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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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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Back to Freedom

You know the whole bedtime thing?  We decided it was time for a change.  It really wasn’t working out.  We were having tears and stomping up stairs the moment we said it was time for bed, courtesy of Sander.  He and Beekee would be wild at night, meaning someone had to go talk to them, several times, and the light had to keep being turned out.  It was frustrating, and it really didn’t seem to be doing any good.  We still had tired, miserable kids, for all our efforts.

That’s when we decided to go back to the radical unschooling approach to bedtime.  We stopped giving them one.  Would you believe the kids have actually been getting more sleep?  There’s no tantrums and tears.  There’s no fight to get them to go to sleep.  Most importantly, there’s no flipping on and off with the light.

How do we do it with the neighbors?  Well, that’s simple.  We’ve laid down some ground rules.  9 pm is quiet time.  Sander and Beekee need to be upstairs in their room.  They can be talking, reading, or even playing, so long as they’re doing it quietly.  The neighbors next door moved out, so we don’t have to worry about the kids disturbing them through the wall, so we decided this was the perfect time to try it.  Luckily we haven’t had a reason to worry.

As for Luca, we’ve decided he can’t play with Sander and Beekee quietly.  Luca can be upstairs watching movies with Corde, or on our bed watching movies or reading books in my room.  Who am I kidding?  The answer is watching movies.  Luca isn’t a huge fan of reading books, unless it’s something he can read himself (which isn’t anything at the moment, so it’s a struggle.)  Luca is perfectly content to sit in my lap, watching Oz play video games until he falls asleep, or watch shows with me in the living room.  At the same time, we have a “bedtime” for Luca.  When I go to bed the lights go off and Luca has to lay down with me.  We still cosleep, so having respect for my sleeping needs is a must.  More often than not, Luca agrees to lay down until I fall asleep, then he can get up and turn the movies back on, which results in Luca falling asleep anyway.

Surprisingly, this has resulted in the downstairs neighbor commenting on how quiet the kids have been at night.  We haven’t had any fights and only had tears on one night when Sander had to go upstairs because he wanted to watch a movie.  We don’t have a television upstairs in the bedrooms, so that’s a challenge for him.  Corde’s room might be getting a television, but that’s yet to be determined, and she may not want the boys in her room watching movies all night.  I told them once they find one of the missing Kindles they could use that, but no luck as of yet.  Since they were the ones that lost them, I feel it’s valuable that they learn their actions have consequences.

Now that the kids (well, all but Corde) are no longer in school, the lack of bedtime makes a lot of sense.  It’s not like they can’t take naps during the day.  Sander often does.  They don’t have to be up early for school, though they generally are up with the sun.  Most nights they all fall asleep quickly.  Best of all, they’re learning how to be responsible for their own needs.  It’s another whole level of independence.

This is just one more small way we’re edging in to a more “unschooling” kind of lifestyle.  We have no bedtimes.  The kids are free to eat or not eat as they like (so long as they don’t waste food…we’re not made of money!)  We’re not super formal about the “school” stuff we do happen to do, and as we go a lot of the “school” stuff is being phased out.  I have a feeling a lot more will go when we’re finally in a position to have a car again.  Things are moving in the right direction.  I couldn’t be happier about that.


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Peter Pan

I’ve got to admit, I’ve been a horrible mom when it comes to reading to my kids.  I really should do it more often, but it never seems to be a good time.  There’s a whole big push in my area that reading to your kids 20 minutes a day is good for them, or having them read for 20 minutes a day.  Most days we manage 20 minutes of Sander and Beekee reading.  Corde (not surprisingly) hardly reads at all.  I try to squeeze in reading to Luca, but it’s not always that easy.

After watching an episode of Once Upon A Time (on Netflix) with Peter Pan, we decided I would read Peter Pan to the kids again.  We read it quite a few years back when we still lived in the trailer park.  Beekee was so into the story that I managed to read the whole book without a break when all the other kids had fallen asleep.

