Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Baking with Corde

Okay, maybe it was just a mix, but Corde got some baking in yesterday. It was a Hershey s’mores cupcake mix that a friend gave us. It was a pretty simple deal, chocolate cupcake with a graham cracker bottom crust and a marshmallow filling. Corde couldn’t wait to make it.

Corde wasn’t alone in her baking. Luca decided to help her with the mixing. The two looked so cute together at the table. Corde mixed up the graham crust mix while Luca mixed the cupcake batter. Then they both worked together to fill the cupcake cups.

While they were waiting things got a little crazy. Corde decided to prove she could walk on the half wall to the stairs and Luca, Sander, and Beekee went nuts playing LEGO Batman. They had an awesome time.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the finished product. We all ate them too quickly and I forgot. Even I had one, and they managed to save one for Oz. They were definitely good and gave Corde some ideas for her own baking future, which is always a win in my book!


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Sparklers

We went to a birthday party last night.  It was kind of unplanned.  We were invited over by our neighbors last minute after I got out of work.  I really wasn’t in the mood to go, but I figure it was for the kids.  These are their friends, so they may as well get the chance to go, right?

The highlight of the night was getting to us sparklers.  The colored ones didn’t have the same kind of effect that the traditional ones did, but the kids still loved them.  It’s funny how the simple things in life can really make the night.  They all had so much fun with them, which was awesome.

I suppose we could follow this up with a learning experience.  What makes the colored sparklers colored and all of that, but I think in this case we’ll just let it be.  Sometimes fun is really just for fun.  If they want to know the why, they’ll undoubtedly ask.  They always do.  That’s what makes this whole learning thing so awesome.


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Unschooling Is Back, Baby!

This week I did something I didn’t even realize I needed to do.  I called to find out where I have to send in a progress report for my children’s year of homeschooling.  I had expected to go in with portfolio in hand to show them the work we’d done (which is why we even bothered to keep a portfolio in the first place).  As it turns out, I don’t need to do that at all.  The process is much simpler than that.

So what do I have to do?  I need to send in a progress report for each of my children talking about what we covered in every subject.  I was also told I have to send in samples of their work, though I’m not sure how that works.  I was told it’s standardized testing OR a progress report OR samples of their work.  I’m still ironing out the details of what exactly I have to include, but we’re getting there.  One thing at a time, right?  For now, I’m going to be compiling a progress report covering what we did with each subject, and putting together my education plan for next year.

The plans for next year are pretty simple, really.  We’re going to keep with the phonics program and the math program, but my goal beyond that is to try and do a year of totally unschooling.  I know I’ve got daily exercise books for the kids that my aunt got me, and if the kids have interest in doing them, great.  I may suggest the geography and science ones on a regular basis because the kids really liked those and they cover some good topics.  I’m thinking we’re going to do Story of the World again next year, though if they don’t totally soak it up, I’m not too worried about it.  But beyond that, anything goes.

More accurately, I’m going to stick it out with math.  We’re going to try and blow through the remaining phonics.  Once we’re done with phonics, we’re going to be done with everything but math, and then it’s back to unschooling time!

So, why are we sticking with math and phonics?  Well, phonics has really helped Sander with his reading, so I figure the more we can give him tools to be successful, the better he’ll be.  I know as long as we live near family, a lot of pressure is going to be put on the kids to be reading.  While I’d love to let them learn it organically, I know things will go much more smoothly if the kids learn how to read and we go from there.  And math?  Well, that’s a life skill that they’re going to need if they ever want to go to college, and while I’m not holding my breath that the kids will want to go to college, I want to keep that option available to them.

As if gearing up for a more unschooling heavy year wasn’t enough, we’re also working on getting back to a more unschooling life in general.  Once we have a car we intend to take to the road a lot more and visit some historic places, museums, and other cool places filled with learning.  We’re definitely going to start going on more nature walks.  It may not be until spring that we have a car, but we’re totally going to be looking forward to that in the coming school year.

It feels so good to know we’re going to be getting back to the roots of it all again.  I can’t wait to take another step forward, progressing into the next phase of our schooling life.  I’m looking forward to filling the house with experiments, talking about crazy inventions on Minecraft, and all kinds of other cool things.  We’re in for an absolutely fantastic “school” year!


