Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


I’m Not Doing School Today

That’s how the day started. I was so not motivated. I pulled the blanket back over my head, determined to do nothing, even if it meant sending the kids back to the public school system. I would not do school today, or perhaps ever again.

That’s how the day started…

The next revision of this plan involved computer school and nothing else. We were going to do that since we’re paying for it, and that’s about it. We didn’t need to do anything else, right?

What is the reality? Luca has done everything today except computer time. Sander finished his computer time. Beekee is through his math and is on to his other subjects. We’re cooking through the work today, even though I said we wouldn’t. All we haven’t tackled is history, something we’re going to be skipping out on some because there’s a good on Story of the World so it can’t be renewed. We were two thirds of the way through it anyway. We may end up buying it in the long run, but we may just start with Volume 2. We’ll lose some content, but I’m not so worried about that. Most kids their age don’t even cover history in school. If we skip over the rest of Greece and Rome It’s no big deal.

This is how it’s gone the past week too. I get up, determined to do nothing, then we always end up doing more than I planned. Last week we did have two cheat days, one for my birthday and the other for Beekee’s. This week we have no excuses, and April Vacation starts in two weeks, so we’ll probably take the week off since Corde will be home. Of course, I say that now, but it will come time for break and they’ll all be working through the week.

I really don’t do well at taking days off. We end up working through all of the stuff anyway. It’s right up there with taking time off of jujitsu or missing appointments. Even if I feel like I’m dying I still get off my butt and go. It’s about commitment, and I think I’m teaching my kids a valuable lesson about commitment and dedication. It’s good that they see I have trouble getting motivated, but I still manage to get things done.

So maybe I start the day thinking we should take a day off, but at least I still get stuff done. It doesn’t make for much unschooling, but we’ll get there. For now I think just getting through stuff to keep the state happy makes me feel more secure about what we’re doing. Until I’m feeling more confident, I guess we just don’t have many days without school.

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The Last Day of Future Leaders Program

It’s finally here, the last day of the Future Leaders Program. I think Beekee is a little relieved. He didn’t even want to go today. I think the only reason he agreed was knowing it would be the last day. It’s been tough on him having so much commitment. I have to wonder how he ever made it in school. He must have been so burnt out all the time.

In honor of his last day of his program we did almost no homeschooling today. We really got nothing done. I half watched Tree House Builders while Luca napped on my lap and that was about as educational as we got. That and Luca did one more row of knitting. Beyond that we’ve been all on the unschooling train.

So while we wait for the last class to end, Luca and Sander are playing with the iPads the library has. Usually they’re pretty hopping places, but today they can both play with no one waiting. It’s good for them to have a chance to play, especially for Luca, who never gets a chance to play on them.

Even Nina is having a chill day. She’s normally swarmed with children. Today She’s tucked up under my chair and out of the way. She’s napping while the kids play. Every once in a while a grumble let’s me know she’s still with us.

All of this is happening on a reasonably nice spring day. The walk wasn’t too bad, which is a nice change from the earlier days of the program. Even so, rumor has it we should be getting snow this weekend. We are not excited. At least warmer days have been the trend lately and it shouldn’t be long before we can sign up for these programs knowing it will be good weather to walk there and back. Hopefully that will motivate us.


So Much for Spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I Would Like A Voice, Please

Learning has been interesting this week. Last week I went to a concert and didn’t lose my voice. This week, out of the blue, I have no voice. Doesn’t that figure? It’s made it an interesting week of homeschooling.

However, not having a voice allowed me to make some interesting observations. For example, I really don’t like Primary Phonics. Doing it right requires an obnoxious amount of talking, and I feel Sander isn’t getting as much out of it if I just say, “There are the workbooks pages. Have at.” It feels like I should be putting in the effort to read through the lessons. I’ll be honest, this is why I haven’t put more effort into doing Primary Phonics with Luca. I think Explode the Code does the same basic thing, but better. The only advantage to Primary Phonics is the basic readers that really make it easy for Sander to build some confidence with reading. I prefer the phonics box sets for that kind of stuff though. To be honest, Primary Phonics seems like a dated system of learning phonics. Will I still use it? Yes, if for no other reason than feeling guilty that money was spent on it for both Sander and Luca, but I much prefer Explode the Code. It’s a lot more fun for both Sander and Luca.

I’ve also realized that having a curriculum doesn’t suit me so much. We really are unschoolers at heart. I hate sticking to the curriculum and the workbooks. I feel like I’m spending my whole day working through books, even though we really don’t spend that long. It’s not my favorite thing. We’re it up to me we would do Explode the Code and Math U See and call it a day after that.

