Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Oh, For Reading Out Loud!

We’ve been doing a lot of reading together lately. When I say a lot, I mean it’s dominated half our day. The other half before Oz gets home is chores, workbooks, spelling, reading lessons for Beekee and Sander, making lunch, eating lunch and snacks, and a little bit of play time. It’s amazing how much better things are going here.

Our usual days included a lot of fighting. It would probably be easier if the kids all had their own private places. They could get more of a break from each other. They also constantly complained of being bored. It seems to be a problem with unschooling with a larger family. Unless you have a big budget for art supplies, a huge selection of LEGO blocks, and a box of supplies for science projects to stave off boredom, the kids will inevitably revolt. It doesn’t help that unschooling is best with highly motivated, self-motivated kids. Mine seem to buck the trend that suggests giving kids unlimited time to do what they want and they’ll eventually start seeking out opportunities to learn. After a few years, the kids still need to be lead to the opportunities, sometimes kicking and screaming. They always enjoy it once they’re doing it, but it may take a lot to get them into it. If left to their preferences, they’d do nothing but veg on television, play outside, and fight. Oh, yeah,and whine at me every five minutes that there’s nothing to do. Okay, I take that back, Corde would complain there’s nothing to do. Sander and Beekee seem content to cap off at fighting. Poor Bear gets nothing more than feeling left out.

As a result, I decided we need to keep boredom at bay. The only way I can do that effectively is to keep them busy. I feel more like an activities planner than a parent in a lot of ways and I’ve really had to put my foot down on a lot of things. If Sander cannot be quiet during read-aloud time, he has to be sent to the bedroom. I feel bad, but there are times where I have to pick him up and move him there himself. I have to do this when he throws tantrums, too. I’ve tried all the unconditional parenting techniques and none of them work. Some just seem to egg him on more. As a result, he’s sent to the bedroom where he can yell and scream all he wants. He’s still bothering everyone, but the effect is at least limited. His fits are far shorter that way and he can kick the bed, flail around, or throw things without risking anyone else getting hurt. I’ve had to strictly enforce chores, too. If I spend most of my dedicated to lessons, reading, spelling reviews, planning and making meals, running baths, nursing and cuddling with Lucabear, finding the lost Minket, and planning out future lessons, I have little time left to clean, never mind relax! But the chores are having the added effect of keeping the kids busy, so they have less time to fight and argue. There’s less boredom time, too.

I’m starting to like this new routine, even if it means constantly staying on Beekee to do his work. I need to monitor him 100% of the time if he’s assigned a task, any task. If he’s cleaning up the toys, I need to remind him to clean up before he picks up anything, when he picks up anything, once it’s returned to his home, approximately every two to thirty seconds. With his writing, if I don’t remind him what he’s doing after every third letter he writes, he’s off doing something else. The only time he ever seems to be able to stay focused on an assigned task is when I sit everyone down for some quiet reading time. After all this time, I still think there’s something different about Beekee. He can’t seem to keep his hands off technology. If the Kindle is out, he cannot resist playing it. I literally have to hide it because the temptation is too much. Corde has to hide her Kindle, too. He can’t stay on task. He’s easily lost in books, too, always has been. He’s also presenting other problems, like an apparent inability to count properly past nine and (try as I might to help him) can’t seem to recognize letters and their sounds. It’s not through lack of exposure either. Homeschooling Beekee is a full-time job!

The reading time really has been a blessing. It’s the only time the kids don’t fight. Luca and Sander actually sit together in peace when I read stories to them. Beekee seems to absorb none of what I read to him. He’s too busy staring off into space, stuck in his own little world, but he picks up details from the shorter selections. We need more of those read together books, where the parent reads one part and the kid reads the other. He actually participates in those. Even so, when we read as a family, he’s quiet and doesn’t cause problems with Corde and Sander. It’s the one time I don’t have to feel like I’m the ref in so,e sports game that never has an end.

Corde, Sander, and Luca seem to all be getting something out of this reading time. Corde is sucked in to story and facts in a way she wouldn’t be if she actually had to read on her own. Sander enjoys the stories and wants to read his favorites again and again. He may not read yet, but he’s learning to love books. Luca is learning more and more words by the day. He’s starting to interact with the books, too. He likes to point things out and say the words he knows, or just say “that” so I’ll tell him the word. His vocabulary is still on the small side. He’s not uttering full sentences, like the authors of so many books seem to have their kids do by his age. Still, he’s starting to find something he can enjoy about books, too. The only one that seems to have no positive reaction is Beekee. He’s not improving in attention span. He’s not choosing to look at books on his own any more often than before. He’s no more engaged by the stories or the facts. It seems like he could take it or leave it.

