Trailer Park Unschoolers

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

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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.

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The Things My Kids Don’t Know

We’ve been following through with Story of the World, and the kids discovered that Anansi is just a really cool character.  They absolutely loved the story of Anansi.  So what does this have me doing?  As a good mother I go to the library website and request every story known to man with Anansi…because I’m that mom…

It got me thinking about something I hadn’t even realized I’ve never done with the kids.  We’ve never read Aesop’s fables.  We’ve also never done Just So Stories.  These were so much of a factor in my own life that I can’t believe we haven’t done anything with them.  They are living proof that (to some degree) I am a failure as a mom.  How can I neglect these things that were such a part of my own childhood?

I’ve already realized that my kids were growing up in a weird little bubble when I realized my kids don’t know how to sing Twinkle, Twinkle or The Wheels on the Bus.  I’d never taught them to sing Do Your Ears Hang Low.  We never sang any of the classic kids songs.  For that matter, we rarely sing as a family.  The only one we regularly do is On Top of Spaghetti, which Luca insists on me singing at least fifty times over when we’re walking to or from jujitsu.  I really need to brush up on some other fun songs because that one’s getting kind of old.  (Of course, it might help if I actually remembered the other three versus, so that’s a thing.  Luca would probably find that MUCH funnier.)

But my kids really do seem to live in a bubble where they don’t know the traditional stuff kids know at their age.  I mean, how many kids Sander and Luca’s age are studying history?  I find it not at all a problem that they don’t know how to sing those childhood songs every other kid seems to know.

And as Sander’s bus drives by the house, I’m reminded again why I’m so glad he’s home.  I don’t have to worry about him getting off the bus at 4pm, then still having homework to do, and being too tired to do it.  Jujitsu wouldn’t even begin to be an option if he was in traditional school.  He wouldn’t be home for more than an hour and a half before I had to bustle him back out the door!

I digress…what was the point I was making?  Oh, yes, that my kids don’t know the stuff I knew when I was their age.  I guess that makes me feel that my kids are growing up with a weird existence.  I’m not raising them on a healthy diet of children’s songs and things like that.  The kids hardly watch television (aside from Luca who binges like nothing else), and we don’t listen to the radio tons, so they don’t get a whole lot of that poured on them.  They live in this weird state of reality that was so much different than my life growing up.

Yet I can’t help but feel their lives are somehow lacking because these really cool things haven’t been explored by them.  They haven’t learned about Aesop’s Fables or read the Just So Stories.  Now they’re being introduced to Anansi, which is the closest they’ve come to any of that.  While those stories are really cool, we’re just now getting to them, and those were the only ones.  We need to incorporate more of that into our learning time, I think.  The kids would probably dig that kind of stuff.

At the same time, the things my kids have been learning are pretty awesome.  They’ve gotten to watch a garden grow last year.  They’ll be seeing it again this year.  We’re going to be spending time in nature as soon as the weather gets warm, and we’re going to start making note of the things that indicate the change of seasons once Daylight Savings hits and we’ll still have light when we go to jujitsu.  We’re delving into a lot of history, which is great for the kids and they’re really digging into it.  These are things I thought were pretty cool when I was a kid and it’s great to see they’re enjoying it as much as I do.  They’re really getting to experience some awesome things that way.

It isn’t too late to introduce the kids to things I feel are missing in their lives.  Aesop’s Fables will continue to be around.  I’m sure I can find a free ebook with them on Kindle.  The Just So Stories can be gotten from the library, I’m sure.  Since we’re homeschooling there are far more options to bring them up as a part of our homeschooling activities, and I no longer have to worry about Sander getting off the bus at 4 and not being interested in doing anymore school related anything after that.

Now we’ve got this incredible opportunity to fix what I feel like is a major failing in raising my kids (at least the younger three).  I still have time to get them knowledgeable about the things they don’t know, things that I’ve come to understand most kids don’t know anymore.  It’s a chance to open up a world to them that they’d never even known to consider before.  I have a feeling we’re in for a really great experience.


A Quiet Day With Just Two

There’s just two today, Corde and Luca.  Beekee and Sander are out for the day, which leaves a pretty quiet house.  It’s amazing how quiet things get when there’s just Corde and Luca at home.  I forget how loud Sander and Beekee can be.

