Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Board Games

Since each of the kids got a board game for Christmas, I’ve been thinking about using them more often in the household.  The original plan was to play games one day a week (which we’ve kind of failed at to this point), which seemed like a good idea to help us bond as a family.  Well, coming together as a family was the goal at least.

Then I recently found out about this thing called “gameschooling” which really appealed to me.  The whole idea is to use a lot of games as a part of homeschooling.  The example listed was a family that played a game every day as a part of their homeschooling.  I could really get into that.  Of course, we don’t have enough games for that at present.  It would definitely get repetitive quickly.  Of the games we do have, not all of them are at a level that Luca and Sander can really play.  They both need to get a little older and develop a little more patience before we can really play a lot of the games we’ve got, but it’s definitely an idea.

The whole thing got me thinking about the games we do have.  Monopoly isn’t a favorite around here, but we do have a bunch of varieties of Uno that are quite popular with the kids.  For Christmas Beekee got a chess set and Luca got checkers.  Sander got Ticket to Ride.  Corde got Settlers of Catan with the 5-6 player extension.  Then Oz got a game about hot peppers called Scoville.  We also have Apples to Apples, which is a little tough to play because Sander and Luca aren’t exactly strong readers.  I think we’ve got a collection of a few other things, but I don’t remember what (and I don’t feel like interrupting Oz’s nap to go check out the game shelf).  It’s a pretty good start to a game collection, though we could certainly do a lot better.

Thinking back to when I was a kid, I remember a lot of time playing board games.  My dad used to play all sorts of games with us.  Some of the games were really not your traditional sort of games, like Talisman and Dungeon Quest.  Some day I plan to get those games for my own family, because I remember loving them so much.  I just wish they still sold the character expansion for Dungeon Quest.  I can’t seem to find it anywhere.  Those were some of the best memories I have of my family, or at least with my dad.  I don’t remember playing a lot of games with my mom, but we did a lot of other things with my mom that we didn’t do with my dad, so it balances out.

I’d love to bring that part of my childhood into my kids’ lives, even if it’s not all educational games.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still all for educational games.  They’ve definitely got a place in our home if I can find good ones that we all like to play, but I love just regular old games too.  It’s fun to have some variety, and not everything needs to be “educational” to be good.  They still require figuring things out, like strategy and logic.  Games are just really good for the brain in general.

I think that’s going to be our goal for the year to come, and our theme for birthday and Christmas presents.  I know I’ll have fun picking out games for the kids to play, and it’ll definitely help build our collection, even if it means we may have to get a little creative on where to put all of them.  We definitely need more game storage!  I think this is an important part of my childhood that we’ve really got to carry on into my own kids’ lives.

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Our Snow Day

So, it’s taken me a bit to edit the video, and it’s still not quite where I want it (but I kind of gave up at the end because it just wasn’t working for me), but you can see a little bit of what we did on our snow day. Once you get to the snow playing in the end, you can probably skip over some of that. The video editor wouldn’t let me edit anything else on it, so I just left it as is.

We’ve got everyone in that video, even the dog! It’s not everything we did that day, but just about everything of importance. We did a lot of watching television. I wanted to play a game, but the kids weren’t interested, which is okay, it happens.

This is our snow dog.  She had a whole lot of fun in the snow.  You can’t see much of it in the video, except when she wants to jump on Corde.  She’s definitely a bit of a snow dog.

As you can see, Luca wanted snow on his hair and got his wish.  We didn’t even get off the porch and the kids were having fun.  The snow was pretty deep up there!

And they’re all in the snow!  I even got Corde outside for the snowy weather.  She didn’t want to go at first, but she had fun when she got out there.  They definitely look ready to go and play!

And a hard day of playing leaves all of them too tired to go on!  They went out to play in the snow twice in one day, though it wasn’t for long.  It was really too cold to be out there a long time, but they had fun.  For all their complaints about snow in the past, I think the kids are really getting used to it.

And this is what our bathtub looked like after the snow.  There weren’t a lot of places to leave things to dry, so all the boots went in the tub (since they had snow completely covering them, all the mittens went on the edge of the tub, the jackets hung on the shower curtain rod, and the hoodies went on the towel rack.  We didn’t have a great place to put the stuff, so we made it work with what we had.

