Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Animal Adventures and Corde’s Birthday

We had this great plan for Corde’s birthday.  It was supposed to be a big, exciting trip to the renaissance festival.  Unfortunately we were met with thunderstorms, which meant the whole family had to stop and redirect.  No one really wanted to go home, so we decided we were going to make the best of it.  With a quick change of plans, we ended up at Animal Adventures in Bolton, MA instead.

There isn’t too much to be said for Animal Adventures.  It’s a rescue zoo where they’ve got a handful of exotic animals, and a few more expected animals.  However, they’re really friendly and pull out all kinds of animals to be introduced to the kids.  It was quite the experience.

As you can see, the kids got to touch all sorts of animals.  Corde even got to see her favorite, alligators and crocodiles.  They had a ton of fun being introduced to all these wild animals.  I think they would have stayed for hours, had they not gotten hungry.

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One of the particularly fun moments was when Sander was introduced to the frog on his shirt.  The frog’s name is Booger.  That made for all kinds of laughter as there were jokes made about having a booger on them.  They definitely had a sense of humor here.

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If you can’t see what this says, it reads “Animal Adventures Just for Fun” at the top.  On the left with the arrow it reads “This Is A Clamp Lamp.”  The right reads “This…  Is a Clamp Lamp when your pet crocodile wants the night light off.”  I can’t read exactly what the bottom one says, but basically, it’s “Yes, those are teeth marks.”  The kids thought that was fantastic.  Also, talk about a way to describe their bite strength!

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The kids were allowed to touch so many things.  This particular snake was held out by something like six people across, which I don’t have a photo of here because I don’t have permission to post it from the people in the image.  It’s the polite thing to do.  However, you can imagine just how long this snake is given not even half of it is as long as Luca is tall.  He was very excited to have a picture with this snake.

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In spite of not being able to go to the faire, Corde still went in all dressed up and had a good time.  This is perhaps my favorite picture of her from that whole trip.  She’s holding a hissing cockroach.  Neither Sander nor Luca were brave enough for it, though Luca did try.  It tickled his hands and he dropped it, though.  Corde, however, thought it was pretty cool, even if it was just a bug.

The outdoor areas of the zoo were pretty fun, too.  Luca was very excited at getting to meet goats.  He wants to own goats of our own some day, as well as chickens, which he also got to meet.  There was a pony, some turkeys, and they even got to pet a baby duckling that was only a week old.  Around the back there were a couple big cats and some other animals, which the kids thought were great too.  On top of that, they had an amazing play area.  There was a large wooden pirate ship to play on, as well as this little castle.  It was pretty fitting that we would end up there, given we were coming from being washed out of the renn faire.

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It turned out to be a great day, and we got to spend it with some of our family too.  That’s Luca with my dad.  Luca is usually attached to my hip every second of every day when we go out with family, but in this case he latched onto my dad and was having a wonderful day about it.  Talk about a fantastic way to build their relationship!  I had to stealthily chase them down to take this picture because it was a moment I didn’t want to miss.  It was just too good to be forgotten.

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When we finally left, everyone was starving.  We were dropped off at home, but since we didn’t get to do anything special for Corde’s birthday, we opted to eat out, wherever she wanted that we could get to.  It was a Sunday, so there was no bus to speak of.  She had settled on Chinese food.  We’d never tried this place, but it was pretty good!  I think it was the perfect cap to a really great day!

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Board Games

Since each of the kids got a board game for Christmas, I’ve been thinking about using them more often in the household.  The original plan was to play games one day a week (which we’ve kind of failed at to this point), which seemed like a good idea to help us bond as a family.  Well, coming together as a family was the goal at least.

Then I recently found out about this thing called “gameschooling” which really appealed to me.  The whole idea is to use a lot of games as a part of homeschooling.  The example listed was a family that played a game every day as a part of their homeschooling.  I could really get into that.  Of course, we don’t have enough games for that at present.  It would definitely get repetitive quickly.  Of the games we do have, not all of them are at a level that Luca and Sander can really play.  They both need to get a little older and develop a little more patience before we can really play a lot of the games we’ve got, but it’s definitely an idea.

