Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Animal Adventures and Corde’s Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Grand Day Out

This was Luca this morning.  His face got cold so he wanted to borrow my scarf.  I’m not sure how much it helped, but it seemed to make him happy.  We were on the train before it was even light out (as you can see by the black window…no, we are not underground…)  We left the house at 6:15 am.  The temperature was a whopping 23°F (-5°C) and with the wind chill it felt like it was 19° (-7).  I know, not that much colder, but when the day warmed up and the temperature after the wind chill did not?  We were in for a cold, early morning.

It was only Sander and Luca today, which was nice.  It’s been a while since just the three of us did anything, even if we were out with a friend too.  Beekee was home sick and Corde really didn’t need to miss yet another day of school, at least until we come to the conclusion of what we’re going to do with school versus homeschool.  Besides, she was supposed to bring home some more stuff from school today, which apparently didn’t even happen, so boo to that!

While waiting for the subway Luca decided it was time to do this.  I have no idea where he got his little meditation thing from, but he does it now and again.  It kept him happy while we waited for the subway, which thankfully wasn’t a long wait.

When we got to Boston the first thing we did was the Freedom Trail Guided Tour.  Sander and Luca were really excited about this, even if their friend was not.  They’re definitely history kids, so I knew this would be fun for them, at least as long as they didn’t get too cold.  It was a 90 minute tour, so there was definitely potential to get cold.  This was our tour guide, who was absolutely awesome, by the way.

Interesting thing we found out about this place?  That’s where Benjamin Franklin’s parents are buried.  I kind of figured he wasn’t buried there, but I never knew what that monument was about.  Well, now I know.

We also got to learn about these tombs.  I’d seen them around a whole bunch, but I never knew the details.  I just thought a body was set inside and the lid was put on.  Apparently not.  Apparently there are stairs in there leading to the actual burial space.  That’s actually kind of cool.  Who knew?

Unfortunately, Sander did get pretty cold towards the end of the tour and was really starting to wish we hadn’t done it.  He wants to come back and do it again in the summer when it’s warmer, and he doesn’t have to be bundled under such heavy warm clothes.

This…  There are really no words for it.  It’s a boot car.  We happened upon it when we were heading to the Government Center subway station.  It was sitting out there and chilling by the winter market, which I really wanted to go into, but the kids were eager to get on to their next activity.

You know what that is?  Luca carrying the first pair of skates he will ever wear.  We rented them from the Frog Pond on Boston Common, which was overall pretty reasonable for being in the middle of the city.  Luca was so excited about skating that it was the only thing he wanted to do when he got up this morning.  “Is it time for skating?”

This is Sander on the ice, obviously.  I wasn’t able to catch a picture of Luca on the ice because Luca was almost always right by my side.  They say no cell phone use while on the ice, so I wasn’t able to snap a good shot.  They both did venture off without me on a couple occasions, and Sander was even good enough by the ending that he could go a decent way without holding the rail.  A few more times and they’ll actually be pretty good at this ice skating thing!

Unfortunately, see that lump on Luca’s forehead?  This was when Luca learned ice skating is not all fun.  He’d been quite the free spirit at it, venturing far from the edge, taking spills, and getting right back up.  Then one time he hit his head real good and almost quit.  We sat on the side for a little while, but then Luca started to feel better and the first thing he wanted to do was get back on the ice.  That’s my Little Bear!

And this was perhaps the best part of their ice skating trip, watching the Zamboni.  Of course, the kids had to call it a “Zomboni” because of Plants vs. Zombies.  They thought it was so neat that you can just send something out there to put warm water on the ice and suddenly it’s so much better for skating on again!

They actually wanted to be the first ones on the ice when they finished resurfacing the rink, which was when they learned a hard lesson, clean ice is slicker than cut up ice.  I mean, it was easier to skate, but they also found it was easier for their skates to get away from them.  They had just finished with the ice when we started skating, so I wasn’t surprised that they hadn’t noticed the difference until the ice was fresh.

After the skating rink we went to the playground next to the Frog Pond.  I told them they could have all of fifteen minutes to play, which they certainly made the best of.  It was really too cold for me to be standing around waiting for them to play.

