Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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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!


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Doctor Who

It’s been a while since we’ve watched Doctor Who (at least 2 years), so we decided to start it again from the beginning.  This has been a family thing that we’ve always done together, so it’s been fun catching up again, especially since the kids haven’t seen all the way through Matt Smith yet, and none of us have seen the latest Doctor (though all that’s about to change again).  Needless to say, we’re a little behind.

So what does this have to do with unschooling/homeschooling?  I could just be writing about it because it’s something my family has done together, so there’s that, but really?  I think that this definitely has to do with unschooling.

Think about it, Doctor Who has some really creative story lines.  It throws in a little bit of real science along with the science fiction.  There’s an introduction to all kinds of periods in history, blended with fictional ideas about the future and aliens.  Then there’s all the story telling and the blending of a theme throughout each Doctor’s reign.  Each one has their own story arc, which is almost reset at the beginning of each new Doctor.  It’s got some great ideas for building stories upon.

But in reality, it’s all a good bit of fun.  It’s time we can kick back and relax while still engaging as a family.  It influences what the kids play and what we talk about.  It’s become a part of our family identity, something I think makes us all the better for having in our lives.  We’re a part of a culture of “Whovians” and the kids are getting to grow up as a part of that culture.  It’s really kind of cool how it’s helped shape their identities too.

And then there’s the social, interpersonal thing.  There are so many other Whovians out there.  It gives them an identity that they share with countless other people across the whole world, even if it seems centralized to Great Britain, USA, and Canada.  It can be a conversation starter and a way into like-minded communities.  It’s a great way to meet other people.  I mean, there’s no reason the kids should ever go without being connected to other people that share their interests, or at least one of them.  Whatever else they do in life they will always have that.  It only grows as they get into other fandoms, the biggest one I can think of being Harry Potter.  It’s an identity, something I didn’t have much of when I was their age beyond “Girl Scout” and maybe “horseback rider.”

It’s silly to think a television show has so much influence on how kids grow and change, but it’s definitely made an impact, especially for Corde, who identifies with fans of Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and the countless animes out there.  She’s starting to feel like she’s got a place (or at least a collective) that she can call home.  It gives her an identity in the world, and if you ask me (I know, you didn’t) it’s a pretty cool one because she can not only identify with the greater world, but also relates to her family, the whole family, not just her parents.

As the kids get older they’ll undoubtedly watch more of Doctor Who, and will definitely have the opportunity to get in on marathons of the older episodes.  They’ll grow up with the same immersion to Doctor Who as Corde really got into, and it might even give them a identity, a connection, like it did for Corde.  As they get older they’ll find more kids that have the same interest, which is harder for them right now because some of the episodes are a little scary for kids even Beekee’s age.  It will give them something to hold on to.

So it may not seem like much, but it’s a whole world for our family, and something we can truly bond over.  And Doctor Who isn’t the only one.  We’ve watched some of the superhero shows with the kids (Supergirl and Flash primarily).  Then there was A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix.  Corde and I bonded over How I Met Your Mother, Leverage, and Bones.  It may sound like we watch a lot of television (we really don’t most of the time), but it’s more than just mind-numbing activity.  There’s so much to it, the elements of story and plot, the connection to other fans of the series, even just having something to talk about with other people, strike up a conversation.  It’s valuable enough that we want it to be a part of our family identity, as weird and quirky as we may be.


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Knitting with Kids

Just a week or so ago we came to the conclusion that the kids needed a hobby.  This wasn’t an adult decision.  Sander and Beekee decided they wanted to start working on some non-school activities.  This resulted in the decision to go to the craft store, pick up some yarn and needles, and get to knitting.

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much.  I got them cheap yarn and needles because I fully expected this to be a one week thing and then done.  They’d move on from it, and I would once again be the only knitter in the house.

It started out just as I would expect it would, with the kids starting off very eagerly, but soon finding it was a little trickier than they’d thought it was.  Beekee took off on his own fairly quickly, while Sander needed a lot more attention.  I decided it would be best if I did exactly like I did with Luca, held his hands and guided him through the motions until he started to get it.  It all looked like it was going fairly well at first.

IMG_20170801_180658_154Sander, with his dark green yarn and metallic green needles, was making some pretty good progress.  Though he didn’t do his knitting regularly, he’s adding rows as he goes and it’s looking pretty good.  His tension is really good and he’s been really careful with his stitches, so we haven’t ended up with extra stitches everywhere.  He still likes to sit between my legs while he knits, just so I’m there if he runs into trouble.  We tried him sitting on my lap but he’s just too tall for that.  I can’t see his knitting that way!  Still, it’s only going to be a matter of time before he’s working completely independently, at least until we move on to the purl stitch.

IMG_20170801_181944_153Luca is even taking off in regards to that.  He’s been working hard at knitting without my help, and if I try to interfere or guide I get a very firm, “Let me do it!”  It’s only a matter of time before my assistance is just needed to fix mistakes or to help with the counting to keep the stitches right.  Even then, it’s not going to be long before Luca can count the stitches without help, and then I won’t be needed anymore.

IMG_20170801_181341_257Beekee, on the other hand, I have no idea what he was doing.  Somehow he was “knitting” row after row, didn’t add any actual rows of knitting.  All he succeeded in doing was winding up the stitches tighter and tighter until he could barely get his needle into them.  We decided just yesterday we were going to start over from scratch.  He sat next to me and knit two rows, one with a lot of guidance and one completely on his own.  Today he added yet another row, which was looking pretty good.  He’s getting there.  I think I had too much faith in him figuring it out quickly and let him run with it too soon.  As a result, his first memories of knitting are frustrating, but he’s working to rebuild with better experiences.

