Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Slacking Off

I know this page is called “Trailerpark Unschoolers”, though we haven’t really been unschoolers lately, not in the traditional sense.  We’ve been incorporating some “must do” book work into all of it.  It’s really where we’re at right now, and going forward we’ll see how things evolve.

However, recently we’ve been taking more of an unschooling approach.  Part of that is because Oz is working overnights, which makes it hard to sleep.  Me being up all night means I’m in no place to do traditional school in the mornings.  Instead the kids have been doing “TV school”, which is watching PBS shows and Magic School Bus.  Today was a lot of Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That.  It’s been kind of nice to not worry about getting through workbooks, so much so that it’s tempting never to go back to workbooks again, which would be extra nice.

Still, I’ve gotten to the point where, listening to my kids, I have to worry.  Beekee, for example, was asked by his friend why he homeschooled.  He said it’s because he wasn’t learning well enough in school.  He said he wasn’t smart enough to do his work.  I pointed out that it wasn’t whether or not he was smart enough, he was just bored.  Of course, his friend had to step in and say, “If you went to my school, you wouldn’t be bored.  My school keeps us very busy.”  I wanted to point out that busy doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be boring.  I also did end up pointing out that Beekee was learning tons of stuff at home that he wouldn’t be learning in school, and just tried to leave it at that.  It’s tough when their friends have a fancy private school education.  Something about private school seems to make people think it’s better.  Personally, I went to Catholic school.  I know it’s not necessarily any better, but that’s just me.

And Corde finally asked me if she could homeschool again today.  She’s in a voc/tech now, which she likes for the shop classes, but she really hates the academics.  She feels like she’s just learning the same stuff over and over again and would really like to move past it all.  Besides, she hears about all the fun stuff the boys get to do, and it would mean she could sleep in and wouldn’t have to go out when the weather is bad.  Honestly, I want her to stick it out until she’s done with her exploratory, that way she can decide if it’s really worth it to stick in school for a shop she loves.  I want her to at least give it a chance.  I also told her to ask her guidance counselor if there’s a way she could still do the shops, but do the academic portion of her schooling at home.  That may also be an option.

But we’ll see where it goes from here.  I honestly feel like I may not be the most engaging of unschooling parents.  I’ve kind of got the whole mentality of “let them be free!  I’m not guiding them to anything!”  I’ve seen in a local unschooling group that the idea is to teach kids through alternate means than books and curriculum.  Honestly, I feel like teaching them is the wrong way to look at it.  If they want to spend all their time watching Minecraft videos, so be it.  They eventually go on to do something else.  They’ve been playing a lot of Dungeon Defenders, which teaches them strategy.  We’ve been reading Harry Potter every night.  We haven’t done too much on the science end of things, but that’s something we’ve been observing a lot on our own.  The kids are noticing the weather changing, the effect it has on the trees and the animals.  They’re talking about the prospect of it snowing, and calculating how long until spring comes back around.  They’re observing things from life.  I just don’t feel like I should hold their hand and lead them where I think they should go.  To me, that doesn’t feel like unschooling.  It feels like an alternative method of teaching, changing the parameters of what “curriculum” means.  I know that’s probably not what people are getting at, but still.

Anyhow, it feels more like we’re getting back to our roots.  I’m going to start looking for some recipes we can bake together.  Even just using the same tired cookie recipe gets the kids in the kitchen measuring.  Corde, Beekee, and Sander all like to help with the cooking, though Luca is getting to the point of wanting to get in on it as well.  I really need to have them help me with the grocery budget, though that will probably be more the case when we start shopping together again.  Then there’s the time they spend knitting gifts for Christmas, which is a good life skill.  It’s only dishcloths but still!  It’s something!  Then there’s all the stuff they watch videos about (they’re way into Minecraft and animals).  They get a lot of education from everything.  I feel like leading them to it so that they can learn from it only takes away the joy they get from discovering things for themselves.  The best thing I can do for them is make stuff available for them, that way they have the opportunity to discover something new.  Strewing…  I’m really good at that!  And that’s what we’ve been doing a lot more of lately.