Luca actually only said it was okay to quit skating if we went to the park afterwards.  Otherwise I thought he was never going to get off the ice.  As you can see here he was pretty pleased with the playground.  He had to go on every slide at least twice.

We found these little cutouts sitting on the Common.  Of course, the kids had to have a picture with them.  They’re bears!  And given I have a Little Bear of my own, it was just too perfect.  Good eye, Sander, for catching that one!

And it would never be a trip to the park at Christmas time without taking a picture of the tree.  It’s beautiful, as always.  I kind of wish we’d been able to see it at night, but it was pretty cold and we had places to be.  We had a time we were expected to be home with their friend, which meant we couldn’t stay out too late.  Besides, they were all getting pretty tired.  It was a long day!

And, finally, had to have a picture of me in there, didn’t we?  Luca took this one. Luca really wanted to do this one with me.  It made his night that we could do it together.  I think it turned out pretty cute!

So that was our grand adventure in Boston.  We had so much fun!  It was definitely a good trip.  It’s too bad Corde and Beekee couldn’t make it, but there will be plenty of time to take them in the future.  And because Sander and Luca love skating so much, we’re definitely going to be taking them back.  We may even consider investing in skates so we can skate more often without the added expense of rentals!


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The Japanese House

One of the things we went to see at the Children’s Museum (which I decided deserved it’s own post) was a hundred year old Japanese house.  Sander, Luca, and I have been to this house before, though it had been a couple of years.  I think Luca must have been three and Sander maybe five?  It was before he started school, I know that much, one of the last trips we took before he started school.

Corde was dying to see the Japanese house.  She’d wanted to see it the last time we were there, but the kids had no interest and were too busy doing other things.  By the time we got to it, it was closed for the day.  This time, to be sure we got to see it, we headed there early so we’d be sure we wouldn’t miss our chance.

This guy is pretty cool.  I don’t remember him from the last time I was there, but it was a while ago.  I forget what he’s called, but you write a goal on the back of the head.  Then you paint in the left eye.  When you finally accomplish the goal you paint in the other eye.  Apparently you can have all kinds of these from big to small.  You could have tons of small ones for things like passing a test.  Then larger ones are for bigger goals, like learning a new skill.  It’s pretty cool, actually.

Corde is standing here for an example of size.  This kitchen is so small!  Look at that tiny refrigerator.  I can’t imagine having something so tiny in my house, though I could totally make it work.  Corde pointed out that it would probably never work in our family.  I pointed out that Japanese families weren’t typically as large as ours, if I know my history right (which I totally may be wrong on that.)

This little garden was sitting in the back.  I’ve always loved the look of it.  I would love to have even a neat and tidy little garden like this in my home.  I think it would be wonderful, and from the looks of it, pretty easy to keep!  I’m sure this is all fake plants, but it’s still an example of what it would be like.

Okay, they’re slippers.  They were on the floor in the bathroom in front of the squat toilet.  I didn’t think the toilet was worthy of a photo, but these slippers are really cute.  The little bunnies remind me of…that show with the cute little bunny that I can’t remember for the life of me.  I want to say Maisy, but that’s the mouse.  Oh well, I’ll remember it at the least convenient time.

This is Luca making a Japanese postcard for the new year.  He colored the dog blue, and even put a Japanese stamp on it.  How cool is that?

Corde has decided these must be her people.  They don’t wear shoes in the house.  They sleep on the floor.  They eat lots of noodles.  She also watches a lot of anime, so while she’d probably be more at home in a modern Japanese house, this one was still pretty fun for her to visit.

I didn’t ask what this was.  I suppose I should have.  It looks pretty awesome, doesn’t it?  Of course, this just means I’ll have to come back, right?

These were a curtain separating the entry way from the kitchen area.  Corde made me take a picture of all the bunnies, since she’s my little bunny.  And there was even a frog for Sander!

They had this little box by the door with a shelf where shoes would go.  They had these cute Hello Kitty slippers in there.  I was such a fan of Hello Kitty when I was younger.  I absolutely loved her.  I thought it was cute that they were there.  I also never asked about the translation thing beneath it.  I’ll be honest, I’m just noticing it now.

Aren’t these slippers cute too?  I love the ones that look like little dogs.  Also, you can’t beat more Hello Kitty.  I would totally wear something like these if they were in my size, even though I’m a grown adult.