There are so many great books I want to get to. It’s great that the kids are starting to eat it up. The stories that get the most attention are silly, adventurous, or full of action. We’re learning that “classics”, like Heidi and Caddie Woodlawn are just too boring for the boys. Corde prefers long stories with lots of description and words. She has since she first weighed in on Frankenstein when she was six. She could sit and listen to me read just about anything, no matter how dry the story may seem. It may mean we need to vary our reading. Corde and I may need to tackle a read-aloud just for her. The whole family can get something with plenty of action, like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Beekee can sit down for some level readers to follow along and absorb new words from and the read together books. Sander will enjoy the books with lots of pictures. He especially seems to like Celtic myths. Luca is starting to get into the same books as Sander, along with his all-time favorites, Duck & Goose (aka “Guck Gook” as he seems to have problems with the “B” sound.)

I really hope this love of books lasts. The read-aloud time seems to be doing us all some good. The structure seems to be helping, too. We really needed some change around here. I can only hope this is the first of many steps towards life getting better!


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The Math Wars

I love my daughter. Unfortunately, she hates anything that might challenge her in any way. Reading was a nightmare. Writing her paper was almost an exercise in madness. Today it was math.

Now, Corde is not dumb by any means. She memorized her poem and the character trait both in one day, and on the same day too! She understands concepts about literature and environmental issues better than most adults I know. She can accomplish just about anything she sets her mind to. The problem is getting her to set her mind to it.

For Corde, anything that isn’t what she wants to do is something she’ll be stubborn about. I can take a simple thing to give her confidence in her skills and it turns into a battle of wills. She will sulk, mope, cop attitude, and in general be a nightmare to be around when she doesn’t want to do something I merely suggest she might like, if only she’ll give it a chance.

Today that something was math. We were adding two digit numbers so she can learn to carry the ten on paper. She does it fine if she can count it out, but I really think it’s important that she understands how to budget, and being able to add up sums without a calculator handy can be useful. Keeping all the numbers straight in her head is a challenge for her, so I wanted to teach her how to do it on paper. She thought that was a great idea. Well, she did until she started getting problems wrong.

Corde has been my biggest challenge. Unless she gets everything right all the time she gets frustrated and quits. If I were to give her a hundred problems, instead of seeing how many she got right, she’d focus on the fact that she didn’t get them all right. Just one problem wrong is enough to have her hating math and swearing she does everything wrong. If she gets one word wrong while reading out loud it’s the end of the world. Suddenly she can’t read because she must be stupid, she’ll never get to spend time with her friends, and other drama.

All of this wasn’t helped by her dad. He had her convinced she couldn’t even read at a first grade level and that she couldn’t do math. Rather than letting her figure it out her own way, he insisted she rattle off answers like she was being quizzed. Talk about being put on the spot! He had her convinced she would never learn how to spell. It was horrible. We spent a lot of the day bashing heads because I was trying to get her to stop copping an attitude over everything and she was convinced she’d never do anything in her life because she’s too dumb. It was frustrating. By the time she finally decided she lover math I was ready to pull out my hair! Now it’s being with two overly tired kids that want to talk all night and not sleep. I’m exhausted. I’m tired of fighting with Corde. When the two of us aren’t bashing heads she’s picking on her brother’s and causing fights with them. I know this is the direct result of their dad dropping them like a bad habit as soon as it became clear he wasn’t getting custody. Every time he pops in and out of her life we go through this. Surprisingly, this time it’s not so bad.

I just wish Corde would open up and start challenging herself like most of her friends do. I would be happy to go back to radical schooling instead of including this more formal stuff if she’d actually do more than pick on her brother’s and boss them around. If she would pick up a book and read, ask to go places, anything. Unfortunately, that’s not happening. She isn’t choosing to learn anything if she can avoid it. Instead she talks about all these lies her non-homeschooling friends tell her and doesn’t seem the least bit interested in anything else. Most of her time is spent in the unproductive habit of picking on and harassing her brothers, which disrupts the whole family. It’s one of the very few things she’s self-directed about doing. It’s exhausting for me to spend all day butting heads with her or breaking up fights!