The whole thing got me thinking about the games we do have.  Monopoly isn’t a favorite around here, but we do have a bunch of varieties of Uno that are quite popular with the kids.  For Christmas Beekee got a chess set and Luca got checkers.  Sander got Ticket to Ride.  Corde got Settlers of Catan with the 5-6 player extension.  Then Oz got a game about hot peppers called Scoville.  We also have Apples to Apples, which is a little tough to play because Sander and Luca aren’t exactly strong readers.  I think we’ve got a collection of a few other things, but I don’t remember what (and I don’t feel like interrupting Oz’s nap to go check out the game shelf).  It’s a pretty good start to a game collection, though we could certainly do a lot better.

Thinking back to when I was a kid, I remember a lot of time playing board games.  My dad used to play all sorts of games with us.  Some of the games were really not your traditional sort of games, like Talisman and Dungeon Quest.  Some day I plan to get those games for my own family, because I remember loving them so much.  I just wish they still sold the character expansion for Dungeon Quest.  I can’t seem to find it anywhere.  Those were some of the best memories I have of my family, or at least with my dad.  I don’t remember playing a lot of games with my mom, but we did a lot of other things with my mom that we didn’t do with my dad, so it balances out.

I’d love to bring that part of my childhood into my kids’ lives, even if it’s not all educational games.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still all for educational games.  They’ve definitely got a place in our home if I can find good ones that we all like to play, but I love just regular old games too.  It’s fun to have some variety, and not everything needs to be “educational” to be good.  They still require figuring things out, like strategy and logic.  Games are just really good for the brain in general.

I think that’s going to be our goal for the year to come, and our theme for birthday and Christmas presents.  I know I’ll have fun picking out games for the kids to play, and it’ll definitely help build our collection, even if it means we may have to get a little creative on where to put all of them.  We definitely need more game storage!  I think this is an important part of my childhood that we’ve really got to carry on into my own kids’ lives.


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Christmas 2017

This was our tree this year.  In the past we’ve done a different “tree” for each of the kids, but this year it only made too much sense not to.  All their gifts fit under the same tree.  That’s the first time it’s happened in a while, but hopefully not the last.  We didn’t get a lot this year, but it was good.  It felt like just the right amount of stuff for all of them.

Sander used to be obsessed with trains.  He’s not as into trains as much as he used to be, but it’s still a thing for him.  It was only too fitting that there was a train game waiting under the tree for him!

This was one of the few pictures I managed to get of Corde for Christmas, and a picture of Beekee too.  You can see some of their loot piled up, not much, but something.  They each got two Pokemon decks, which is what that was about.

Nika even got a present, well, only one that she really got early on.  She got a stocking full of dog toys too, but that didn’t get the attention that the bone did!  She already bit off a hunk of it that she carries around the house.  That one’s going to last her a while!

Luca’s favorite gift this year was Just Dance 2016.  They loved the Just Dance game they got from the library, so we decided to pick it up for them.  The thought was it’s physical activity, so it will keep the kids active.  I mean, they don’t really need something to keep them active, but it’s good in the winter when the weather isn’t great for getting out.

This is how excited Luca was to be opening presents.  Can you tell Pokemon was a theme?  They got a lot of Pokemon cards this year.

It wasn’t long after the presents were opened when this happened.  We hadn’t even had breakfast when they started playing.  They were super excited to get back into playing again.  They even taught Sander to play.  Luca tried but got bored pretty early into it.  That kind of patience takes time to develop.

However, he did have plenty of patience for checkers, with help, of course.  They got special Mario Bros. checkers, which made it extra fun.  The “king” pieces are hats.  They had an incredible time of it.

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While waiting for breakfast we got into Ticket to Ride.  The kids had a blast with it.  Luca and I played on a team, but Luca got bored after a while.  We continued to play without him.  Everyone really enjoyed it.  I won by a nose!

Someone rolled a twelve when we were playing, and if you know anything about Settlers of Catan, you know that meant there were a lot of sheep right at that moment.  I had more sheep than I knew what to do with!  It’s fitting that a knitter would get all the sheep!  If only it were real sheep…

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I’m pretty sure we weren’t quite playing to the rules, but for a first time out of the box (and having not played since before Corde was born) we did pretty well.  It was a lot of fun.  At the start it seemed like it was going to be a really long game, but it picked up quickly.  Once again, I won.  It seems to be a theme of the day, but everyone had a good time (except for Luca and Sander who were playing video games).