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Independence Day (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)

This year we were planning on a nice, quiet night at home.  Oz was working that day and I really just didn’t feel the drive to do anything.  That’s when the thought came to me.  “We should go to the fireworks in Boston!”  Yes, I know, don’t give away where you live, but you can get a LOT of places in the state by train, which is exactly how we went in.

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The trip in was fairly uneventful.  The Corde was busy texting her friends and listening to her music while Sander, Luca, and Beekee kept switching seats at every stop so they could take turns at the window.  They always did like taking the train into Boston.  They enjoyed the subway too because there were no seats, so they all had to stand, which is always an exciting adventure.

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When we got to our spot on the river we all sat and chilled.  We read a chapter of Percy Jackson.  Sander, Beekee, and Luca all played in the dirt, no matter how many times I told them not to because it was kicking dust up into everyone’s face.  Corde took a nap.  Luca looked at a book on snails and we read a Rookie Read About Science book together.  It wasn’t the most entertaining time the kids have had, but they kept themselves occupied, which is good.

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The kids loved being by the river.  They don’t get to be by the water much, so they loved getting to watch it.  The weather was pretty nice, with a good breeze.  We were lucky enough to find a spot that was mostly shady, so that helped too.  The only down side to our riverside location was Sander dropping his 2DS in the water.  I’d warned him not to bring things near the edge of the water, but he didn’t listen.  His DS slipped from his hand and into the depths it went, along with his favorite game, Animal Crossing.  We almost lost a book that Luca tossed at me the same way.  To be honest, I would have preferred to lose the book than the DS, but such is life.  We’ve agreed that Sander can earn a new DS if he does enough reading.  He can earn his game back too.  Sadly, he had to learn his lesson about things falling into the water the hard way.  I just wish we could afford to replace it again so easily.  It’s going to be a good while before we can.

As it got dark, Luca started to get cold.  I handed over my flannel and that solved the problem (and looked absolutely adorable).  The kids were given glow necklaces by one of the people next to us, which was a lot of fun.  I wish we’d thought to bring glow sticks!  Maybe next year.  After all, this is becoming quite the tradition.

The fireworks themselves were amazing, as always.  I didn’t get a lot of good pictures, in part because my phone doesn’t have a great camera.  It also didn’t help that I was watching the fireworks and not my phone (so the framing is a little off).  Luca also wanted to be picked up for a large part of it.  We all enjoyed the show.  It was great to see Luca’s face when the show was going on.  At first there was disappointment because they shot off a few fireworks, but then there weren’t anymore for a long while.  Luca thought the show was already over, but I promised there would be more.  Sure enough, there were, and Luca was entranced.  Both last year and the year before Luca slept through the fireworks, don’t ask me how.  This was the first year Luca got to see the display.

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I have to say, as great as the fireworks were, this was my favorite moment of the whole night.  Luca was taking pictures on my phone and happened to catch this one.  Pretty good for a kid that wasn’t looking!  I held the phone where it was aimed and Luca pressed to capture.  Such a sweet little kid!  I’m going to miss moments like these when they’re all grown up!

IMG_20170704_161858_891However, there’s one thing I’ve got to throw on here as a PSA kind of thing.  While most people were great about Nika, respecting that she was a service dog, not everyone was.  There was a teenage girl on the subway that declared excitedly that there was a dog.  She got even more excited when she saw it was a service dog.  What’s the first thing she does?  Pets my dog…  When Nika decides to lie down, this girl sits on the floor of the subway, pushing into me, and attempts to smother Nika with affection.  She got Nika all riled up to the point that she was circling me, something that wasn’t all that safe to be doing on a crowded subway train.  She was with some of her friends and I didn’t see a parent anywhere (though she was pretty young).  It was definitely inappropriate.

For the most part I don’t have to deal with stuff like this, especially to this extent, I do find a lot of people making kissy noises, whistling, calling to her, and other behavior that distracts her from her work.  I’ve got to say, the kids are great in informing people she’s a service dog and she’s working, but none of us should have to say anything about it.  I know a lot of families have no contact with service dogs, but they’re out there, and the number of service dogs is growing.  So, please, for my sake and for the sake of service dog handlers everywhere, teach your kids about service dogs and the important job they do.  If this girl had been educated, or at least had an adult present to correct her, my Independence Day out could have been blissfully pleasant (aside from the DS in the river).  It’s little things like teaching your kids that goes a long way to the health, happiness, and even safety of everyone around them.