Now, I have to say Peter Pan isn’t the perfect read aloud for so much time off of reading together.  It’s long and wordy so the kids tend to glaze over and zone out.  They couldn’t even pull from the text that Nana was a dog.  Still, they’ll get used to hearing me read and eventually the stories will start sinking in.  On top of Peter Pan we also have the complete Wizard of Oz series, all of Anne of Green Gables, all of the Judy Moody books, as well as the ones about her brother, Stink, and Coraline.  We’ve got plenty of stuff on my Kindle to keep us reading aloud for quite some time.

I have to admit, I kind of like doing the read aloud stories on Kindle.  They’re easy to store and I don’t have to worry about losing the book from one night to the next.  I misplace things all the time, so having something so easily found (it’s in a bright turquoise case) is a definite benefit.

And poor Luca couldn’t last the whole chapter.  I had a floppy Bear draped over on my lap, perfectly content to sleep there.  I needed help to move the sleeping one out of my lap and onto the bed.  Luca actually managed to stay asleep straight through the night until morning, falling asleep almost two hours before the usual time.  I think we may need to keep that up, for no other reason than to get Luca to bed earlier.

As time passes I’m sure my skill at reading will improve again.  Like I said, the kids will get used to hearing my voice and hearing me read to them.  They’ll get used to the idea of books being a part of our regular day.  Their exposure to new ideas and vocabulary will definitely help, especially since books have a much more challenging vocabulary than television shows (except maybe some of the educational ones).  It’ll be good for them, and it’ll help their brains grow.

All of this will also continue to link back to other things in their lives.  They’re going to hear about Peter Pan and Captain Hook, characters they’re seeing in the television show.  Then they’re going to hear about the Wizard of Oz and we can watch the movies that go with that theme.  They can hear about Coraline’s adventure, then watch the movie again to compare.  There’s even a series on Netflix called Anne with an “E” that we can watch as we read Anne of Green Gables.  It should be fun.

Reading to the kids has always been on and off a thing that I’ve done.  Being radical unschoolers, we never really had a set routine, which made it difficult to keep the reading thing going.  Now that our lives have more structure it should be a lot easier to keep it going.  I’m not sure how it will fit in when we start going back to jujitsu, but we’ll find a way to make it work.  I’m really excited about being able to do this with them.


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Tomorrow Is Zoo Day

Luca, Sander, and Beekee get to go to the zoo tomorrow with my aunt and uncle.  This is one of the experience oriented birthdays my aunt is starting to do for the kids, which I love.  They’re going to remember these sorts of trips so much better than they would some gifts they would get, which makes me happy.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to get to be there for their first zoo trip.  I really wish I could, and see their excitement over all the animals.  I missed everyone’s first trip to the aquarium except for Luca.  It’s sad for me, but at the same time, it’s good that they get to have these experiences with their extended family.  I just wish I could go with them.

Of course, that’s not going to happen until we can get wheels again, and I’m not exactly available to go on the weekends anymore.  My work has seen to that.  We need the extra income, but it feels like I’m losing so much time with the kids.

Even so, I know they’re going to have a great time at the zoo.  They’re going to want to see everything and will come home suitably tired.  It’s going to be a good experience for them.  I remember going to the zoo when I was younger and loving it.  I’ve never been to the zoo they’re going to, I don’t think, so this will be a whole new adventure for them.

I’m actually looking forward to them having this experience.  Field trips to places like the zoo can be such an educational thing.  It’s a part of unschooling done right.  It’s something I hope we can do more of once we’re able to swing back to more radical unschooling.  Field trips are such an important part of education.

And it’s the zoo!  The kids love animals.  They’ve been watching a lot of animal shows on Netflix, so having a chance to get up close enough to these animals to see them with their own eyes will be pretty awesome for them.  I know they’re going to love it.