I haven’t had this kind of quiet during the day since the kids were in school, and you know what?  I don’t miss it.  I’m glad to have the kids home, as noisy and chaotic as it can be.  I love the time together with the kids.  We spend so much more time together now.

Still, it’s nice to have a day of peace and quiet every once in a while.  The only sounds are Corde’s reactions as she watches Liv and Maddie with Luca.  The two of them like watching television together.  It’s one of the few times they actually spend together anymore, since Corde is too grown up to want to spend time with a preschooler.

It’s funny, the two of them used to be so close when Luca was a baby.  Corde would sneak into my room every morning and make off with Luca.  The two would play all morning long, best buddies.  I miss those days.  I wish I could have them back, but time flies so quickly.  They’ve flown away so quickly.

There’s likely no more baby days in my future.  Instead I watch my kids grow and change.  I see new moments, like Corde and Luca watching television together, or all the kids quietly sitting on the floor, coloring and drawing.  Instead of changing diapers I’m teaching Luca to write.  Instead of Corde carrying off a little baby, she’s sitting Luca on her lap to watch a show together, or just to cuddle together in my chair.  She loves to pick out clothes for Luca at the store, especially the frilliest tutus.  It’s a different dynamic with them, and it’s fun to watch them grow together, as much as I miss the days when they were small.

Time is a funny thing.  Days like today really highlight what time does to my family.  They’re all growing up so fast.  Corde goes into high school next year.  Beekee is one year away from being old enough for middle school.  Sander is already in first grade, and Luca will be old enough for kindergarten next year.  Where has the time gone, and what happened to my little kids?

I didn’t intend this post to be nostalgic at all.  It somehow just happened.  That’s how life is, isn’t it?  It just kind of happens, ending up with funny moments, sweet ones, and even the infuriating or annoying.  And I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.  In a few short years my oldest is going to be graduating high school, or at least done with it on a homeschool level, and fast on her way to moving on with her life.  It’s scary to think about, how close it all seems.

But for now I have the moments, Corde sitting in the chair with Luca, giggling over a television show.  I have Luca, content to sit with big sister.  They’re not grown yet.  I’ve still got time for these wonderful moments.


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!


Web of Life and Predator Vs. Prey

First of all, I got the idea and video for this post from Cozi Globe’s post on Food Webs.  You should totally go check out the blog.  One of the goals is to find free resources for homeshoolers.  It looks like a newer blog, so if you haven’t stumbled upon it yet, you may want to pop over there and check it out.

And with that, on to the content…


This video happened to be on the Cozi Globe blog today.  I shared it with Sander and A.J.  Sander was suitably bored by the repetition of the information, but I’m not surprised.  He doesn’t seem to care too much about the food chain.  However A.J. seemed pretty interested.  It’s a good video and really hits home the idea that each animal on the food chain only gets 10% of the energy consumed by the level before it.  It’s not a bad little clip, and I’m glad it came across my, well, phone at the time we watched it.  I thought it was so good that I tracked it down on my computer to add it here.

The video got me thinking about a game we used to play when I was in Girl Scouts.  It was called Predator and Prey.  I looked for the rules online, but I wasn’t able to find it.  The best I found was this similar version, called Predator and Prey.  The way we did it was a little different, but the idea was pretty much the same.


We ran the game for a large group in at a hundred acre Girl Scout camp.  It could easily be run in a smaller group if you adjust the numbers.  I can see it work in groups as small as maybe 30.  Being out in the woods with a group of kids necessitated working in groups, but you may find your area permits kids to work on the individual level instead.

What do you need?  Each kid needs a bandanna.  You need five stations for water and five for food, which can be as simple as a folder with a lined sheet and a pencil.  You could also put counters or beads instead of a paper that the kids collect at each station.  I would also recommend some kind of life tokens or counters, as in the version in the link.

Playing is simple.  Each kid is labeled as either a Mouse (bandanna on the leg), Snake (bandanna on the arm), or Hawk (bandanna on the head).  I like the idea from the page about giving Mice 10 life tokens in one color and Snakes 5 in another.  (Hawks shouldn’t need any unless you play by the rules from the link.)  For a group of 30 I recommend 3 Hawks, 7 Snakes, and 20 Mice.  You could probably even bring that down.  It might get tricky, but I could also see you doing 1 Hawk, 4 Snakes, and 10 mice, giving you a group as small as 15, which could work if you had a small enough operating area.