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Toothless Is Here!

IMG_20170629_115041Today is the day Luca’s special present for his surgery got here, the thing that made it all better.  We got a stuffed Toothless to hug every time there’s bad feelings over the missing teeth.  Already Toothless has been a big hit.  Luca insisted on bringing him everywhere.  Given how much we were out today, it’s been a long day for Toothless.

We were in pretty desperate need for food stuffs, so we went to the local grocery store for bread.  Deciding that was more expensive than the bigger chain store, we decided to skip on over to the big store after lunch.  Everyone got a Hostess cupcake from the gas station, then it was off to home for lunch.

Here’s where things got interesting.  We decided it was a nice day, so we should just walk to the big grocery store, and go to the closer of the two.  There had been talk of checking out our first geocashe on the way, but we decided not to.  It would be better to do a straight shot and come straight home.

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The kids loved the walk, and they were all good and tired when they got there.  Luca saw this horse and insisted on getting up for a ride.  I remember riding those when I was little.  All of the kids wanted a ride but Corde, but we didn’t have quarters, so we settled with sitting up on it instead.  Maybe next time we’ll splurge and let them all ride, though I don’t know when that will be.

The whole adventure, Toothless rode along.  He went shopping in two stores and even on the bus.  It was quite the adventure for the first day with our family.  Now he’s tucked away in the bed with Luca, sleeping peacefully after our really long day.  The night was capped with Luca falling asleep to the closing chapters of Peter Pan.  It’s really been quite the eventful day.


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Percy Jackson and Screen Time

We just started reading a new book today.  I’m not done with Peter Pan yet, but we decided to mix it up with something more fun.  We’ll work our way through the last 20% of Peter Pan, but we’ll do it at night when the kids are getting ready for bed.

So we started Percy Jackson today.  Corde listened along, figuring she can count it as part of her summer reading (it’s like a book on tape).  She thinks it’s more interesting than the first chapter of Harry Potter, where absolutely nothing interesting happens, not really.  I think she’s wishing she’d read Percy Jackson as her summer reading book instead.  Oh well.  She can always change her mind.

However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve got to limit screen time for Luca.  Now, I’ll be honest, Luca spends a lot of time watching Netflix, sometimes what feels like too much time.  I’ve tried to be the good radical unschooler when it comes to this, but it’s taking over Luca’s life.  He seems to want to do nothing but watch movies, to the point where it’s starting to get in the way of doing anything else.

Part of this is really Sander’s fault.  Well, I guess the origin is Corde.  She complains that reading is boring for years.  Now Sander says reading is boring.  He’s taken it one step farther to say being read to is boring.  This resulted in Luca crying for twenty minutes because he didn’t want to hear the story, he just wanted to watch a movie.

Well, I was having none of it.  Against all of my unschooling desires, I made up my mind that Luca was at least going to sit quietly while the movie was on, even if all he did was munch on his sandwich and ignore us.  He would be in the same room, and the screen would be off.  He didn’t have to listen, but he had to be quiet and let everyone else listen, and he had to be in the room.

After the whole crying, screaming fit over not being allowed to watch Netflix, we’ve decided it’s time for Netflix to go, at least in anything other than watching as a family.  Luca is on a Netflix fast for a week.  Luca’s really got to start doing other things, playing, interacting, reading.  I thought that summer reading and the potential to win a prize would be enough, but apparently not.

Of course, summer reading at our library is decidedly not cool.  All of the libraries I’ve been to before have all done things where you get prizes for reading so many books, so much time, whatever.  I think when I was a kid you would read so many books and you got a book as a prize.  Now everywhere seems to do time.  Even if they’re just little cheap toys (one place did book marks, rubber duckies, that sort of thing), they get to feel like they won something for all their work.  That was the motivation, to get the next prize.

