Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Fort Warren and George’s Island

(Posted a week late because it got lost in draft limbo…but it’s up now, so that’s got to count for something, right?)

We had quite the adventure this past weekend. We ended up going on Monday due to weather, which worked out well because it was a beautiful day.

The trip in started with a train ride into the city. The kids always love a good train ride. Luca got to read a Cat in the Hat book about sharks, which was exciting because we were going to be taking the ferry in.

This was the kids first trip on a boat of any kind. Beekee was a little worried about being on a boat, but he got over it quickly when he realized how exciting it was. Luca loved watching the white waves coming off the side of the ferry. They all loved the ride out.

When we got to the island they wanted to do a couple things right off the bat. First they wanted to eat a quick lunch. Then they wanted to go touch the water, since we aren’t near the ocean much. After that they went to check out the playground that looked like a miniature version of the fort.

The trip into the fort was a lot of fun, once we got in there. It started with a walk around the fort, then we got in to investigate. The younger three loved getting to use flashlights to look around. I think that was the best part for them. Perhaps if we get a chance to go in the future we can take a ranger guided tour, but for now exploring without being bogged down with the history of the place was a lot of fun.

wp-image-145841421The kids have already said they want to go back again next summer, but I think first up on the list is a whale watch. The kids are super excited to get to do that in the future too. It seems this trip inspired a whole lot of excitement. It was a great way to end the summer!

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Upcoming Weekend Fun

It’s been a rather “unschooling” week around here.  We haven’t done much of the actual work we’ve decided to do, just so that it looks like we’re meeting standards.  Now that I’ve put some thought into it, I’ve realized that it’s important for Corde and Beekee (for reasons having to do with their biological father), so it’s worth making sure we toe that line for now at least.

This weekend we’ve got an incredible event coming up.  We’re going to explore a Civil War fort with my dad and my sister.  This is going to be extra fun because the kids will go on their first ever boat ride on the ferry out to the island.  They’re really looking forward to that.

I suppose (if we were that kind of family) I could have prepared them for this by talking about the Civil War and getting their heads set in the history before they showed up.  That’s just not who we are.  I think it’ll be far more fun to jump on in and explore, then worry about the history after the fact.  “Hey, this is cool!  I wonder why they did that…  Let’s find out.”

Hopefully we should have some good pictures from the weekend trip.  It’s going to be quite the adventure, by train, by ferry, and on foot.  It’s somewhere I went as a kid and I think the kids will really love it.  It’s going to be a great time!

 


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Working on Christmas Presents Already

Since the kids are learning how to knit they decided they would make dish cloths for gifts this year. We probably won’t do many, the important ones being my aunt and uncle and my grandmother, but it’s something they can do as gifts.

Over the weekend we went to the craft store to pick out yarn to make gifts with. They had a selection of colors in cheap cotton. I had no idea they had so many options. To be fair, I order most of my yarn online these days and I don’t do dish cloth cotton. Still, the kids had fun picking out colors. Luca picked a tie dyed kind of blue and rainbow. Sander chose a Christmas blend and a variegated green. Beekee wanted orange and a red, white, and blue blend. Corde got three, a tie dyed kind of pink, a similar purple, and a plain baby blue. I got Luca a second set of needles as his are tied up with a scarf, and off we went to check out.

The kids got started with their dish cloths. They had fun getting started. Somehow Beekee keeps adding stitches. It’s not going to be perfect, but for a first go it’s not bad. He’s getting the idea, and that’s what counts.

Sander gets a lot more help, but he’s still doing well. He works through his rows pretty quickly. He wants to do four rows every day. I’m pretty happy to work at that rate with him. His dish cloth is looking good.

Luca just started today and got two rows in. He’s making slow progress, but I expected that. I don’t know if he’ll get more than one done before Christmas. Still, he’ll be pretty happy to give even one away.

It’s early, but they’re getting started in plenty of time to get something done by Christmas. They’re learning the valuable lesson of starting early to get things done in time. Now I just need to get my own holiday knitting started or I’ll never be done in time!