It’s also struck me how much time I spend reading to the kids every day. Our homeschool days have been really short without having reading as a component. We cruise through our daily workbook time without it. It feels like our last few days have been severely lacking. We usually read so much!

And it’s not just the reading we’ve been missing out on, but the discussions as well. We generally spend a lot of time talking about what we’ve been learning or doing. We haven’t been able to do that because my voice (when it’s there) sounds like talking through gravel. As a result, we haven’t been able to do much of that either. It’s been tough losing that whole part of it. I never realized how much talking I do as a part of homeschooling these days!

As for what you missed in the last six days I wasn’t able to pop on the computer (which I’m now posting from my phone, so I’m still not on the computer…) there’s been some good moments. I think I need to share some pictures to show what kind of week it’s been.

This was when Luca decided to serenade me with Beekee’s guitar. It was super cute. The song was called “I love mommy!” Can I just tell you how that made me feel? Luca is awesome like that.

We took last week off of jujitsu, and we’re taking today off as well due to Luca’s dental consultation. (Poor kid needs caps on a bunch of teeth, so that’s a whole ordeal…) We did, however, go on Monday. The kids had a blast on the walk and they loved getting out in the warm weather. If only it was warm like that today!

Sander had crazy spiky hair after his shower. He looks so much more like himself since we hacked off his crazy mop of hair. He wants to keep it that short and spike it up every time he showers. He thinks it’s the most fun part of having short hair.

And then I got this. It’s perhaps the best picture I’ve taken of Beekee in a long time. He’s hard to get a picture of at the best of times. This one just worked out well. He was in the middle of doing his math work for the day. Homeschooling seems to suit him. He still gets easily distracted, but we still get through the content, and that’s what matters, right? It’s working out for us.

Then this happened to my living room. Luca had one tent from last Christmas and got another one this Christmas with a tunnel. This makes for an epic fortress in my living room. Thankfully, they fold up flat so I can put them away when not in use. That means I get my living room back most of the time, aside from when Luca decides to set up the tunnel towers again. I need a bigger living room. That’s what it comes down to.

Today Luca had the consultation for the scary amount of dental work (surgery! Yikes!) I’m glad Oz is going to be taking Luca in for that. Luca needs caps on the upper front teeth and an extraction. I don’t know why either. Luca’s teeth have been treated the same as the rest of the kids. We would have had it seen to earlier but there was that whole moving around thing a couple years ago and once we were settled it was already too late. So that being said, we’re doing the best we can with a bad situation. (Also, this is why I think even radical unschoolers should encourage their kids to brush their teeth!)

Luca came home with an apple fritters as a special treat for being good at the dentist. Luca called it an “apple critter.” It was super cute. That made my day!

So now you’re caught up with us. Now I’m off to watch Jurassic World with the kids. It’s their first Jurassic Park movie. This should be interesting


KEVA Plank Build Day

The library has such cool events.  The latest was the KEVA plank build day.  The kids built some awesome towers with another kid there.  Even Oz had fun with the planks, possibly more than the kids did.  I almost wish we had the time and money to pick some up.  They were really cool to build with.

Luca, on the other hand, didn’t have much interest in building.  Instead the library computers were where it’s at.  Luca seems to always want to be on the computers at every chance possible.  On top of the library computers, Sander and A.J. both spent some time on the tablets they have at the library.  They were playing Bad Piggies.  The tablet A.J. was using was in a fixed sideways position, so it didn’t work that well, but he still had fun.

This is why I love the local library.  It may not have as much space in the craft room as other libraries have, and it may not hold a ton of events, but the kids always have fun when they go.  They even made a few friends there.  I’m really glad we went today, especially since the weather was so nice.  I can’t believe it was 50 out there!  It was a nice day to get out and it was a great day for going to the library!


Mesopotamia, It Meas “The Land Between Rivers”

That’s what I heard this morning when I was in a half-awake daze.  “My land is called Mesopotamia.  It means ‘the land between rivers.’ So there are rivers around my land.”

It seems the work we’ve done with Mesopotamia is sinking in.  A.J. doesn’t exactly remember all the relevant facts, but he remembers enough to get by.  Chances are he’s not going to need that information again until college.  No one really has much need for ancient history anyways, but it’s good to see it’s sticking with him.