Thankfully we don’t seem to be having these problems with the boys. Beekee is learning how to read in a slow and painful way by learning how to write. By painful I mean painful for me to watch. It seems so backwards. He’s already asking about math. Sander wants me to teach him to read, write, and do math too. Hopefully that means they’ll at least stay with it long enough to learn the basics.

So I leave you with this, can a kid learn how to read by learning to write? How would you handle the constant struggle with Corde? Let’s get the discussion going! I have a lot of readers, but everyone is so silent these days!


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Against My Philosophy, But I’m Done with the Arguing!

Throughout this parenting journey I’ve tried to be the model parent. I’ve done my best with no yelling and no spanking, but I’ve got to admit, there have been times when I’ve slipped up. I took solace in the fact that everyone makes mistakes and tried to set a good example by righting the wrong as soon as possible. I’ve never known a parent to go completely cold turkey on their old parenting style under as much stress as we’ve been under lately. Oz working all these closing shifts and being out with his aunt or running errands all the time, I barely see him for an hour a day while he’s awake. The rest of the time he’s napping, sleeping, at his aunt’s, working, or running errands. Days he doesn’t work I see him a bit more often, but it’s stressful. Plus we found out that Oz has to wait a month to get his interview at the job he wanted because the first time they failed to tell him he needed proof of education and now he’s got to wait for his aunt to retake her GED test. On top of that my phone is off because we can’t afford to buy a new card for it until Friday, so that means going a whole week without being able to have contact with the outside world beyond the internet…again. I’ve given up both my last two opportunities for social interaction in the past week. The first being the story hour because Oz let me oversleep, even though I specifically asked him to wake me up in time. The other was a knitting group. Oz failed to ask his aunt if she could watch the older kids so I wouldn’t have to walk them all down to the library or leave early due to Oz’s conflicting work schedules. I was feeling like things are looking up, but now I’m feeling more trapped and suffocated than ever. It’s been stressful.

Adding to the stress, the job front is frustrating. I’m at my breaking point. I need a phone. Bills need to be paid. I want to move out of this trailer into a place that’s more…well…tolerable. I’m tired of having the wall in Corde’s bedroom turn into a river whenever it rains. I’m tired of having a refrigerator that leaks. I’m tired of having every bug in the known universe trying to get in my house. It would be nice to have a place where the doors actually sealed shut properly too. All of these things were supposed to be fixed, but never were. I’m just so tired and frustrated by it all, and I can’t wait another month before we have a source of income at this job Oz is up for, IF his aunt even gets hired on out there. In the mean time he’s supposedly got a pretty sure thing working at an assisted living center. He’s got a job offer at a local company that does heaven knows what. It’s a cruddy job, that’s all I know, but it pays $14 per hour, full-time, plus benefits. He’s also got a job offer detailing cars, but he doesn’t want to do that because he’s done it before and he doesn’t like it, but it would also be a sure thing at full-time work making more than he’s making now. I’m thinking about all the expenses we’ve got hanging over us and the ability to solve those problems happening with money, and I think logically. He NEEDS to get one of these jobs. Oz, on the other hand, much as I love him, seems to want to put all his eggs in one basket again, holding out for the job at the school, which isn’t even a sure thing right now.

With all that stress sitting on my head, I just lost it today. Beekee did nothing but whine endlessly all day long. He was clearly over-tired, but trying to do the whole “radical unschooling” thing and letting the kids sleep when they’re tired hasn’t’ been working for the past two weeks. Beekee has been getting so exhausted he can’t even pay attention to one single simple direction, such as “Stop swinging that around the baby. I don’t want you to hit him,” or “Put your wrapper in the trash, not on the floor.” I couldn’t even get him to look at me long enough to listen to what I was saying. I asked him to pay attention while I asked him which documentary he wanted to watch out of the ones I could find about human beings and he refused to even let me give him the titles. He just talked over me and got very frustrated with me. He does this regularly when he’s over-tired, but never like this! He was starting to do really well about settling down to sleep when he was tired. We instituted quiet time. He was willing to observe it. Now he’s gone completely off the deep end and has had several nights where he barely gets 6 hours of sleep, which is half the reason Oz and I have needed to take shifts on sleeping. He lets me sleep in, because I can’t fall back asleep once I’m awake, not unless I’m completely run into the ground. He gets a nap in the afternoon or he’s too tired for work that night. We would just let them stay up unattended, but they’ve proven in the past that leads to me getting up to find the house completely trashed and the kids, again, only getting six hours of sleep and being cranky because they can only sustain that kind of sleep schedule for a day, maybe two, before they become completely unbearable to live with.