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Cuddled Up to Sleep

Things have been good since we decided to nix bedtime. The kids do get cranky and need naps from time to time, but it’s gone pretty well. I count this an experiment well worth trying.

The tricky part has been finding a way to get Luca to sleep. If left to his own devices he would be up watching movies all night. It’s difficult because he still sleeps with me and the television keeps me up.

However, I have found a solution to this problem. Luca likes to cuddle. We spend time after the television goes off all cuddled up. Some nights we talk. Tonight Luca just wanted to cuddle to sleep. I’ve got him laying on my arm as I type this into my phone.

You know what? This is what life should be about. Life is too short for reading lessons and curriculum. What it really needs to be about is time together as a family.

I can’t say where the decisions I make today will lead the kids and I, but we will certainly spend more time on the things that matter.

And that’s only going to keep expanding. Luca found the other two tablets today so Sander and Beekee can watch movies while settling in to bed. We just need to get them headphones and they can listen without bothering each other if one wants to sleep.

Tomorrow will bring new changes in our lives, but tonight is simple. I just need to curl up on the bed with Luca and the dog. What better way is there to sleep?


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Pokemon Go and Science

About two weeks ago Oz got Corde and I into Pokemon Go. We decided it would be a thing we could do as a family. At the very least it would get us out and walking. There’s definitely something to be said about that. We need more reason to get out.

However, this has come with some unexpected bonuses. For example, we went on a raid for a legendary Pokemon. On our way there we came across a ladybug. The kids saw it on the wall they were climbing on. There were all these little bugs around it that we concluded were aphids. The ladybug hunted down these tiny bugs and we sat and watched it eat two. I had never seen a ladybug eat before.

Today while on errands we decided to stop in a park for yet another raid. The kids watched some geese for a while. Then, right by the bench we were sitting at, we found a blue jay feather. The kids learned about how feathers can be smoothed out when they get all pulled apart. The kids thought that was pretty cool.

We spent the week doing blah book work (something I hope to cut back on), but this was a fun way to inject science into daily life. We’ve been given more opportunities thanks to Pokemon Go, something I swore I would never get into, but now I’m glad we have. It’s been fun and educational!


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Doctor Who

It’s been a while since we’ve watched Doctor Who (at least 2 years), so we decided to start it again from the beginning.  This has been a family thing that we’ve always done together, so it’s been fun catching up again, especially since the kids haven’t seen all the way through Matt Smith yet, and none of us have seen the latest Doctor (though all that’s about to change again).  Needless to say, we’re a little behind.

So what does this have to do with unschooling/homeschooling?  I could just be writing about it because it’s something my family has done together, so there’s that, but really?  I think that this definitely has to do with unschooling.

Think about it, Doctor Who has some really creative story lines.  It throws in a little bit of real science along with the science fiction.  There’s an introduction to all kinds of periods in history, blended with fictional ideas about the future and aliens.  Then there’s all the story telling and the blending of a theme throughout each Doctor’s reign.  Each one has their own story arc, which is almost reset at the beginning of each new Doctor.  It’s got some great ideas for building stories upon.

But in reality, it’s all a good bit of fun.  It’s time we can kick back and relax while still engaging as a family.  It influences what the kids play and what we talk about.  It’s become a part of our family identity, something I think makes us all the better for having in our lives.  We’re a part of a culture of “Whovians” and the kids are getting to grow up as a part of that culture.  It’s really kind of cool how it’s helped shape their identities too.

And then there’s the social, interpersonal thing.  There are so many other Whovians out there.  It gives them an identity that they share with countless other people across the whole world, even if it seems centralized to Great Britain, USA, and Canada.  It can be a conversation starter and a way into like-minded communities.  It’s a great way to meet other people.  I mean, there’s no reason the kids should ever go without being connected to other people that share their interests, or at least one of them.  Whatever else they do in life they will always have that.  It only grows as they get into other fandoms, the biggest one I can think of being Harry Potter.  It’s an identity, something I didn’t have much of when I was their age beyond “Girl Scout” and maybe “horseback rider.”