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So Much for Spring

Spring is supposed to bring nice weather, isn’t it? Flowers are supposed to bloom and it’s time to take off the winter layers. All I can think is how much I wished I were in Texas still. It’s cold out there! So much for spring…

We had to go out today, and by “had to” I mean I signed Beekee up for a program, of which he already missed one week. It was the day after the concert and I had nowhere near enough sleep. It was also crazy cold. I couldn’t justify yet another day out of the program. It’s only four weeks long! It’s good for him to get out and social with other kids his age, especially because he doesn’t quite fit in at jujitsu. We had to go out today. It was pretty much required.


So here I am, sitting at the library, guarding the coats while Sander plays on the iPad and Luca plays on the computer. This isn’t much change from the tech time at home. We can’t get any books because I forgot my library card, and neither of them wants to read while we’re here. With a half hour left in Beekee’s program, if they end on time, we’ve got a whole lot of tech time going on. I’m starting to wonder if they’ll ever get off of it.

All of this has me thinking. Do the kids really need all the toys they have? They really only play with the LEGO blocks and sometimes the stuffed animals. They would all rather be playing on tech, and since I don’t limit screen time, I don’t see why they need so much.


Of course, getting my family on board with not getting us more stuff to clutter up my house is hard. I don’t want to be storing things in the basement to cycle through. Sander is proving me wrong by just starting to play with the trains at the library, but he doesn’t often play with toys at home, beyond the LEGO blocks. Still, I have an aunt that likes to buy the kids lots of stuff for birthdays and Christmas. The problem with this is we just don’t have room for it all. The kids aren’t reading the books. They’re not playing with the toys. It’s just taking up a lot of space that our big four bedroom just doesn’t have. And to be fair, it is a big four bedroom. I just don’t want toys up in the bedrooms because the kids play instead of sleep and their rooms are always messy. That means the living room is where it’s at. There’s just not room for a lot.

And even if I did allow the kids to have toys in their rooms, I don’t want their rooms to become a cluttered mess. That would mean only a small number of toys to play with in the rooms anyway.

Now I’m remembering why I wanted to live in a minimalist way. I’m tired of living under all this stuff. The summer I was in limbo was the most freeing thing ever. We lived out of one suitcase per person and still managed to have stuffed animals and some small toys. The kids appreciated what they had so much more and I was so much less burdened. I could breathe without feeling like my house was trying to suffocate me.

I think it’s time for a grand scale purge again. I’ll call it spring cleaning, even though spring hasn’t really found us yet. I can cut back on all the stuff we’re collapsing under and bring it back to the basics. We’ve got bags of toys in the basement that mostly just need to go. Some stuff needs to go back to the kids, but most of it is just stuff that’s been long since forgotten. I think that’s the big thing we need a car for, to get rid of all this extra stuff we no longer use and needs to be removed. It will make quite the Goodwill donation, that’s for sure! And we really need to do it too. I wonder if any of those places do pick ups. They’re good toys in practically unused condition, most of them. They just need to live with someone other than me and the family.

So maybe it isn’t spring outside. Maybe I’m longing for our little trailer again. I’m secretly plotting to go back to the trailer park days. But while all this is going on, some positive has come. We’re thinking ahead to the point at which we cut back the toys in my house to almost nothing again. It doesn’t feel like spring, but spring cleaning is coming.

Go stream of thought writing. I can tell I’m bored while waiting for Beekee’s program to let out. Any time now…any time…


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Thoughts on “A Day Without Women”

Apparently I’m out of the loop on this one.  The first I heard about it was last night at probably 6pm, much to late to get on board with the red shirt wearing to show support (not that I had many places to go and show my support).  I don’t own a red shirt, so that put me completely out of the running.  I own a red sweater, but the weather isn’t suited to wearing it, so I go without red and wear my Joker shirt instead.

A few things have struck me about this whole thing.  It’s hard for me to think of a way to put things into order, but I think they all revolve around the same basic principal.  This was not necessarily the best thought through event.

