Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


WWII Reenactment

We got a chance to go see a WWII reenactment this past weekend with some of my family. They had all kinds of vehicles and planes to look at. We spent much of the early day inside because of the rain, but it gave us a chance to see some really great stuff.

They had two camps set up, one allies and the other German. We were out by the German camp, where the kids got to sit in one of the trucks and Luca got to see the rounds they would be firing for the event. On the American side Corde got to hold one of the guns. She commented on how heavy it was.

They had a small group of the German side set up, complete with some kids portraying Hitler Youth. It was surprising to see such young kids out there.

The battle itself was pretty intense. There was smoke and explosions all over the place. The kids loved seeing the tanks ride out. I think that was their favorite part.

It was an awesome experience and I hope we get to go again next year. It was a lot of fun. Besides, it’s a great way to experience history!


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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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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.


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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It Never Stops

Ah, the craziness. I’m starting to realize this is just our lives now. Our lives are built of craziness. I’m certainly not used to this, but I’d better adjust quick!

Since we moved here our lives were pretty laid back. Since we walked everywhere we stayed close to home and only ventured away from the neighborhood when necessary. It was a relaxed life. The kids spent all their time dirty and tanned from playing outside with the neighborhood kids. I never really had to go far. It was the slow country life.

Then we got a car. Down time hasn’t been common since. We’ve been busier than we were even when we last had a car! It’s been pretty wild.

Thursday night the music on the square was canceled because it was supposed to rain. We decided we’d still go for ice cream. That led to hanging out with the hoopers, which was fun. After that we went to eat at a local burger joint. It turned into a great night. We all fell into bed exhausted when we got home.


Last night we found out about movie nights in the park. We decided to check it out. The kids snacked on fruit while watching Wreck It Ralph, which was a cute movie. Next week we have to show up earlier because they do roast marshmellows and crafts.

Then today was a big day. This was the first tine we met Oz’s mom. I gave her a warning not to bail on my kids like all too many other people have done, not that I think she will. She’s done some really bad things in her life, but she’s apparently realized what it would cost her in the end. She met her grandsons for the first time at three and almost one instead of when they were born because of it. However, the kids, all except Luca, warmed right up to her, something unheard of with Sander. He was calling her Grama from the moment he met her. We’d barely gotten to introduce her as “dad’s mom” when he had to tell her absolutely everything. Luca was a bit timid, but he’s shy with anyone but mama these days. It’s sad that it took four years for us to meet, but she seems in a much better place now. Best of all, I really do like her. I don’t see us being best buds or anything, but I could really enjoy having her as part of the family. She’s great with the kids too, same with the man in her life. I’m really glad we got to meet them, and in time for Mother’s Day. I can’t wait to do it again, which is surprising because I had no real hopes of it going over that well, not with the way Oz’s family has been so far.

Then tomorrow we have church, then have to come home to clean the house. They’re doing inspections this week and with the way the management has been here, I want this place to be spotless. It’s going to make for a busy week with cleaning, inspections, more music on the square, and another movie in the park. I’d better get used to being busy! It’s not likely to stop any time soon!


The Education She Deserves

It seems like Oz’s dad is the cause for a lot of conflict on the homeschooling front.  He’s constantly reminding Oz how homeschooling is wrong and is always starting in on him about this or that.  It’s become a real point of contention between them.  Honestly, his father doesn’t understand anything about homeschooling or why we do it and just doesn’t care to.  Oz’s sister is really no better.

Just the other day Oz finally told his dad that Corde would not be going to school this year.  We’ve been really intimidated to tell our family.  Everyone seems so pleased that we’re finally putting her in school.  I’ve had nothing but people on my case about how I’m doing so poorly for her because she’s not progressing on your standard academic level.  She’s not meeting all the standard milestones for a kid in school.  She’s slacking on reading, writing, and math, but the skills she’s slacking on are skills she doesn’t find useful and relevant at this point in her life.  She knows how to read well enough to read her Pokemon books.  She’s learned enough to allow her to cook, which is full of math skills and reading.  She likes to do it on her own without help because she’s extra proud of the results that way.  She’ll write when she feels like it.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s just stuff that’s hard to measure on an academic level.