Corde found the love of her life, noodles!  That girl is obsessed with ramen noodles.  She could eat them forever.  Finding out they’re a Japanese thing was awesome for her, but now seeing it displayed in a museum window was just too much.  She said, “That’s it, Mom!  I’m living here!”

This doll was part of an ambassador doll program or something like that.  She was delivered as a part of an international program out of Japan.  She’s been on display at the museum since.  Corde thinks she looks creepy, but I think she’s really beautiful.  Look at all that detail!  Look at those clothes!  Such a pretty doll…

These were in the display case with the doll.  I thought they looked particularly cute so I took a picture of them.  I just wish they had a something telling me what they were and why they were there.  That’s the one aspect of a traditional museum that was missing here.  I wish there was more information posted!  But I guess the target audience of very young kids wouldn’t have much interest in that.

I have to say that I would consider going back to the Children’s Museum again, even after the kids are older, just to see this beautiful house.  I mean, I wouldn’t want to pay the $17 admission just to visit the house, but I can see bringing Luca until he’s “in 2nd or 3rd grade” (in quotes because who cares about grades?)  I can see bringing future generations here too, just because it’s such an interesting little place.  I’ll be honest, when I’m a grandmother some day, I’ll love the excuse to come back!


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Once More to the Children’s Museum!

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First of all, a very happy birthday to this guy!  Sander got to spend the day with his siblings and a friend at the Children’s Museum.  What could be better?  This is him climbing in the big climbing area at the front of the museum.  I remember climbing on this thing when I was a kid.  It’s awesome, and was an awesome way to start the day for Sander’s birthday.

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The first thing the kids actually saw was an exhibit on dinosaurs put in by the Museum of Science.  Corde thought the fossils were pretty awesome.  She had to point out that her hand must have made that track.  Yeah, she’s just a little off on that.

That’s where we saw this beast.  It’s pretty cool, right?  What’s really extra awesome about it is it’s controlled by a kid off on the side (that you conveniently can’t see, and I didn’t know it at the time I filmed this.)  The kids thought it was incredible.

Then Corde had to do this, because it’s just who she is.  I couldn’t resist throwing in a little bit of her personality into the mix.  Yeah, she just might have had a good time too, just a little bit.

Just like last time they had a blast at the city area.  They all really love playing store in that shop.  I kind of wish I had a place they could play store like that here.  It would be so much fun for them.  Then again, if they had access to it everyday they probably wouldn’t love it so much.  Plus, it’s fun when the other kids come in, usually.  Today there were some really pushy kids that came in as a part of a school group.  Luca was waiting very patiently for a turn at the cash register, but the kids from this public school kept pushing right by them, and their chaperone said nothing about the pushing and the refusal to share (unless it was with another student from their school group).  I really think we may make our next visit when the school kids won’t be there.

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And Corde with her thing with mangoes.  It’s got to do with My Little Pony Abridged.  She loves that show, and there’s something on there about Apple Jack selling mangoes.  Since then it’s been a thing of hers.  Think she’s got enough mangoes there?

The next room we went to had all the work trucks.  The kids absolutely love this room, though it was a little hard to keep track of them.  Again, the school group plagued us here.  They were literally running circuits around the place.  It made it less fun for a while, but it got really quiet when they left.  I even got a picture of Corde playing with the trucks by herself!

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The kids always like the raceway room too.  Nothing says fun like science experiments with golf balls.  Hey, look at that, it’s even a picture of me!  Corde took that because I figured I never have pictures of myself in these things, so it might be nice if I were included every now and then.  I probably would be if Oz was with us, but his work schedule often prevents it, like it did today.

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This was particularly fun for the kids.  The whole board is a series of lights.  They change color when you twist the light fixture.  It started with Corde and dad that wanted to turn the whole thing red.  They kept having little kids come up and swipe the board or just start randomly turning things.  He eventually gave up, but Corde kept going back to it.  Eventually (with the help of all the kids), they got it done.  This is the result:

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Isn’t that cool?  I particularly thought so.  I’d love to have one of those things in my living room, just to play with.  I can imagine writing messages across it.  Somehow it reminds me of the old Light Bright thing kids used to have.  The only problem with this one is the center dot wouldn’t turn red for some reason, so they turned it black and went wit it.  I think they did a pretty good job.