The younger ones aren’t the only ones learning to knit.  Though I’ve got no picture (since she’s off at Rainbow Camp this week…and hopefully isn’t getting the rain we are), Corde is learning to knit too.  She’s done some crochet, but when the boys decided they wanted to learn to knit, she decided she had to be in on it too.  So far she’s got a swatch of garter stitch started up that’s about three inches long, in sock yarn, on size 2 needles.  She wanted small, so that’s what I had that was small.  For all her frustrations at small needle and yarn size, she’s doing fairly well too.

At first I was overjoyed at the new knitters at the house.  I thought of all the fun projects they could do, and I could be giving them a gift that will last them a lifetime.  Knitting is not only a fun pastime, but it ends off with a product that’s (hopefully) usable.  If I knit a hat, I can then wear that hat.  I can knit a sweater.  I can knit socks, and who doesn’t need socks?  There’s something deliciously wonderful about hand knit socks.  So it’s productive time and enjoyment.  And it allows me to do more than one thing at once.  I can knit and watch television, or listen to an audio book.  I can knit while having a conversation with friends.  I can even knit and help the kids through the traditional elements of homeschooling we keep so the state can be happy.  I can knit while Sander reads a book to me, or Luca tells me an epic story.  So what’s not to like about knitting?

Then I realized the long term impact of what I’m doing.  I’m creating more knitters.  That means more people potentially making socks, hats, sweaters, scarves, whatever it is they decide to knit.  I know Corde and Sander both want to knit socks.  This means they’ll be tempted to dive in my tiny stash to get yarn, which also means I’ll need to buy more yarn.  (No really, twist my arm and make me buy more yarn…)  It means I’m potentially going to have less to make for the kids because they’re going to start making stuff themselves.  If this really takes off they could be knitting their own socks, hats, and mittens!  I mean, that’s great, but that leaves only myself and Oz to knit socks, hats, and mittens for.  I guess it’s good that they learn to provide for themselves, and maybe they’ll want to keep better track of their socks, hats, and mittens if they make them on their own, but I kind of like the idea of knitting socks, hats, and mittens for them.  I’ve been quite the slacker and haven’t done many for them, but I’ve got enough of a budget to start doing that for them.  If this takes off, it means competition for yarn, and less people to knit for.  Isn’t that kind of tragic?

But, really, I’m happy they’re learning to do this.  I think of all the joy knitting brings me, and I like the idea that I’m going to be passing this on to them.  My grandmother knits, and while my mother doesn’t, it’s sort of a family tradition.  It’s a skill that will keep on giving to them, so long as they keep on practicing it.  In college they could have the coolest socks, the most unique hats, and awesome sweaters to show off.  They could some day knit for their own kids.  Once they get good at it they can do it while they’re doing other things, like I can, which means they can potentially keep their hands busy during an important meeting at work.  It helped me focus during class, so long as I picked something with a simple enough pattern.  It means I don’t have much idle time, since I can always be knitting while I’m doing something else.  Television time doesn’t become vegging out that way.  These are things I’m potentially passing on to them.

Of course, this is still just a new habit.  They may knit through a few rows and never pick it up again.  Corde, at least, I see continuing on to knit other things, but she’s also older and has more of an idea of what she wants to get out of knitting.  Sander and Beekee are going strong with it for now, but with only a row or two when they decide to pick it up, it’s not like they’ll knock out their first garter scarves in a month or anything.  Luca is still working on the same scarf from last fall or winter, whenever it was I picked up the yarn.  It’s still a long way to go before we figure out if this is just a passing interest or a new life-long hobby.  Still, it’s nice to think they have a choice in that now.  They’re learning, and in time they’ll have an opportunity to decide for themselves.  I’ve given them the chance to learn, and where they go from there is up to them.


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A New Family Day?

The down side is I quit my job.  The up side?  It meant I could have some much needed quality time with the family.  I’d been missing having a day when no one worked, which now I have again, and it felt really, really good.

We decided to go to the park down by Beekee’s old school.  He always loved that park but was never allowed to play there.  Apparently that was the park the little kids got to go to, which I didn’t understand because it was awesome.  The kids really loved it.

IMG_20170729_153831_024The biggest hit were the tractor tires.  It was the first thing the kids played with when they got there and the last thing they played with before they left.  They absolutely loved them, just as much as I remember loving them when I was a kid.  Those were the secret reason I wanted to go to that park.  The kids asked several times to play there, so the tires won out this week.

Sander had a ton of fun at the park.  It seemed perfectly suited to him, with plenty of spots to climb on.  If ever a park could suit a personality, this one would be it.  He was able to sail like a pirate, climb on everything, and even found a wonderful little spot to lounge.  He didn’t want to come home!

Everyone had a really good time, mostly because there was so much to do.  There were a ton of other kids there, which definitely helped.  There were so many people to play with.  I think the kids really needed this social outlet with a new cast of characters.  They’ve been seeing the same faces all the time, so new scenery and new kids to play with was definitely a win.

 

I think one of the biggest hits was the number of things there were to walk and climb across that moved.  Luca nearly took a spill on this thing a couple of times, and Oz didn’t do much better.  It was fun enough that they kept going over it until Luca, at least, seemed to pick up the skill for it.

We were down one family member because Corde had left to go to Rainbow Camp, which is fantastic for her.  It’s her first week at an overnight camp, so she was thrilled about that, but maybe next time she can come with.  This park definitely has one of her favorite things (most parks do), swings!

So, it kind of stinks that my job really wasn’t working out, but I think in the end something fantastic came out of it.  We’re back to feeling whole as a family, something that definitely wasn’t the case when we weren’t ever all home together.  Sometimes the sacrifice is well worth the outcome.