Even Corde was in on the sleep boycott. She was so exhausted that she did nothing but whine and complain to me all day about everything and how nothing was fair. I asked her to take a nap, and just like her younger brothers, she threw a temper tantrum. She finally fell asleep while watching a television show and when I asked her if she was awake and wanted to watch another episode, or if she’d rather get some sleep, she threw another fit because she wasn’t sleeping! The drool coming out of the corner of her mouth while she lay slack-jawed while her brothers loud play didn’t even rouse her usual look of curiosity told a different story…but fine, she wasn’t sleeping.

At the end of it all I got so frustrated that I instituted bed time again. If the kids can’t get enough sleep without me making them go to bed, I was going to make them go to bed. I cannot possibly tolerate a day with worse attitudes than today as the result of sleep deprivation.  I’ve completely had enough.  I’m getting frustrated and exhausted by trying to keep this schedule and combining that with my stress is making me a not terribly fun Mommy to be around.  The line’s got to be drawn somewhere.  Of course, tomorrow probably won’t be a cake-walk either.  Beekee passed out an hour after I sent him to bed, and only after I turned off all the lights, and made him lay there in the dark because I know he makes up the “afraid of the dark” thing.  As it turns out the real root of the problem is the toys all over the floor that are actually dangerous to navigate.  I understand their room is small and they have very little space to play, but they’ve decided instead of cleaning their room they’re going to take over Corde’s room and trash that with toys, playing so loud and rowdy that Sabrina is afraid to use her cat box and decided to use other things in the house in it’s place…not exactly my idea of fun.  Corde ended up asleep two hours after she was sent to bed because she kept coming up with excuses to get up.  She kept “finding things” that she absolutely had to put away that exact minute, things she wouldn’t have found if she’d been asleep.  This is one of the reasons I canned bed time in the first place.  It never worked for us and was always more of a fight than it was worth.  With a baby that’s been incredibly difficult to get to sleep even though he’s also extremely over-tired all the time, I’m limited to what I can do for the bed time routine myself.  When I wish I could be spending some time getting the kids settled, I’ve got my arms full of Luca who was just woken up by the boys excessively loud play for the fifth time that day, and he’s so tired he doesn’t know what to do but cry.  I can’t even put him in his carrier because he starts arching his back like he’s in some kind of pain.  It’s horrible.  As a result I’ve got no option but to pace for an hour or two in order to get him to sleep.  What I need in order to can the bed-time routine again is another adult who can be on board with helping every night, and not just playing video games and talking loudly into the headpiece to his friends.  I need someone who is going to be a part of the solution.

In other less-than-ideal parenting maneuvers, I’ve taken away the kids’ art supplies for a week.  I know Corde particularly hates me for this one, but it’s become the source of a lot of problems.  For example, Luca was hanging out on the bed with me while I checked my e-mail this morning as I’m expecting an e-mail with the tracking number for a diaper I bought.  I was then going to do some other useful things, like put away the laundry, maybe start up another load.  Corde came into the room and stole Luca, which is no big deal.  I normally don’t have a problem letting her play with him.  All of the sudden I hear this blood curdling scream come from Luca.  I was betting he just fell down, and once again, got exceedingly angry at whatever he was trying to use to support him that didn’t do it’s job.  When I went to ask Corde what happened, she was in the dining room at the kids’ table, happily drawing away while Luca was clear across the trailer.  I made my observation, “I thought you were playing with Luca”.  She informed me that she’d wanted to do her art.  I observed that she shouldn’t have come and gotten him if she wasn’t going to stick by him.  He could have gotten hurt.  The least she could have done was brought him back, or told me so I could keep an eye on him.  She completely ignored me and went about doing her art until I asked her if she had heard me at all.  To which she threw an exasperated sign and informed me that she hated playing with her baby brother because he was always so annoying.  Ugh!  Child!  Then why did you bother to come get him?!?  Of course, I didn’t actually ask her that.  I just informed her that if she wanted to do art, not play with her brother, she needed to either not come and get her brother in the first place and haul him off, or to make sure someone could look after him.