It’s silly to think a television show has so much influence on how kids grow and change, but it’s definitely made an impact, especially for Corde, who identifies with fans of Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and the countless animes out there.  She’s starting to feel like she’s got a place (or at least a collective) that she can call home.  It gives her an identity in the world, and if you ask me (I know, you didn’t) it’s a pretty cool one because she can not only identify with the greater world, but also relates to her family, the whole family, not just her parents.

As the kids get older they’ll undoubtedly watch more of Doctor Who, and will definitely have the opportunity to get in on marathons of the older episodes.  They’ll grow up with the same immersion to Doctor Who as Corde really got into, and it might even give them a identity, a connection, like it did for Corde.  As they get older they’ll find more kids that have the same interest, which is harder for them right now because some of the episodes are a little scary for kids even Beekee’s age.  It will give them something to hold on to.

So it may not seem like much, but it’s a whole world for our family, and something we can truly bond over.  And Doctor Who isn’t the only one.  We’ve watched some of the superhero shows with the kids (Supergirl and Flash primarily).  Then there was A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix.  Corde and I bonded over How I Met Your Mother, Leverage, and Bones.  It may sound like we watch a lot of television (we really don’t most of the time), but it’s more than just mind-numbing activity.  There’s so much to it, the elements of story and plot, the connection to other fans of the series, even just having something to talk about with other people, strike up a conversation.  It’s valuable enough that we want it to be a part of our family identity, as weird and quirky as we may be.


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Back to School (or Not)

It’s that time of year again, when my Facebook feed blows up with kids going back to their first day of school, sometimes their first day in general, other times their first day in a new grade.  This time last year I was getting ready to send my own kids back to school, which wouldn’t last out the year for Sander and Beekee.  Now I’m only gearing up to send one back to school, Corde, and she’s not even sure she wants to last out the year.

For Corde, this year is basically a big experiment.  She’s going to do the career exploratory at the local tech school, and if she likes it, she may stay on long-term.  We may also look into working out a deal where she can homeschool for her academics and go to school for the technical training.  We’re still not sure what we want to do for that, but it at least gives her an idea of what she can do for a career, so it’s worth it.  She’s going to get a chance to try some things and hopefully narrow down what she wants to do with her life, and as a result, where she wants to go to college and what she studies when she gets there.

For the other three, this is a time of getting back into it.  We’ve been doing phonics and math through the summer, but for the fall we’re adding some workbooks that the kids actually enjoyed doing, now that we won’t have the distraction of Corde at home.  There are this series of workbooks that are listed as Daily (Subject).  The kids really like these books because it’s a short (10 minute or less) delve into a topic.  Last year Sander and Beekee did Daily Geography and Daily Science.  Beekee also did Daily Reading Comprehension, which I think Sander is going to do this year as well.  Since the kids like it, I don’t see why we wouldn’t keep doing them, for now at least.  If they enjoy it, why not?  Even if it really is curriculum, it’s still unschooling if it’s fun, right?

I’m sticking with the math and phonics.  These are really just core subjects that the school can use as measurable goals to make sure the kids are on track.  Their reading and math levels really matter when it comes to the school system, so I’m trying to keep them “on track.”  Sander needs to be reading and reading independently, which is an important milestone for the schools.  Once he’s doing that we can slack off a bit there.  Besides, some of the work is kind of fun, so that’s something.  Sander gets to color and enjoys reading all the new books with Primary Phonics, and some of the exercises in Explode the Code seem to be kind of fun.  It’s not the most “unschooler” approach to things, but I want to make sure we’re at least toeing the line on this one.  And the math?  The kids seem to enjoy doing the math with the blocks (even if some of it is more playing than doing their problems), and they’re doing pretty good with the exercises.  If I can get them through to the point of being “ahead” in math they can definitely slack off in that department.  Again, it’s just enough to keep the school system happy, and they’re making good progress (and having fun with it) so why not?