Oz’s father kind of ambushed him after he finally admitted that we weren’t putting Corde in school.  His dad asked him if he felt Corde was getting “the education she deserved”.  Just to prevent any arguments he told his dad he didn’t.  His dad then informed him that he had to put his foot down when it came to Sander and make sure he went to school.

We talked about this whole thing later that night, which was when he told me about his conversation with his father.  He told me he felt Corde was really intelligent and he brags about how smart she is to everyone at work.  Sure, she may not know a lot about conventional subjects, but she really does know a lot that kids her age don’t know.  She’s had a chance to study philosophy, chemistry, and art history.  She knows more about the American Revolution than most adults.  When she’s interested in something, she runs with it.

Of course, Corde, hearing this, asked who we were talking about.  When I told her we were talking about her she said, “I know I’m really smart.  I can count to a million and I don’t think most kids my age can do that.”  Isn’t it funny what constitutes intelligence to a kid?  She’s always talking about how the kids she knows annoy her because they don’t know half of what she does and they think she’s crazy because of it.  They’re always wanting to talk about television and movies, but she’d rather talk about history, video games, or science.  When she doesn’t know something she doesn’t make up an answer and pretend it’s a fact like her friends do.  She’ll ask an adult and then come back all proud of herself for knowing the answer.  She likes to show off all the cool things she does that other kids her age just don’t do.  She’s big into arts and crafts and her newest interest is sewing.  She wants to learn all about embroidery lately.  Most of the kids we know don’t do anything arts and crafts related unless they learn it in school or in scouts.  She’s fashioned her own baby carriers for her barbies and to carry her baby doll around.  She’s a highly creative child and very inquisitive.  I don’t see much of that in kids her age.  Surprisingly, she can even recognize that most kids her age don’t have those qualities either.  She tells me about it all the time.

Oz revised his answer to his father when he was talking to me.  We’re not giving our kids the education the state says they deserve.  We’re giving them the education they actually deserve.  We’re doing exactly what every other parent out there is doing, trying to give our children all the advantages possible.  We don’t want our kids growing up to be just like us, working whatever jobs it takes to get by.  We want them to learn to strive for their dreams, no matter how hard it is.  We want to give them the advantage going into adulthood of truly knowing who they are and what they aspire to be.  They deserve to dream big, something that’s often killed by adults, like my own dream of being a dancer from when I was very small.  Eventually I did grow up to try my dream out, but I realized it wasn’t what I wanted anymore.  It’s hard to say whether that was because I didn’t want it or because too many years of knowing I couldn’t have it built it into an unrealistic vision.  Oz and I want our children to know what it’s like to be happy from the start and not have to work at it their whole lives.  We both wish someone had given us that same advantage in life.

So, yes, Corde is definitely getting the education she deserves in our eyes.  His father is never going to agree with us because he seems to think that the only education worth having means one where children are indoctrinated into the school system and taught to learn countless subjects that they could care less about.  He wants something that can be measured in grade letters where you can show where the kids stack up against the rest of the population, a basis that starts everyone out with the same advantages, or so it appears.  He wants them to go to college because that’s what you’re supposed to do, and I’m an unfit mother because I don’t want those same advantages for my children.  Instead I want something so much better for my children.  If only he had the care and consideration to look beyond his own social programming to understand what is possible, not just the limited perspective he chooses to see.


The Coersion

Since Oz’s dad and sister have become a part of our lives Corde has been under constant pressure to go to school.  Oz’s sister, Misti, seems like she’s been trying to convince Corde that school is the best thing ever because she supposedly liked school.  The truth is she did well in school and I think she liked the positive reaction that came of her doing well.  As a result, she’s pretty much ambushed Corde with how great school is, but I think that’s largely because I made the mistake of mentioning that I was thinking about putting Corde in school because I was fed up with our attempt at traditional homeschooling.

The conversations between Corde and Misti were pretty comical in some regards.  Misti would talk about what school was like and Corde, being a rather bright child, would recognize the flaws in her arguments.  It was certainly not going to be easy for Misti to convince Corde that school would be the place she’d want to go.

Misti: School is awesome.  You can study all kinds of things, like art.

Corde: You mean like I did at the homeschool co-op?  We were studying famous artists.

Misti: They have classes where you learn how to be a better artist.

Corde: We did that at the homeschool co-op too.  It was part of our art class.

Misti: You can study all kinds of science in school too.