Then there was the art supplies.  Not only did Corde insist on leaving all her art supplies all over the house, but I found Beekee writing on the walls with some of the markers.  By this point I was already pretty done with the attitude I’d gotten all day.  I decided to take all the art supplies for a week.  I got tired of stepping on markers and pens and having to take them away from Luca every time I turned around because someone left something in his reach.  I’ve decided I’m taking those for a week.  They’ve been the bane of my existence all day, so I’ve kind of hit my limit.  We’ve been asking Corde to clean up her art supplies for weeks because it’s been a cause of constant bad attitude when she leaves them out and the boys use them.  It’s been a source of too many headaches, so now she’s going to lose them for a while.  I told her I’m not deciding on my own on this one, but I’m thinking a week sounds about right, given they’ve been left out every night for a week.

And then there’s the toys, my goodness the toys!  I’ve been asking the kids to clean up their toys for weeks!  The boys’ room is so bad that they insist on going into Corde’s room to play.  Beekee’s sheets don’t ever stay on his bed because he’s always yanking them off.  Sander’s aren’t much better.  I know it’s hard for them to keep that room clean because they don’t have much space in there, but they both refuse to clean it.  I’ve decided they’re losing their toys for a week.  I’ve been threatening for a while, but at the point that Beekee’s afraid to sleep in the dark because he’s not able to get to the bathroom and back in the dark, and the point at which I’m getting hurt trying to get in and out of there to help them get to bed, that’s the point at which I have to put my foot down.  I’d love to say it’s their space and they can choose what they do with it, but it’s also getting to the point where they’re trashing Corde’s room because they’ve got no room left to play in their own room.  I’m done playing games and it shouldn’t be my job to clean up after both of them.  Beekee used to clean his room when he was Sander’s age.  There’s no reason Sander can’t do it too.  More importantly, if it’s my job to make sure their toys get cleaned up at the end of the night, then it should be my choice as to how much I have to clean up.  I think that’s fair.  Therefore, for the next week I’ve decided I’ve got my hands full with getting the house organized, catching up with laundry, trying to get on a better schedule so I can get to the library on Wednesday, and other things like that.  They’re just going to have deal with me not having the time to clean up after them right now.  They’ll have to be creative to play.  Besides, they have books and I’m not going to take away their writing supplies.

As if that wasn’t enough, when I was in the bedroom with Luca while he was asleep while Oz was visiting with his aunt this morning someone let Sabrina out.  I thought I heard the front door open a couple of times before Corde and Beekee came in to ask where Oz was.  I thought I must have been hearing things, which certainly wouldn’t have been a first, so I didn’t even think to ask who was opening the door.  Sure enough, someone must have.  Corde, Beekee, and Sander all know I’ve got VERY strict rules about them just walking out the door or even opening the door without letting an adult know first.  With Sabrina being poised to bolt out the door at the first available chance, I can’t have them opening the door whenever they feel like it.  However, I have a feeling someone let her out and just isn’t owning up to it.  I wouldn’t be surprised because Oz and I stepped out on the porch to discuss something that had happened at his work the night before and the kids were at the door every two seconds!  You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not.  I couldn’t even get two words out of my mouth between the door being opened so someone could whine, complain, or throw a tantrum over something.  We originally snapped at them every time because we thought the cat was still in the house.  That’s when we saw that she was under the porch.  I was about ready to scream when no one would at least own up to it and then they insisted on coming to the door every five seconds.  Oz and I tried to have some really important discussions and sometimes we really don’t want to be discussing things that are inappropriate around the kids!  Thanks to Oz’s work schedule, we don’t have much time but to do it outside.

