Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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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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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?


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Holiday Chaos

It’s the holiday season. I should be updating more often, but it’s been tough. I had an abscessed tooth, which really stunk, and that messed up my sleep schedule a good deal.

This has put us back to unschooling. This is really where I wanted to be to begin with. We’re going to start doing regular game nights. I hope to get some cool science stuff going. I really need to look up some cool history stuff to do together. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to learn a lot together without standard curriculum.

Going into the new year we’re going to be holding on to a couple of things from the past year. We’re going to keep with the phonics program, for now at least. We plan to keep going with the math, at least until we can get in the habit of more practical math. But beyond that we plan to do very little. We’ll probably stick to Story of the World, too. The kids seem to like it well enough, so while they’re interested we plan to stick with it.

In other news, it looks like Corde may finally be coming back to homeschooling. She’s not loving school and has been looking for an excuse to leave. I suggested she at least do the career exploratory because she may not have access to that stuff any other way. It’s worth the experience, but if she wants to quit, I won’t stop here.

Funny, this time last year I was thinking about homeschooling Sander and Beekee. Only Luca was home. Now we’re getting the whole gang back. It’ll be nice to have them all home again, even if it ends up only being a few short years until Corde goes to college. That’s not far off, if she decides to go.

But the holiday season this year has been busier than last year, even if we’ve been doing less work. I had my abscessed tooth. We’ve been sitting for the neighbors two days a week, which means the kids have plenty of social time with their friends. We even managed to squeeze in a few holiday movies. It’s been nice.

Of course, part of this whole thing is what we would do differently next year. We hopefully will have a car by then, so we should be able to get to more events. I’d love to take the kids skating at the Frog Pond on Boston Common. It would be fun to do the colonial Christmas event at whatever historic site they hold it at. We could do a breakfast with Santa in there somewhere. It could be a lot of fun. Then there’s Christmas Eve at my aunt and uncle’s house. There’s just so much more potential on what we can do!

For now, we’re waiting to see what plans for what happens next week. We may have even more stuff to do, or it may just be quiet. Either way, it should be a good time. Christmas is almost here!


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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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My Aunty Is My Ho-Ho

I’ve known for a while that Corde is topple for Santa. Beekee still seems to believe for now. Sander? There seems to be no fooling him! He know who the real Santa is.

This year I mentioned something about my aunt and Christmas shopping. Sander had to announce that his aunt was his Ho-Ho, the way he’s been saying Santa. He even had to get on the phone so he could say hi to Santa. It was adorable.

Years back, before I took this chill stance on stuff like this, I would have gone on the hunt to add the magic back to Christmas, to really work to make the kids believe again. I always thought a kid that doesn’t believe in Santa was missing out. I would jump through hoops to bring that magic back again.

Now I realize it’s all part of the process. It’s all about being honest with my kids. If Sander wants to believe his aunt is Santa, well, with the number of gifts she sends, is she wrong? She always goes out of her way to make sure the kids have a fantastic Christmas, and that’s really what Santa is all about. Why should I try to deceive him because he’s ready for the truth?

The more I think about it, the more it bothers me that parents lie to their kids. For us, Santa has always been about the magic of Christmas, and the myth was more of a way to have fun with the mystery gifts. The story is a fun way to show that the display of love is more important than knowing who the gifted is. It’s all part of the fun.

It got me thinking about those crazy elf on the shelf moms. Not only do I find elf on a shelf creepy and a lot of work, but it seems like deception. It’s like a modern, Christmas-themed boogie man. Be good or the elf on the shelf will mess up your home! It’s always watching! It seems like the whole thing is just a big deception aimed to make kids be good. Aren’t there better, more respectful ways?

Though, I have to admit, this whole elf thing could be a lot of fun when the kids get older and are aware of the whole thing. It could be license to play harmless pranks and have some fun with it. Move the elf while no one sees, play cute, harmless tricks and blame the elf. It could be a fun little holiday game to break the tension. I just think we need Beekee, at least, to be a little older. Otherwise I can see this as being a disaster, very messy, and ending with an elf acting like the hanged man in tarot, dangling from a foot in a tree outside somewhere until he gains a sense of perspective! Until then, I think we need to be elf-free. Maybe that time will come.


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Too Much Going On

Hey everyone! Sorry I’ve been gone so much recently. Life has been chaotic. Since I last checked in we had another D&D night, Thanksgiving at a new friend’s house, and all kinds of craziness. This week we get to look forward to a surprise party and more gaming. I’m starting to feel like we’re finally finding the people we need in life!

Today I’ll keep it brief. More than anything the kids and I want to remind you to support local and small businesses this holiday season. Don’t forget about craftspeople too! There are plenty of people out there selling fantastic hand made goods. You should definitely keep that in mind!

Which has me asking how you do your holiday shopping! I know there’s this big community that does the want/need/wear/read thing. We don’t, probably because we don’t need to buy anymore books. My aunt has us covered there. Typically the kids get one gift from me, one from Oz, and one from Santa. Sadly, Corde and Beekee don’t typically get presents from their dad. They also get a whole bunch of stuff from family.

And, because I have to add a shameless plug in here, I’m finally getting my business together! I don’t have any product listed yet, but I have some photos up as examples. Now I just need to get my stock together! Check us out at Bear Foot Knits!