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The whole section was based on snow and winter.  They had a sock skating rink, snowflake lights on the ground, and this collection of boxes, challenging kids to make a snow fort.  Luca found these inside the snow fort and decided a hot chocolate party in a snow fort is every bit as fun as a tea party, so we got to enjoy that.  It was a small bit of Luca and me time we were able to squeeze out today.  Usually Luca likes a lot of one-on-one time, but it’s rough when there are so many other kids that need my attention, so this was extra nice.

This is a collection of some of the other photos we took today.  We got to see a lot of the museum, which works because we were there for five hours at least.  When we got there we had lunch, but after that we were on to the exhibits.  I say exhibits loosely because it’s really more like a giant playground than a museum.  It’s got plenty of opportunities to experiment, but it’s not a classical museum in any sense of the word.

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We had a great time, but you can see the results.  (Okay, what you can’t see is Luca sleeping on top of me and my backpack on the seat beside me, but you get the idea.)  The kids were all tired out, almost too tired for Sander’s birthday dinner (pepperoni pizza).

All together I’d say the museum was really fun, aside from that one school group that caused all the problems.  I really wish the chaperones had spent more time focused on the kids and less time chatting or on their phones.  At one point a fist fight even broke out, which is no good for anyone.  I’m not saying schools are horrible or anything, but this school group in particular was a nightmare.  If I have my way, we’ll never go again when there’s a school group there.  There’s too much chaos, too much noise, and too many people to settle in and really enjoy anything.

We’ve also talked a lot about just sucking it up and getting a membership at one of the local museums, a place we’d probably plan to visit enough times each year to make it worth the investment.  This will not be one of those places.  While it’s fun to play, it’s one of the most expensive museum memberships for our family size, nearly twice what they ask at the Museum of Science.  It’s more of a playground than a place of learning, and the stuff is really geared towards preschoolers more than anything, maybe kindergarten and first grade kids or something, but certainly not a teen, a nearly tween, and a newly turned 8 year old.  They had fun, and I can see us visiting once a year for a while (because the cost of one visit for all of us is reasonable), but I don’t think it’s worth a membership, especially since we’d have to go three times in a year to be worth it.  We’ll probably go once a year and call it good for the next couple of years until even Luca is really too old for it.


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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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The Trip to the Children’s Museum

Yesterday we had another unexpected field trip. I was watching a friend’s son and she suggested I bring all of the kids to the Children’s Museum. It sounded like a great idea, though I think I was a little crazy taking five kids to the museum. Thankfully Corde was a great help. She took the day off of school to come with us.

The kids got to explore the whole museum, though they definitely had favorite spots. The water tables were one of them. I thought the kids might be to old for that, but even Corde had fun with it.

They all loved the climbing tower, though I was surprised Corde was able to get through there. Some of those areas were pretty tight squeezes. Luca was the only one that didn’t climb. It was too scary.

The construction stuff was fun for the younger ones, though Corde could have done without it. The rest of them played until Corde suggested we move on.

Another favorite was the dance pad floor with games. Their favorites were dodge ball and musical squares. They were here for quite some time. We even came through twice.

My favorite part was this house they all built together. It took almost every one of those blocks to do it. They had a blast building it, which took some time and engineering skills.

Of course, equally as much fun was demolishing it. That took a lot less time, but was a whole lot louder. They’ve decided that goes on the list when we go again!

Another favorite, and the space the kids spent the most time, was the little grocery store in the downtown area. I remember spending a ton of time there as a kid. I wasn’t surprised that they all wanted to play store for quite some time. My kids love play food and this was a great place for it. Plus, it was a store, which is even better!

The downtown neighborhood had these sitting outside the door to the store, which were a lot of fun too. They also had dominos and checkers, which the kids thought was pretty great.

We had a great day out and everyone was pretty tired on the train ride home, even after getting some ice cream to perk everyone up. It was a great highlight to out otherwise quiet week.

Though, there is another field trip coming up this weekend that we’ll be talking about soon. It’s going to be interesting with a lot of extended family there. It’s proving to be quite the week.


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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!