I’ve just kind of had it.  Something’s got to give.  I’m tired of the toy situation and the boys not cleaning their room.  I’m tired of Corde not cleaning up her stuff and causing fights with the boys as a result.  I’m tired of the over-tired kids.  I’m done with the temper tantrums.  I’m sick of never seeing Oz because keeping our house from being destroyed and trying to get everything done means I never see him.  I just can’t do it anymore.  I hate to be breaking down on all of you, but I don’t like to be the parent that yells, screams, and takes away things that rightly belong to my kids.  I just can’t do it anymore.  Oz needs to be around more often and he’s got to be a part of the bedtime routine.  I just physically can’t be in enough places doing enough things at once and the kids really are starting to be affected by his absence.  Worse, Sander has become super-clingy, which is understandable as Oz isn’t home near as much as he used to be.  I fear getting a new job isn’t going to help that situation much, but at least he’ll be home in the evenings more, and once he gets his first check from a new job he’ll hopefully be able to quit his current position.

I guess what it comes down to is all of this stress is really starting to have an impact on my parenting.  Maybe this is why so many people living in poverty are such bad parents…it’s sometimes really hard to step back and do the right thing when you’re living with this much stress.


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Project Awesome, by Team Awesome

Today I decided we’ve been stuck in too much negative.  It’s been too much of a struggle to get everything done.  The house seems a disaster half the time.  We’re having a hard time keeping on top of everything.  We really just need something to motivate us.  When times are hard we can’t just let everything all apart.  If we do it all goes cascading out from under us.

Instead of fighting with the kids to get the house clean, I decided to try something new.  We’re calling ourselves “Team Awesome”.  We have a mission, to make everyone around us feel totally awesome.  Our first target?  Oz.  He hasn’t been feeling very awesome lately.  Everything with his son has gotten him down, especially since it seems like his ex-wife just wants him to pay the child support check and stay out of their son’s life.  It’s hard because I understand being a parent means sometimes putting yourself out there.  It sometimes means letting your kids get hurt because they need to know the truth, no matter how bad it is.  My kids have to struggle with their father being in and out of their lives, but it’s not my job to prevent Corde and Beekee from knowing their dad.  My job is being there to support them when he does the same thing all over again.  Oz’s ex-wife doesn’t seem to understand that, by sheltering their child from the truth, it’s only going to hurt him that much more when he finds out.  When he’s older and finds out that his dad has tried to be a part of his life and she refused, how will he look at her?  He’s probably not going to be grateful and thank her for preventing him from suffering.  He’s probably going to be angry with her, possibly to the point of damaging their relationship in a way she might never know how to repair.  I don’t want to see that happen, but all I can do is support Oz in trying to work things out and hope that some day she realizes that holding her son back from knowing his biological father isn’t doing anyone any favors.

The kids don’t really know what’s going on with all of that.  They have a little bit of an idea because we don’t exactly hide it from them, but they don’t ask questions so we don’t volunteer information.  If they want to know, they’ll ask.  Instead we’re focusing on the important part.  Oz is feeling really down lately and he needs a little bit of positive in his life.  He needs a little bit of awesome.

Today Team Awesome has an incredibly important project, so big we’ve called it “Project Awesome”.  Our goal is to get the house clean again and organized.  I’ve been slacking on the cleaning department because I’ve been feeling down and the weather change has had my arthritis acting up.  That’s been helping Oz stay down.  However, we all know how good he feels to come home to a clean house.

I’d planned all of this ahead of time.  I knew what I was going to be doing later today, so I made a deliberate effort to sound completely drained and worn out.  I told him I didn’t think I’d be able to get much done today, as I’ve been feeling the past couple of days.  It’s true.  I don’t feel great today.  I have a sore throat from the heat being on.  My joints hurt.  The truth is, I don’t care!  I’d rather work through it.  Of course, he didn’t have to know that.

Sander, Blinket (red), Minket (brown) and Cuppy

The kids and I have been spending the day getting the house to look pretty darn good.  We even went so far as to put in a new scent in our Scentsy warmer.  (Click the link and any purchases will go towards yours truly!  Yup, I’m a consultant, and supporting my business is a great way to help us out!)  Then we started cleaning, doing laundry, and everything we can.  Sander even handed over Blinket and Minket to be washed without a fuss!  You have no idea how impossible that is.  He never wants to give those guys up!

We’re really trying to turn over a new leaf here.  Instead of fighting about getting things done, Team Awesome has become our greatest asset.  Team Awesome is about everyone realizing that we’ve all got to work together to make everyone around us feel awesome.  It’s good to know you’re awesome, loved, and important.  The kids will get a chance to help other people feel awesome, who will turn around to make sure they feel awesome too, at least I know Oz will in appreciation.