Corde: We were studying philosophy and chemistry.  Would I be able to learn more about that?  I liked chemistry.

Misti: You can learn about chemistry when you’re older.

Fox: They don’t teach subjects like that at your age in school.  You’d be studying general science.

Corde: Is there anything they teach in school that I haven’t already learned yet?

It’s kind of funny how Misti’s attempt backfired.  It seems like everything Misti brought up that Corde could learn about in school she’s either done before or had no real interest in.  Misti wasn’t able to win Corde over on the few things they did teach that she didn’t learn at home.  She would have to read and write, two things Corde doesn’t really want to do at this point in her life.  She’s not inspired to do either, but to go to school she’d have to do lots of both.  She would have to go to the bathroom on a schedule.  She could only eat and drink at certain times of the day.  On top of that she’d have to go to bed earlier.  It’s not her idea of fun.

Misti tried a different approach, as several other people have in the past.  They started talking to her about all the friends she’d have in school.  Corde, who is a very social girl, was almost won over by this.  She wants nothing more than to have friends.  She complains that Beekee has more friends than she does in the area.  She wanted nothing more than to make some more friends.

Then she started to think about the kids she’d meet in school.  She thought about the kids she knows that go to school.  She always makes the same complaints, “All the ever seem to do is watch TV!  They want to talk about TV this and TV that.  It’s all about movies and TV shows.  They’re so boring!  Don’t they ever want to talk about interesting things?  It’s like all they ever do is watch TV!  I’d much rather play video games, or play anything at all.  TV is so boring.”

Corde has really had a rough time of it out here.  She’s had problems making friends since we moved.  First she was friends with Oz’s dad’s girlfriend’s daughter (how’s that for confusing) but she decided she didn’t like her too much.  “She’s too much of a know-it-all, but she really doesn’t know what she’s talking about most of the time.  She just wants to sound smart.”  Then we moved to the trailer park and she’s found the kids here aren’t anywhere near as nice as the kids in the last trailer park we lived in.

At the old trailer park you’d go out on a weekend and have to be careful not to get run over by kids!  They were all out in the street, playing together.  They didn’t care if they knew you or not, you instantly became their friend.  They would run around the neighborhood in a pack and it didn’t matter how old anyone was.  They all played together regardless of age, race, or creed.

This neighborhood is a lot different.  The kids are a lot more exclusive.  They don’t seem like they’re willing to open up their group to anyone new.  It sounds like it’s because these kids all go to school together and have lived in the same neighborhood for years.  They’re really not interested in anything but riding their bikes around the neighborhood in large circles, chasing each other around.  Corde doesn’t have a bike, so it means she can’t ride around with them, if they’d even let her.

Thinking about this she made a good point, “Even if I did go to school with them, nothing would change.  Why would they start playing with me just because I was in their class if they won’t play with me now?  It just doesn’t make sense.  They’ll be my friends or they won’t.  Going to school isn’t going to change that.”

She’s really right on that.  Going to the homeschool co-op didn’t help her make friends either.  She kind of felt like she was an outsider in a clique.  Sure, she made a couple of friends, but most of the kids were kind of stand-off-ish to her.  It was understandable because they had all known each other for years and she was just meeting them now, but she felt awkward.  I had to remind her that it takes time to make friends.  Not everyone is as open and friendly as she is.  I also reminded her that she was right, going to school wouldn’t help her be their friends any faster, it would just mean they had no choice but to spend time together.  Either she’d make friends quicker or she’d be very lonely because they still wouldn’t want to talk to her even though they were in class together.

Every point that she’s had thrown in her face has been batted back with equal skill.  She doesn’t see what Misti thinks is so great about school.  As she puts it, “Misti is so obsessed with school.  You’d think the whole world was about school to her.”  All she can see is that school would get in the way of doing so many of the things she wants to do and make her learn things she’s just not interested in right now.  I can follow her on that sentiment.

I don’t know why it is people seem to think they need to work away at her, wear down her senses until she’s really feeling like she has no choice but to go to school.  It’s like they think convincing her will make me do the right thing.  Unfortunately, all they’re doing is annoying her.  She knows what she wants and she hasn’t seen a single reason why going to school is so great.  Why is it everyone seems to think our decision is so wrong?  My child is growing up to be happy.  Isn’t that what really matters in the end?