So, here’s to slacking, and here’s to getting back to where we started in this crazy mess.  Hopefully we can find our balance here soon.  And hopefully I can have the courage to stand up and say “This is how we’re going to roll!” without worrying about what people will think.  Chances are that’s going to happen right about the time we get a car and start going to co-ops in the area.

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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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Busy, Busy, But Totally Not…

It’s been busy around here lately, and by busy I mean in the “busy work” kind of way and not in the fun and crazy stuff way.  Okay, that’s not entirely true.  Some of the stuff we’ve been doing is pretty fun.  The kids have been watching a lot of Minecraft videos and the like.  They’ve been having fun with that.

Meanwhile I’ve been doing a lot of knitting.  I knit while they’re doing workbooks.  I knit while they’re watching television.  I’ve even been knitting to podcasts, my personal favorite being CraftLit, which does classic literature.  It’s been a great time for me to do something I love, plus the kids get a bit of freedom to do whatever it is they feel like doing without a hovering mom, not that I really hover, but you get the idea.

As for the podcasts, the kids have really enjoyed some of CraftLit’s premium content.  It’s all of $5 extra every month to get access to the premium books, which is kind of fun for us.  I’m listening to Three Men in a Boat (to Say Nothing of the Dog) with the kids.  They’re all getting a kick out of it.  With the younger three we’re listening to The Wizard of Oz.  I think when we’re done we may check out the other books in the series.  There’s a lot of them.  While it’s mostly something I do for me, it’s fun when I can get them involved, even if they do check out for a lot of the books.  They would probably like War of the Worlds, which I’m listening too now, but it’s a bit wordy.  I think I may read that to them later, or go back and listen again.

Well, can you tell I love books?  I’m really into classic literature.  There’s something about old stories that makes me happy.  I love that I have a format where I can share it, even if it’s not so much something we do together right now.  Still, I notice them popping in time and again when the story gets good.

So that’s what we’ve been up to, and will continue to be up to for the next few weeks at least.  We’ve got a WWII event coming up over Columbus Day Weekend.  After that there isn’t much.  We’re even planning to go simple with Halloween this year, and stuff the kids can wear in layers.  It was pretty cold last year.  Luca is going to be Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon.  Sander wants to be a pirate minion.  I’m not sure how that will work out, but it’s creative at least.  I think A.J. may go as Rainbow Dash again, or he might opt to go the pirate route too.  That one’s easy.  We have pirate stuff on hand.  Corde will probably do an assassin from Assassin’s Creed again, something quick and easy.  We’re trying to go cheap, aside from Luca’s costume.  Getting something for Toothless was kind of expensive, but as Luca’s missing his top front teeth, he’s kind of bonded with toothless, so it works out.  It’s definitely going to be a chaotic month.

As things stand we have no real plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.  I think we’re going to aim to keep Christmas cheap.  We’re probably going to do a board game for each of the kids, maybe an inexpensive video game, and some Pokemon cards so they can all play together.  The last thing we need is a bunch of stuff cluttering up our house.  We need to simplify as is, so it’s better to have a couple things, but have them things the kids really want.  I’m thinking next year I’m going to start sooner and knit them each something for Christmas.  If I’m feeling really ambitious I may go for sweaters, but I think I’ll probably be practical and go with hats and mittens or fingerless gloves.

Yeah, it’s been a long day.  We’ve had a lot of cleaning to get done.  Every once in a while we go through huge binge cleanings where we go behind and inside of pretty much everything to get the house looking as good as it can.  This happened to be one of those days.  I’m tired, and so are the kids.  I guess that’s the reason I’m going on and on like this.  Well, I’d better get these kids settled down for quiet time.  We’re all in need of it!


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Upcoming Weekend Fun

It’s been a rather “unschooling” week around here.  We haven’t done much of the actual work we’ve decided to do, just so that it looks like we’re meeting standards.  Now that I’ve put some thought into it, I’ve realized that it’s important for Corde and Beekee (for reasons having to do with their biological father), so it’s worth making sure we toe that line for now at least.

This weekend we’ve got an incredible event coming up.  We’re going to explore a Civil War fort with my dad and my sister.  This is going to be extra fun because the kids will go on their first ever boat ride on the ferry out to the island.  They’re really looking forward to that.