But history we’re definitely taking a more “unschooling” approach.  The kids liked Story of the World, so we’re going to start on Story of the World Vol 2 in the first few weeks of the school year.  I’m going to be ordering it early into the year.  We’re also going to be reading a lot of fairy tales, just for the fun of it.  You can learn a lot about a culture from their fairy tales.  We’re hopefully going to end the year with a trip to the Renaissance Faire in the spring, though that all depends on us getting a car.  We’re probably also going to talk about swords, archery, and other cool stuff like that.  You can’t start the middle ages without talking about that cool stuff.  And, just for the fun of it, we’re going to add playing Skyrim to the curriculum.  It’s not exactly an accurate portrayal of history in any means, but it does introduce concepts like armor, weapons, and castles.  We can find some cool videos online about siege weapons and there are more than a few on armor.  This is a period of history I absolutely love learning about, so we’re going to have some fun with it.  We may even throw in learning to make chainmail (or any of the numerous spellings), just for the fun of it.  Why not?  Oz knows how to make it.  It may be a bit too hard for Luca, but Sander and Beekee are definitely old enough to put together a simple piece of jewelry.  Best part is it gives Oz and I reasons to get back into some stuff we really love, which is never a bad thing.

And what about science, you may ask?  I had planned on ordering a science “curriculum” with lots of experiments for the boys to do, but I think I may just order a book of experiments to do at home.  I think we’re going to make sure we do everything scientifically, from forming a hypothesis to developing a conclusion.  Thankfully this is my home, so a conclusion of “That was really awesome!” counts as far as I’m concerned.  Well, that and a few details about what happened.  I’m expecting to record these answers for them and keep the “lab reports” in a big binder so the kids can all review what we’ve done later.  Maybe we’ll pick up some science kits at some point in the year, but for now we’re planning on keeping it simple.  We may also look into getting one of those snap circuit kits so the kids can learn about circuitry and that kind of thing, but I think sticking with stuff we can do with household goods, even if it’s not stuff we have readily on hand and have to purchase, sounds like the best place to start.

And, finally, on the essential skill of writing, I’m hoping we can get a letter writing thing going on.  Luca and Sander have a half brother they haven’t yet met, but lives almost clear across the country from them.  I’m hoping Oz can convince his mom to let them start writing letters.  I’m also going to be talking to my aunt (their great aunt) about maybe doing a letter exchange/penpal thing.  It’s a great way to get good at writing, but it’s also always fun to get stuff in the mail.  That’s going to do the boys a lot of good, even if they only send out one letter every other week or so.  It’s skill building, and something they’ve all expressed interest in doing.

Not only will they be doing letter writing, but Sander and Beekee both have asked about doing more writing projects.  Beekee wants to learn to write well so he can go to college some day.  Sander wants to learn to write stories.  Both of them have agreed to work on a paragraph a week, then maybe illustrating their paragraph, just for fun.  We’ve decided (while the kids have interest at least) we’re going to pick a topic every week (or more often if they choose to) and all three will get to write about it.  Sander and Beekee will work on doing a paragraph (maybe more for Beekee) and Luca will get to write a sentence.  They’re all really excited about this.  I plan to put this in each of their portfolios so they have a collection of work for the end of the year to look back on.  This will allow us to have dated samples of their work, should we be asked for it in the future, but also it’s a really cool way for them to look back at their writing skills.  Hopefully this will help Sander build into a creative writer, and teach Beekee the skills he’s going to need to write college papers, even if he’s still a ways away from having to do that yet.

I’m pretty excited about this year.  We’ve got some cool stuff we want to do in history and science.  We’ve got some daily lessons to keep the kids busy.  We’re making progress in math, which we’re blowing through the lessons faster than I expected.  Phonics is coming along pretty well, which means Sander will be reading independently before long and Luca will be reading in no time.  We’ll have plenty of pieces of work to put together in a portfolio, and tons of new experiences on the way.  I have a feeling Corde’s going to be sad she’s being left out, but she’s got half the year to decide what she wants to do.  Who knows?  Maybe all the fun the kids are having will inspire her to come home and join the fun too?  Or maybe school will be really awesome for her.  Either way, it’s going to be a wild year!