I think this is the best idea we’ve ever had.  Now I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming.  Team Awesome needs to get back to their important work of being awesome!


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When There Is No Trust

My kids don’t have a lot of rules put on them.  I try to keep it simple and relaxed.  I don’t want my kids to feel like they’re being smothered by too many restrictions.  For the most part respecting everyone else’s needs seemed to be a good guideline.  For the most part this makes the rules pretty invisible because there’s no need to enforce them.  The rest of them fell into the guidelines of safety.  If you can’t do it safely, you can’t do it.

Two rules have always stood out as actually being rules.  The kids have found them to be restrictive, though in the case of one of them, they realized pretty early on that it’s more of a courtesy than a restriction.  They both applied to playing outside.

  1. Always inform Oz or me if you’re going to be leaving the yard.
  2. Be in by dark.

Each of these rules has a very specific reason that I made sure to share with the kids when I set them down.  We all agreed that they were fair and served everyone’s best interest.  I figured that should make them easy to follow.

With the first rule, there’s a whole number of reasons.  If anyone needs to find one of the kids, they’ll know exactly where to look.  If there’s an emergency no one needs to waste time tracking them down.  I can simply drop in and let them know if I’ll be at the neighbors’ house so no one will be at the house, and they now know where to find me.  My kids panic if they come by the house and I’m not there, even if I’m just outside the back door or walked over to the mailbox.  I figured if they expect me to tell them where I’ll be, they’d understand why I want them to do the same.  Even Oz always tells me where he’s going whenever he leaves, sends me a message when plans change, and gives me an estimated time he’ll be gone or when he expects to be back.  It’s just common courtesy.

The second rule I kind of hate.  It all started because 9pm is the city-wide curfew.  All kids must be on their home property by 9pm and in the home by 10pm.  When we fist got here it was dark around the time the kids had to be on our property.  It gets dark a good deal earlier now, so I’d started letting the kids stay out just a little bit later.  Then we started to notice that a handful of people speed through the neighborhood, burn rubber tearing out of here, or drive drunk.  There was an incident where a drunk driver took off someone’s porch.  It’s one thing to be out during the day when visibility is pretty good, but once it’s dark those kids get hard to see.  It would be all too easy for someone to get hit by a car because the driver didn’t see them.  I don’t want to take that risk with my kids.  I don’t mind them being at a friend’s house, but I have to know they’ll be indoors or supervised by an adult.  Adult supervision won’t stop a kid from being hit by a drunk driver, but one can at least hope that the adult would have the awareness to see it coming and get the kids out of the way in time.  It’s good to have someone paying attention to the surroundings because it’s easy for kids to get lost in their play.  Who can blame them?  I would too!

Unfortunately, we’ve learned that Corde has a complete disregard for the rules.  We’d just given her freedom about being outside unsupervised back and she barely got use of it before we had to take it away again.  The first time she was at Maddy’s house and no one knew where she was.  Everyone thought she and Maddy were outside in the yard until I poked my head out and saw the girls had vanished.  I knew exactly where the boys were.  My neighbor’s two and my three were all in the house playing together for the most part.  Even Luca got some attention from the big boys.  My neighbor was watching Maddy and her sister and had Corde over there.  The girls said they were going outside and no one thought anything of it because they’re almost always in the tree, but Maddy and Corde had disappeared.  Oz tracked them down without much incident, but he wasn’t pleased.  Corde knows better than to just take off.  I kind of figured Maddy had something to do with it and cut her some slack.  To Maddy it wouldn’t seem like a good idea because she was just going home, just like Corde wouldn’t have had to tell anyone if she was going home.  I don’t think Maddy would have thought twice about it, but Corde should have known better.

The second time a neighbor I didn’t know came knocking on my door to tell me he’d almost backed into Beekee with his car.  He seemed more concerned that Beekee was okay than anything else.  He asked the kids to move so he could back out and Beekee must not have heard him because he didn’t move until he saw the car move.  The other kids just sat there and stared at him apparently.  Corde tried to convince him to move, but no one else did anything.  Corde and Beekee came back to the house with the neighbor.  The neighbor and I talked to Beekee about being safe and how he could have gotten hurt, then decided he’d stay in for the rest of the afternoon because he didn’t seem like he could pay enough attention to be responsible outside.  He agreed and promptly fell asleep.