Then there was Beekee’s chess set.  He got one of those chess sets that folds in on itself.  One of the clips on it is broken so we may have to get it replaced, but he had a good time learning how to play.  I still won (though I was trying to let him win!)  He was a pretty good sport of it though.  I told him to keep practicing and he’ll be beating me in no time!

Luca couldn’t let Beekee be the only one that played chess.  He did pretty good, though I did guide him through what moves he should probably make.  I think remembering what all those pieces do was a bit much for a first try out, but Luca did well.  We wound up with a stalemate, which Luca decided was close enough to winning.

Finally, there was my fortune from our traditional Chinese food dinner.  Luca, Sander, and Beekee (the picky ones) had hamburgers, while Oz, Corde, and I ordered Chinese.  Beekee actually ate some of the Chinese food, which Corde said was too spicy for her.  Then I got this fortune and couldn’t help but laugh.  What better fortune could you get on a day like today?

No, not quite the end.  I had to share what our shepherd thought of the snow earlier today.  Yes, we got a white Christmas (we had one 4 years ago in Texas too!)  She’s such a silly pup!


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Highlights of Yesterday and A Little from Today

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This was yesterday.  All the kids got handmade bottle holders for when we go out places, that way I wouldn’t have to hold their water bottles for them.  It’s a great idea, and they look super cute.  Also, look at that, I’m in a picture!

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They got some pretty awesome stuff.  There were only a couple pictures of Beekee, but I swear, he does exist!  Here’s proof!

Also, that Mario Uno game, they’ve played it a few times now.  It seems like it’s pretty fun.  It’s got a couple specialty rules, which makes it different from other versions of the game, I guess.  Whatever the difference, they really like it.

There’s a picture of Sander and Luca with their loot in there, and Corde (also proof that Corde does exist!)  They’ve been busy with their toys all day today too, which is nice.

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This is the picture I was talking about yesterday.  See that dive into the bag?  He was bound and determined to get those presents without help!

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And the final picture, just how far into the bag Luca actually went!  Ignore my messy house, but I thought the picture was pretty darn cute!

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And we made cookies tonight.  Luca has determined that these are cookies for Santa.  We haven’t mentioned the Santa thing at all this year, but I think he picked it up from Christmas movies.  Whatever, we’re going with it.  Imagination is everything in this case.

And the picture is dark, but we’ve already got presents under the tree!  This is a first for us.  Usually the presents end up going out late at night, after the kids go to bed.  That’s because I wait to wrap everything until last minute.  This year we actually got on it early, so there’s something under the tree on Christmas Eve!

It’s not long before everyone is off to bed and waiting for Christmas when they can open everything up.  This has already been a fantastic Christmas Eve!

 


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Christmas, Round 1

My aunt and uncle came over today to do their presents with the kids.  They normally do their gifts on Christmas Eve, but without having a car we can’t get out to the Christmas Eve event.  Instead they come to us, generally the weekend before Christmas.  It certainly makes for a different experience then when we’d get the gifts in the mail in Texas.

This was Luca’s favorite toy this year.  We could probably cancel the rest of Christmas and he would be good with it because he’s got a Toothless.  I had no idea they even made this stuff.  Luca loves all his other toys, but this by and far takes the cake.

Sander and Beekee both got some Star Wars LEGO sets.  They’re always a hit with the kids.  The kits never stay built long, but they love having all the pieces to build with.  When they some day decide they no longer want the LEGOs here I think we’re going to donate them to the library for their LEGO days.  We could easily triple the amount of LEGOs they have if we donated them now!  If the kids keep getting them we could supply everyone and then some!  They really have a lot of LEGOs.

Look at this!  An actual picture of Beekee!  When does that ever happen?  I swear, he’s the hardest kid to get a picture of.  He’s holding one of his favorite pieces.  They all got a couple of these “block head” people to build.  They’re really pretty cool.  We’re debating on getting some glue and making them permanent so we can set them all out on display.  We’ll see if that ends up happening.

And I can’t forget Corde.  You don’t see much of her anymore.  Still, I didn’t want to leave her out.  She got a whole bunch of art supplies for Christmas, pens, markers, and some really awesome coloring books.  This is just one of them.  They’re so detailed!  I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of her coloring book collection.  I may just have to get some of them for myself!