This library does it different.  You get tickets for every so many hours you read.  The first one is free.  You get another at 1 hour, another at 5 hours, then 15, 30, and 50.  Each of the tickets can be deposited into a box to try and win a prize.  I won’t lie, some of the prizes are some pretty nice stuff, like the gardening kit and the Lincoln Logs.  Still, I find it hard to motivate them when their only reward for all that is a chance to win something.  They could work hard all summer to read all 50 hours and not win a single thing.  And what do I do if one of them wins, but the rest of them get nothing?  This didn’t matter last year because Sander and Beekee only got far enough to do their 1 hour tickets and then we forgot about recording their time, not that we did much reading last summer.  This year I’ve got all three of them doing the elementary summer reading program, and they’re not super excited about it.

I had really hoped to use the summer reading program to motivate the kids to get their reading done.  I wanted them to become stronger readers, and hopefully get Luca started on reading through exposure, but it’s not really happening.  They’re just not motivated for a chance to win something.  I mean, at 5 hours they get a t-shirt, so that’s something.  I just really don’t see this as giving them something to work to.  They like it a lot better when there’s a clear goal in sight.  This is just a maybe, and they don’t like maybes.

Still, it’s getting them to sit for a story every day.  We’re counting read aloud (I don’t know if we should) because Luca can’t read yet, and we’re spending a half hour each day with the reading aloud.  That means Sander has to read one or two more books to get his hour every day.  Luca needs to have two more books read to him.  Beekee gets to read for a half hour quietly.  That gives them a good chunk of reading time down.  Anything else is just a bonus at that point.

It’s especially hard because Sander is a very reluctant reader.  He’s taken on Corde’s cries that reading is boring, so he doesn’t want to read, ever.  He’s also taken on her argument that reading is hard.  That’s trickling down to Luca, who now says he doesn’t want to read because reading isn’t fun.  It’s just a whole mess of a thing.  I think they all need a role model (not me) to show them that reading really is fun.

Oh well, for now we have Percy Jackson, and that seems to have lit a spark in them for wanting to hear a good story.  That’s definitely something.  I’ll take it for what it is.  We’ll count that towards their reading (whether it’s permitted or not) and run with that.  Hopefully that will help them see how great reading really can be.


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Happy Birthday, Mystery Bear!

Luca and Mommy

Fox and Luca, just born

Five years ago, Luca came into our lives.  From the moment of Luca’s birth there were little growls, indicating Luca was content, or trying to fall asleep.  These little growls earned Luca the name of Little Bear.

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Luca enjoying his spoons

That little adventurer soon became Mister Bear.  Back then we hadn’t put a thought towards gender neutral parenting, so it seemed a fitting name.  Luca became Mister Bear instead of Little Bear, and everyone was happy.

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Then something happened.  Out of the blue, Luca became Mystery Bear, because no one knows, it’s a mystery.  It just seemed a far more appropriate name for our magical Little Bear.  Luca really seemed to love it.  We’d call for Mystery Bear and he would giggle the cutest little giggle.  It was awesome.

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Now our little Mystery Bear is five!  Can you believe it?  I started this blog back when he was still a bitty little thing.  Now we’ve got a five-year-old, and such a cutie at that.  It’s amazing how time flies.  I just wish it would go by a little slower.  It seems like it’s all getting away from us too fast.

IMG_20170626_121801_289Today our Mystery Bear went shopping for the first time.  I gave him some money to buy bread and butter, so we could make grilled cheese sandwiches.  It was originally $5, but it wasn’t enough, so I changed it out for $10.  He wanted to use his tooth fairy money to buy bread and butter, but I wouldn’t let him.  I told him that money was for something fun.  Better still, he got to keep the change.  You can almost see the dollars in his little paw, while he’s doing his “money pose.”

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And what did our Mystery Bear get for his birthday?  A pretty blue boom box!  Luca picked it out this weekend when I asked what he would like for his birthday.  He said he wanted a radio, but a blue one.  I looked on Amazon and found one.  The reviews were kind of mixed, but I figured for a five-year-old, it wasn’t too expensive, and it was the right color.  I got the service plan, so if it up and dies on us, we’re covered.  I figure if it lasts out the three year service plan, it was worth the money.  Luca played the radio for a good long while, dancing to the music in the living room.  It was a great little scene.  It’s a sign of just how grown up he is that he’s asking for a radio rather than toys for his birthday.  Such a big Little Bear, my little Mystery Bear.