I think we’re slowly going to start introducing history as a logical progression through time.  Being unschoolers, I’m not really going to push it or anything, more just offer it as an option for them to learn.  If it sticks, great.  If it doesn’t, no real loss there.  If they go to college some of the stuff they’ll pick up will be useful, but if they don’t plan to go to college, there’s no real need to learn it.  It just becomes little nifty facts you can toss out without having much relevance to anything important.

I know, I know, we need to learn history or we’re doomed to repeat it.  Still, I don’t know what learning about the hanging gardens really does for a person, nor do I get why it’s important to know Hammurabi made the first code of laws.  I find that information interesting, but only because I’ve spent so much time playing Civilization.  Otherwise it just feels like filling my head with useless information.  Most of it’s things I’d completely forgotten since I was in school, given I don’t exactly have casual discussions about what Ancient Mesopotamia was like.  It’s far more likely to discuss Greece or Rome.

Still, it’s good to know some of this is sinking in.  It’s becoming a part of play, which means the younger two will pick up on it over time.  If it becomes something they talk about, or play about, that will help them all retain the information far better than any drilling on facts ever could.

And to me, this is still unschooling.  “Here’s some information.  Learn it if you like it.  Forget it if it’s not useful or important.  Go into it further if you find it interesting.”  That’s basically the concept of strewing, the only difference is I have to present the data because the kids aren’t strong enough readers to do it themselves.  This is what it’s supposed to be about.  The kids are learning because they think it’s cool.

Just as I suspected, Luca and Sander haven’t wanted to stick around for most of the reading on Mesopotamia.  Most of the books out there read like text books and are dry and boring.  Even the DK Eyewitness books I was so recommended to check out read more like a text book.  The only one Sander and Luca have really been into is You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Sumerian Slave.  I put a bunch more of those books on hold at the library so we can read them together.  I figure if the kids enjoy them, then why not?

But history is a subject that you have to have a passion for.  If you don’t love it, you’re not going to enjoy learning about it.  I can’t force my kids to love history, but I can give them plenty of exposure and opportunities to learn.  I’m not going to insist they know certain things.  I’m not about to test them on the information.  I just want them to have a chance to learn.  We’ll see where it goes from there.

Finally, after many people recommending it, we’re picking up Story of the World Vol. 1 from the library today.  We’re going to check it out and see if it’s something the kids are even interested in.  It’s geared towards classical homeschooling, but I think it can be adapted easily enough for any setting.  Of course, we’ll know better once I’ve got the book in my hands and can see how it plays out.  Hopefully it’s not too dry and textbook-like.  I’ll be sure to check in with what the kids think of it before long.


Llama, Llama in Pajama

Sometimes the things I hear really make me scratch my head.  For example, waking up to the Legend of Zelda theme.  In case you don’t know it, here’s an awesome video by Lindsey Sterling with a whole medley of Legend of Zelda songs.  We particularly love her in this house, especially for her nerd video gaming stuff.

Then there was the thing about llamas, hence the name of the post.  Sander was saying, “Llama, llama, pajama!”  I have no idea what brought that on aside from me talking about alpacas.  The kids were asking what the difference was, so I told them the only real difference I knew is that alpacas were smaller and generally thought to be nicer.

This whole thing led to a discussion about llamas and alpacas.  (I think this may warrant more books from the library, but not until we return some of them.)  The kids have decided we need to raise alpacas.  I’m okay with this.  I’m a knitter and hope to some day be a spinner, so having alpaca fleece (which makes my favorite kind of yarn) on hand will not be a problem for me.  I think we may need to consider buying some land so we can have alpacas and rabbits for Corde.

We’ve been doing a lot of reading in the house so far.  I pulled out some of the DK Eyewitness books we got from the library and told the kids to page through them this morning while I write this (and wait for my headache to dissolve) which has kept them occupied quite well.  Beekee has been learning about Mesopotamia.  Right now Sander is looking at a book on ancient China.  Luca pulled out a book on frogs that I’d gotten for Sander (who absolutely loves frogs).  I guess we’re really making good use of those library books.  It’s a good thing I got so many then.

Undoubtedly I’ll be writing about Mesopotamia soon.  It’s currently Beekee’s favorite subject.  (Oh, yeah, in case you didn’t get the memo, A.J. and Beekee are the same person.)  He learned about it with Time 4 Learning and has been interested ever since.  He’s got a section on ancient civilizations, so we’re going to go through all of them one after the other.  It can’t hurt to spend a good long time studying them.  I guess it ties back to our time with classical homeschooling (the exact antithesis of unschooling).  I kind of want to take us through history from beginning to modern.  We’ll see how that goes.  For now, I should let Sander hop on the computer and get some work done.