On top of all their favorite stuff, they also got a whole bunch of card games.  We’re going to have games to play for days, which should be fun.  I think we’re going to start including a lot more game time in our “homeschooling.”  It teaches kids so many skills, strategy, math sometimes, teamwork for some games, and definitely patience.  I’ll probably be posting more about the games we play when we start playing them.  That may be something we do tomorrow before we start baking.  We’ll see if we get to it.

So Christmas has only started for us and we’re already off to a wild start.  I wish I had pictures of some of the highlights, but I wasn’t able to catch any.  Maybe I’ll share some when my uncle sends me some, like Luca diving into the bottom of his bag to get more presents.  They really had a lot of fun with it.  I can’t wait to see what they think of their presents on Christmas Day!


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It’s Birthday Time for Sander

It’s that time of year again, when everyone is thinking Christmas and poor Sander often feels like his birthday gets forgotten. We try to be sensitive to this, but it isn’t always easy. We try to do things like celebrate his birthday earlier in the month, that way he’s not caught up in the last minute Christmas stuff and overwhelmed. We also like him to be able to enjoy his presents before he’s got more piled on him.

This year for Christmas he got a new Nintendo 2DS. Last summer he dropped his in the Charles River when we went to see the fireworks. He’s really worked to show us he’s ready for the responsibility for having another one, so he finally got a new one. It came with one of the original Super Mario Bros. games, which he absolutely loves. I just wish we could find the rest of the games because he really loved playing them. We just couldn’t justify the cost of getting another game for him for his birthday on top of his very expensive DS.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of his birthday celebration. He went out with my aunt and uncle to make a toy for his birthday like he did last year. Last year it was a plane. This year he and Beekee both went. They each brought home a different tank.

This was Sander’s tank, which was pretty awesome.  It’s too bad it isn’t a brighter day out because the picture is a little dark, but you can see how thrilled he is with his creation.  It’s even painted up in camo!

Beekee got to go too.  He picked a different kind of tank.  He opted for the camo look too.  I think they were really influenced by their trip to the WWII event!

These are the only two of the LEGO creations that are still standing.  The rest got put together and were already in pieces an hour later.  I think he just likes having the freedom to build, but isn’t fond of having the stuff created with the instructions.  However, these two he wants us to glue together so we can put them on the tree.  I’m cool with that!

Tomorrow we get up crazy early (as in before the sun) so we can go hang out at his friend’s house.  It’s going to be one of two days we go this week.  I’m not entirely looking forward to it, but I know he is, and that’s what matters.  It’s totally going to make his birthday perfect, and make for some good fun before Christmas rolls around!


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That Santa Thing

We’re not doing a whole lot of gifts this year. It feels like we’re getting back to our holiday roots, which is nice. But with the holidays comes the discussion about Santa. Do we lie to our kids? Do we tell them the truth?

Originally I didn’t really want to do Santa. I just went with it because it’s what you do. Everyone I know does Santa. Some families go all out with it, putting tons of toys under the tree. Some set a dollar amount per child. Others still do this something they need, want, to wear, to read, which I only heard about a couple years back. It seemed like a complicated subject, but I still went with it.

Not wanting to fill the house with tons of stuff, the kids were each given three gifts from the family, one from me, one from their dad, and one Santa gift. It worked out pretty well. Later we tried having Santa bring one big thing to share and a game for each of them. That worked out okay. The past few years it’s been a bit out of control. We got donations from various charities so we had a bunch of stuff attributed to Santa. It just spiraled into this out of control thing.

This year we’re going back to the way I want things to be. We’re not going to be asking the kids what Santa brought. We’re simply going to be giving gifts with no label. There isn’t going to be a whole pile for each kid either, but a couple things for each of them. We’re also going to start having an emphasis on picking things the kids can do together, not just toys that the kids get bored with anyway. If Santa were real, I’d like to think his goal would be to bring families closer together anyway, not filling the house with tons of stuff, pushing the consumer aspect of the holiday.

This year is going to be very different from the past. There will be no emphasis on Santa. It won’t be about a lot of stuff. It will be about spending time together. Isn’t that what the holiday should really be about?