than pay for themselves. Plus, It’s a science experiment that just keeps growing, so the effects can be studied through the seasons and year after year.

This is mostly just me rambling about what we’ve been up to. It seems like it hasn’t been much, just the same old routine day in and day out. We’re living a kind of quiet existence these days and I’m really okay with that. I think we all needed some down time. Life has been too busy.

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It’s A Beautiful Day

You see what They’re wearing? That’s right, tees. Short sleeves outside is the look of the day. It was 60° out today! This really made everyone’s day. We almost skipped jujitsu so the kids could play outside instead. We probably should have gone out earlier in the day but I had no idea it would be so nice!

The walk was wonderful. It was tempting to just find an excuse to sidetrack off somewhere to keep walking in this warm weather, but we were on a mission. Still, we had a guy call out his car window to us, commenting on the lovely weather.

Of course, the walk was met with Luca being all kinds of corny. This is Luca being a robot, a running robot. Luca created this elaborate world where Luca was the villain and was trying to destroy the world, which never works as fate would have it for most villains. It was a fun walk.

Beekee and Sander were all kinds of things on their walk. They were adventurers, heroes, and in this case, carrying laser cannons to stop the villain. I think they were just happy not to have to wear jackets. It’s finally starting to be the kind of weather I like again, the weather we all like.

Soon we’re going to be doing a lot of stuff outside. We’re going to be observing the leaf buds on all the plants. We’ll start watching things grow and change. Hopefully the snow we got on Beekee’s birthday will be the last of the cold and we’ll be seeing some beautiful weather take hold.


I’m Not Doing School Today

That’s how the day started. I was so not motivated. I pulled the blanket back over my head, determined to do nothing, even if it meant sending the kids back to the public school system. I would not do school today, or perhaps ever again.

That’s how the day started…

The next revision of this plan involved computer school and nothing else. We were going to do that since we’re paying for it, and that’s about it. We didn’t need to do anything else, right?

What is the reality? Luca has done everything today except computer time. Sander finished his computer time. Beekee is through his math and is on to his other subjects. We’re cooking through the work today, even though I said we wouldn’t. All we haven’t tackled is history, something we’re going to be skipping out on some because there’s a good on Story of the World so it can’t be renewed. We were two thirds of the way through it anyway. We may end up buying it in the long run, but we may just start with Volume 2. We’ll lose some content, but I’m not so worried about that. Most kids their age don’t even cover history in school. If we skip over the rest of Greece and Rome It’s no big deal.

This is how it’s gone the past week too. I get up, determined to do nothing, then we always end up doing more than I planned. Last week we did have two cheat days, one for my birthday and the other for Beekee’s. This week we have no excuses, and April Vacation starts in two weeks, so we’ll probably take the week off since Corde will be home. Of course, I say that now, but it will come time for break and they’ll all be working through the week.

I really don’t do well at taking days off. We end up working through all of the stuff anyway. It’s right up there with taking time off of jujitsu or missing appointments. Even if I feel like I’m dying I still get off my butt and go. It’s about commitment, and I think I’m teaching my kids a valuable lesson about commitment and dedication. It’s good that they see I have trouble getting motivated, but I still manage to get things done.

So maybe I start the day thinking we should take a day off, but at least I still get stuff done. It doesn’t make for much unschooling, but we’ll get there. For now I think just getting through stuff to keep the state happy makes me feel more secure about what we’re doing. Until I’m feeling more confident, I guess we just don’t have many days without school.

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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!


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.


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