Now, I’m not knocking anyone who took the day off today from paid and unpaid labor.  If you’ve got the ability to do it and choose to, that’s your choice.  I don’t have that kind of privilege.  I suppose we could have taken the day off from homeschooling, but that’s not the only unpaid task I do during the day.  I make food.  I play referee.  I walk the kids to jujitsu and play entertainment the whole way there and back.  Today I cuddled a cranky Luca that needed a nap and was too tired to realize it.  All of this stuff can be considered “unpaid work”, but I did it today, not because of my opinion on women’s equality, but because it needs to be done.  And to me, it’s not really work.  I don’t do it because it’s one more thing to check off my to-do list.  I do it because I love my kids.  I chose to be a parent and I’m choosing to be a good parent by taking care of my kids.

But thinking about this more seriously, let’s say I was working.  I’ll be honest about my financial situation here, I couldn’t afford to take the day off of work for something like this.  We’re strapped about as tight as can be right now, living well below the poverty line for my state.  That means we can’t afford the luxury of taking the day off just because it’s falling in line with a national protest day.  My life is not that privileged.  For how many other women is this situation true?

And how many women can’t wear red because it conflicts with their work uniform?  Sure, if you work at Target, you’re set, but if you work at Walmart, for example, the work uniform is blue.  This is a very real situation to those below the poverty line.  Many people work at menial minimum wage jobs, which means they have to play by the rules and can’t just call in because they’re making a statement.  It’s only for people who are in situations where they can call out of work and not suffer, or people who don’t have a strict uniform at work.  It would be better to have everyone wear a pin or a sticker, similar to the “I Voted” stickers they give out after the elections.  That’s something universal that everyone can do if they can afford the cost of a pin, sticker, or button.  And those who have money to spare can get some extras and hand them out throughout the day.

One thing I noticed as I was out, no one was wearing red shirts.  At my appointment that day all the women were there.  My counselor called me today, indicating she was in the office today.  The people waiting in the office (mostly women), were all there, not wearing red shirts.  I saw not a single person while I was out wearing red, except for Beekee, who was wearing a red hoodie.  It seemed like the message missed the people in my poor section of town.  It’s either that or they just don’t care.  These kinds of problems are for the privileged, not for the poor who struggle to survive every week.  The office I go to caters to people who are recovering from addiction, victims of domestic violence, and clients of a local organization that helps the poor and the homeless.  This is the same organization that helped us find our apartment.  These are not people who can afford to miss a day of work to make a statement.  The idea of wearing red to show you support women is so far above their considerations for the day that they’re probably unaware it’s even a thing.  For that matter, I didn’t even know until last minute.  Even knowing, this is a problem that’s above my pay grade (to use some military talk there).  I’m living in a world where my focus is on paying my bills and figuring out how to afford homeschooling on a very tight budget.  I don’t worry about things like this because it’s so far above my level of needs on a daily basis that I can’t even see it.

I have strong feelings about events that encourage people to not do things.  There are people that rely on other people to show up that day.  How would the world operate if all the daycares and schools failed to open because their teachers didn’t show?  How would small businesses handle losing a day of business.  What if all the doctors and nurses failed to show up at work?  I understand the point is to show how the country could grind to a halt, but there are people who rely on those services.  However, is the need to prove that point really worth it?  And what does it tell our children to suddenly cause the world to come to a screeching halt just to make a point?

To promote equality I’m actively doing things, not choosing not to do things.  I’m teaching my children to respect, whether a  person is male, female, gay, straight, trans, or any color of the rainbow and description they may choose for themselves.  My children are being taught that respecting themselves and those around them is just what you do.  If the world worked on this idea that you show respect to everyone, perhaps there wouldn’t need to be “A Day Without Women”.  Perhaps women would be more equally viewed in the workplace.  Stay at home moms might get better treatment from everyone around them.  There might even be less cattiness in women oriented groups.  Respect is the point that holds it all together.

So, no, I may not be wearing red today, and I’m certainly not going to give up the unpaid tasks I do (making more work for myself later), but I am doing my part to promote equality of women in the world around me, and not just women but everyone.  I’m raising my children, male and female alike, to be aware of the issues in the world around them.  I’m raising strong, educated kids that are going to go out into the world and make it a better place, to be the change they want to see in the world.  If that’s not promoting the cause, then I give.  I’m doing the best I can.