When I turned to talk to Corde and ask her where she was she had already taken off.  I had no idea where she’d gone, but I’d figured she’d gone back to Maddy’s house, since that was where she was supposed to be.  I wanted to talk to her about what happened and ask why she was outside behind someone’s car when she was supposed to be at Maddy’s house.  Sure enough, she wasn’t where she was supposed to be.  She was riding someone else’s bike down the street.  I had to call her four different times to get her to get off the bike because it was way too small and she could walk faster than she was peddling that thing.  All three of the boys were asleep, but Sander and Luca had been out for a while, so I had a limited window to sneak out before one of them woke up and started crying, which has been the trend for the past few days.  I didn’t want to waste time by having her take the bike at the slowest pace ever.

I asked Corde why she wasn’t at Maddy’s house and she said, “Maddy was bored and didn’t want to play anymore.”  I asked why she didn’t tell me she wasn’t going to be at Maddy’s house anymore and she said she didn’t think it mattered.  I had to point out that we’re working on this trust thing, and because of her earlier situation of running off I didn’t want her just running around the neighborhood like crazy.  She was allowed to be at a friend’s house or had to stay in the yard and she knew it.  She knows the little two have been super cranky and it wouldn’t be fair to drag them around the neighborhood looking for her.  That’s why she gets to just tell me where she’s going and shoot out the door, because I can trust her to be where she says she’ll be.

At the end of this I told her she was “grounded”.  I use quotes because I hate that term and I’m not sure what that really means.  She’s not allowed outside unsupervised until further notice.  I need to know I can trust her to be where she says she’s going to be, and Oz and I will be talking about the duration of this limitation when he gets home.

Then a conversation happened that went a little something like this…

Corde: So I pretty much can’t go outside because you’re always inside with the baby.  It’s always too hot or too wet and cold for him.

Me: Pretty much, unless you can come up with a better solution.

Corde: But that’s not fair to Beekee!

Me: How is it not fair to Beekee?

Corde: Because Beekee has to stay inside and be punished because of me.

Me: I never said Beekee had to stay in. He’s always where he says he’ll be and he’s always in by dark, unless you convince him to do something different.

Corde, looking outraged: But that’s not fair!

Me: How is that not fair?  Beekee follows the rules, you don’t.  He can be trusted.  When you’re ready to be trusted again, we’ll let you do it too.

Corde sighed: I guess that’s fair.  I guess that makes sense.  I hate that Beekee listens better than I do.  He always makes me look bad!

I couldn’t help but laugh at this and remind her that it’s not that he makes her look bad but sometimes he’s ready for things she isn’t.  He’s starting to learn how to read at 5 and Corde didn’t really make much effort until she was 8.  At the same time Corde’s been doing multiplication and division since she was 4 and Beekee isn’t even started on basic math.  She can’t really compare herself to Beekee.  They’re too different.  There’s nothing wrong at earning rights and responsibilities at different rates.  It’s just further proof that they’re two very different kids.

However, it’s made it challenging for me.  Corde has gone a long way to damage all the trust we build almost as soon as we build it.  I had a long talk with her about this.  I told her how much I want to trust her and how frustrated it makes me that I can’t just let her have free reign in the neighborhood so long as she tells me where she’ll be.  I have a hard time not letting her go to her friends’ houses because I can’t be sure she’ll be there, or that she’ll be home by dark and I’ll have to go hunting her down.  I hate that I can’t let her go out and play without having to worry that she’ll just take off without remembering to tell me where she’s going.  I don’t want to restrict her from these things, but I have to know she’s willing to do what it takes to make that possible.

This whole trust issue is really dragging us down.  I want to trust her.  I want her to have freedom.  I want her to be happy.  More frustrating, it’s hard to explain to other people why Beekee has more freedoms than Corde.  They seem to think that’s backwards because she’s older.  They don’t seem to get that it has to do with trust and responsibility, not age.

I can’t wait until we get past this.  Life will be so much easier when trust starts to come back into our lives.  I know this too will pass and Corde will realize she gets so much more by treating me with respect by telling me where she’s going and actually being there.  She’ll learn she has so much more freedom and I’m much more fun to be around when she and I can get along with less conflict.  I just hope that it doesn’t take years!