I suppose (if we were that kind of family) I could have prepared them for this by talking about the Civil War and getting their heads set in the history before they showed up.  That’s just not who we are.  I think it’ll be far more fun to jump on in and explore, then worry about the history after the fact.  “Hey, this is cool!  I wonder why they did that…  Let’s find out.”

Hopefully we should have some good pictures from the weekend trip.  It’s going to be quite the adventure, by train, by ferry, and on foot.  It’s somewhere I went as a kid and I think the kids will really love it.  It’s going to be a great time!

 


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Working on Christmas Presents Already

Since the kids are learning how to knit they decided they would make dish cloths for gifts this year. We probably won’t do many, the important ones being my aunt and uncle and my grandmother, but it’s something they can do as gifts.

Over the weekend we went to the craft store to pick out yarn to make gifts with. They had a selection of colors in cheap cotton. I had no idea they had so many options. To be fair, I order most of my yarn online these days and I don’t do dish cloth cotton. Still, the kids had fun picking out colors. Luca picked a tie dyed kind of blue and rainbow. Sander chose a Christmas blend and a variegated green. Beekee wanted orange and a red, white, and blue blend. Corde got three, a tie dyed kind of pink, a similar purple, and a plain baby blue. I got Luca a second set of needles as his are tied up with a scarf, and off we went to check out.

The kids got started with their dish cloths. They had fun getting started. Somehow Beekee keeps adding stitches. It’s not going to be perfect, but for a first go it’s not bad. He’s getting the idea, and that’s what counts.

Sander gets a lot more help, but he’s still doing well. He works through his rows pretty quickly. He wants to do four rows every day. I’m pretty happy to work at that rate with him. His dish cloth is looking good.

Luca just started today and got two rows in. He’s making slow progress, but I expected that. I don’t know if he’ll get more than one done before Christmas. Still, he’ll be pretty happy to give even one away.

It’s early, but they’re getting started in plenty of time to get something done by Christmas. They’re learning the valuable lesson of starting early to get things done in time. Now I just need to get my own holiday knitting started or I’ll never be done in time!


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Cuddled Up to Sleep

Things have been good since we decided to nix bedtime. The kids do get cranky and need naps from time to time, but it’s gone pretty well. I count this an experiment well worth trying.

The tricky part has been finding a way to get Luca to sleep. If left to his own devices he would be up watching movies all night. It’s difficult because he still sleeps with me and the television keeps me up.

However, I have found a solution to this problem. Luca likes to cuddle. We spend time after the television goes off all cuddled up. Some nights we talk. Tonight Luca just wanted to cuddle to sleep. I’ve got him laying on my arm as I type this into my phone.

You know what? This is what life should be about. Life is too short for reading lessons and curriculum. What it really needs to be about is time together as a family.

I can’t say where the decisions I make today will lead the kids and I, but we will certainly spend more time on the things that matter.

And that’s only going to keep expanding. Luca found the other two tablets today so Sander and Beekee can watch movies while settling in to bed. We just need to get them headphones and they can listen without bothering each other if one wants to sleep.

Tomorrow will bring new changes in our lives, but tonight is simple. I just need to curl up on the bed with Luca and the dog. What better way is there to sleep?


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Pokemon Go and Science

About two weeks ago Oz got Corde and I into Pokemon Go. We decided it would be a thing we could do as a family. At the very least it would get us out and walking. There’s definitely something to be said about that. We need more reason to get out.

However, this has come with some unexpected bonuses. For example, we went on a raid for a legendary Pokemon. On our way there we came across a ladybug. The kids saw it on the wall they were climbing on. There were all these little bugs around it that we concluded were aphids. The ladybug hunted down these tiny bugs and we sat and watched it eat two. I had never seen a ladybug eat before.

Today while on errands we decided to stop in a park for yet another raid. The kids watched some geese for a while. Then, right by the bench we were sitting at, we found a blue jay feather. The kids learned about how feathers can be smoothed out when they get all pulled apart. The kids thought that was pretty cool.

We spent the week doing blah book work (something I hope to cut back on), but this was a fun way to inject science into daily life. We’ve been given more opportunities thanks to Pokemon Go, something I swore I would never get into, but now I’m glad we have. It’s been fun and educational!