Each group needs to find the required number of resources.  That means writing their name on each sheet of resources.  Mice need all the food and all the water.  Snakes need at least 3 food and all the water (though you can say more food stations reduces the need to hunt).  Hawks only need all the water.  Writing their name on the sheet not only proves they found it, but also represents the time they take eating their food.

For those who hunt, hunting is simple.  Tag your prey animal and get a life token.  The time taken to exchange the token represents time it takes to eat the prey.  Snakes need to get 4 life tokens each.  Hawks need to get 10 life tokens each.  That represents eating enough food to survive.  Once a prey animal loses all the tokens of it’s color, they’re out.

Now that everyone knows the rules, you let the kids go.  The first group to go out is the Mice.  This gives them a bit of a head start to hide and get to their stations.  Ten minutes later the Snakes go out.  Ten more minutes later you send the Hawks.

We had quite a big expanse of space, so we would often play for five or six hours, allowing all the groups enough time to find the stations they need.  You might find you have better luck for your space in an hour or two.

At the end of the time period you call everyone together (a whistle might help here).  Bring the group together along with the station papers.  (Or have the kids pull out their collections from each food and water spot.)  For everyone who has lives left, check to see if they got all their required stations.  If they’re a predator, find out if they got enough life tokens from prey.  That will tell you who lived.  Anyone who survived wins.

So, thanks for stopping by and reading.  I hope this inspires someone to get out with their group and give Predator and Prey a try.  It’s a fun little game and I think you’d like it.  The version in the link adds a bit more diversity, but I think you’d need a bigger group to do it (from their count a group at least 50).  If you try it, let me know!  I’d love to hear what other people think of the game!


This Feels Like A Parenting Fail

For those of you who don’t know, I’m big on the whole “unconditional parenting” or “gentle parenting” thing.  The idea of not forcing or coercing your children to do things has always appealed to me.  It’s a very “unschool” way of parenting too, so it’s only logical that I would think in that kind of way.

Well, today I realized I fail at that to some degree.  For example, when I know Luca is hyper and it’s only a short while before we hit meltdown lane, I insist Luca lies down quietly for fifteen minutes.  Usually this is met with a major “I don’t wanna take a nap!” meltdown, so we wait until Luca is finally quiet, possibly with some compromises on where or with what Luca will lay down.  Then within that fifteen minutes, never fail, Luca is asleep.

Now, I know coercing my child into taking a nap isn’t exactly the best thing I can do, but the kid’s got to sleep.  When it’s facing a meltdown now over the need to take a nap, or multiple meltdowns later because of a tired, cranky kid, I’ll take the meltdown now.  When Luca is getting crazy hyper and out of control, that usually results in boundaries not being respected and sometimes people getting hurt.  At the very least it leaves the house being destroyed and me having to clean up in the wake of hurricane Luca.

Yet I know this is teaching Luca, and all my kids, for that matter, a vital life skill, how to recognize when you’re tired and need to take a moment to rest.  Sander employs this often.  He gets cranky and starts crying at everything.  Then the next thing you know he’s saying, “Mom, where’s Minket?  I want to take a nap.”  Moments later he’s curled up with his blanket, Minket, and a pillow, asleep on my living room floor.

This has also resulted in other situations where requirements have to be made.  For example, bed time.  Part of that is out of courtesy to our downstairs neighbor.  She’s complained to us numerous times about the kids being up after 9:30pm when she’s trying to get to sleep.  The other reason is the neighbors waking the kids up at 6am with their noise.  Because the kids get up so early in the morning, we need to make sure they get to bed earlier so they get a decent amount of sleep.  After all, there’s nothing I can do about the downstairs neighbor, nor the neighbor next door that likes to yell at her kids from the crack of dawn until they leave for school.  (And this is where I REALLY miss the trailer park.  The kids had virtually no bedtime then.)

As if bed time and naps for Luca wasn’t enough, I’ve also found myself employing the requirement of chores.  I could do all of it myself, but it’s often exhausting trying to keep after all of them, manage disputes, help them learn, and everything else I do throughout the day.  Having some help with the dishes or the trash may not seem like much, but it helps a good deal.  Corde is really the only one resistant to helping around the house.  Sander rebels when I ask him to clean up his toys or his room.  That aside, the kids are really good about helping to keep after the house.  I almost wouldn’t have to require it at all, but instead just ask the kids to help out.  The only one that’s really required is Corde, and that’s because she wouldn’t do anything but watch anime on her iPod anyway.

Still, I feel like this is a fail.  So many other families manage to just get by on nothing but respect for themselves and others.  Am I doing it wrong?  There’s got to be a way.

But when I think about it, I have to remind myself that my family isn’t like all families.  I’ve got a four year old that sees nap time as missing out on something good that may happen during a nap.  I’ve got a teenager that would avoid doing anything that could be considered “work”.  I’ve also got stater requirements to keep up with for homeschooling, which means we’ve got to include stuff I’d really rather avoid having to do, like curriculum (though the younger three seem to have no problems with doing it.)

This is when I need to remind myself that this isn’t a parenting fail.  My family’s needs are different than other families.  Our challenges are different.  Just on the fact that we’ve got neighbors in such close proximity alters the reality we face in our own home.  Hopefully that will change soon enough.  We’re exploring the option of moving back down south where we can afford to have our own place without sharing a wall with our neighbors, but that’s not going to happen this year, or even next year.  It’s going to take time.  Until then, we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

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Week Two of Jujitsu

It’s another week down for the kids at jujitsu.  They’re making such incredible progress, all of them.  I’m really proud of the way they’ve taken to it.  It’s still challenging, but they’re getting there.


Sander going up against the new kid in class

I’ve learned quite a bit about the kids through how they handle the classes.  For example, Sander is a total clown.  I knew that before, but I think it’s more obvious now.  He’s got a hard time taking it seriously.  He has a tendency to get the other kid down, then give up.


Luca and Sander learning the “Americana”

But Sander and Luca both do pretty well learning the new techniques when they get into it.  They’ve been working on the same move for two weeks and they’re really starting to get it down.  Sander still needs a little more direction with it, but Luca flies through the move they’ve been working on like it’s old habit by now.  They’re really learning and it shows.


A.J. set to work on a take-down

A.J. is learning pretty quickly as well, but he’s a lot more timid.  He doesn’t know how to throw his weight around, and it doesn’t help that he’s one of the smaller kids in his class.  He giggles when he feels like he can’t do something instead of getting frustrated, but he’s slowly starting to get into the idea of working hard.  He’s so pleased with himself when he finally gets the moves right, and that means a lot.  Coming from a kid that isn’t a fan of people in his personal space, and isn’t such a fan of being in other people’s personal space, I think he’s doing pretty well.


I’m not sure how well that will show up (my blog is doing something weird on my end) but that’s A.J. working on the technique they’ve been working on in class.  As you can see, it’s challenging for him, but that’s good.  It gives him something to work towards.  He’ll get it, even if it takes him a while.


Luca toppling another student, trying to get the upper hand

However the real surprise in all of this is Luca.  Luca has everyone amazed with the grit and determination displayed.  The other kid Luca was sparring with tends to tap out the moment the other kid gets the best of him, where Luca, even though the  situation was pretty grim looking, still pushed through and managed to hold out fairly well against the other kid.  Luca is totally beast in that class.  I think Luca could really go far, if we can get the focus where it needs to be.


Luca shuffling through the snow

All of this was topped with a nice, quite walk home in the snow.  Luca loves the snow.  Normally we have to stop a million times so that Luca can touch the snow, but we forgot mittens today so Luca was happy to just kick it around.  It was quite fun for Luca.


Ducks in a row, walking in the snow

They all really had a good time in the snow.  Oz kept pushing A.J. and Sander in snow banks.  Yes, it sounds mean, but they thought it was particularly funny.  Oz told Sander he was going to do it and Sander told him to, so he did.  Next thing you know they were all giggling about it.  They got home and were covered in snow.  It really made the end of the day, and made for a really fun trip.

For the fact that it was all of 12 degrees on our walk home, it didn’t feel that bad at all.  I didn’t even have gloves on, and the kids hands never got cold.  Normally they shove their hands deep into their pockets to keep warm.  We were originally thinking we might just stay in because of the snow and the cold, but it really wasn’t that bad at all.  I’m glad we got to go out.  It was a nice way to cap off week two of jujitsu!