It was thankfully not as cold as it had been all week at 23° (-5°C) though the temperature said it felt like 9° (-13°C).  It’s definitely colder today, and the wind is far more fierce.  I’m just glad we were able to go out and have some fun.  It’s only a start to the winter, but hopefully we’ll have a lot more winter fun to come!


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Christmas 2017

This was our tree this year.  In the past we’ve done a different “tree” for each of the kids, but this year it only made too much sense not to.  All their gifts fit under the same tree.  That’s the first time it’s happened in a while, but hopefully not the last.  We didn’t get a lot this year, but it was good.  It felt like just the right amount of stuff for all of them.

Sander used to be obsessed with trains.  He’s not as into trains as much as he used to be, but it’s still a thing for him.  It was only too fitting that there was a train game waiting under the tree for him!

This was one of the few pictures I managed to get of Corde for Christmas, and a picture of Beekee too.  You can see some of their loot piled up, not much, but something.  They each got two Pokemon decks, which is what that was about.

Nika even got a present, well, only one that she really got early on.  She got a stocking full of dog toys too, but that didn’t get the attention that the bone did!  She already bit off a hunk of it that she carries around the house.  That one’s going to last her a while!

Luca’s favorite gift this year was Just Dance 2016.  They loved the Just Dance game they got from the library, so we decided to pick it up for them.  The thought was it’s physical activity, so it will keep the kids active.  I mean, they don’t really need something to keep them active, but it’s good in the winter when the weather isn’t great for getting out.

This is how excited Luca was to be opening presents.  Can you tell Pokemon was a theme?  They got a lot of Pokemon cards this year.

It wasn’t long after the presents were opened when this happened.  We hadn’t even had breakfast when they started playing.  They were super excited to get back into playing again.  They even taught Sander to play.  Luca tried but got bored pretty early into it.  That kind of patience takes time to develop.

However, he did have plenty of patience for checkers, with help, of course.  They got special Mario Bros. checkers, which made it extra fun.  The “king” pieces are hats.  They had an incredible time of it.

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While waiting for breakfast we got into Ticket to Ride.  The kids had a blast with it.  Luca and I played on a team, but Luca got bored after a while.  We continued to play without him.  Everyone really enjoyed it.  I won by a nose!

Someone rolled a twelve when we were playing, and if you know anything about Settlers of Catan, you know that meant there were a lot of sheep right at that moment.  I had more sheep than I knew what to do with!  It’s fitting that a knitter would get all the sheep!  If only it were real sheep…

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I’m pretty sure we weren’t quite playing to the rules, but for a first time out of the box (and having not played since before Corde was born) we did pretty well.  It was a lot of fun.  At the start it seemed like it was going to be a really long game, but it picked up quickly.  Once again, I won.  It seems to be a theme of the day, but everyone had a good time (except for Luca and Sander who were playing video games).

Then there was Beekee’s chess set.  He got one of those chess sets that folds in on itself.  One of the clips on it is broken so we may have to get it replaced, but he had a good time learning how to play.  I still won (though I was trying to let him win!)  He was a pretty good sport of it though.  I told him to keep practicing and he’ll be beating me in no time!

Luca couldn’t let Beekee be the only one that played chess.  He did pretty good, though I did guide him through what moves he should probably make.  I think remembering what all those pieces do was a bit much for a first try out, but Luca did well.  We wound up with a stalemate, which Luca decided was close enough to winning.

Finally, there was my fortune from our traditional Chinese food dinner.  Luca, Sander, and Beekee (the picky ones) had hamburgers, while Oz, Corde, and I ordered Chinese.  Beekee actually ate some of the Chinese food, which Corde said was too spicy for her.  Then I got this fortune and couldn’t help but laugh.  What better fortune could you get on a day like today?

No, not quite the end.  I had to share what our shepherd thought of the snow earlier today.  Yes, we got a white Christmas (we had one 4 years ago in Texas too!)  She’s such a silly pup!


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Highlights of Yesterday and A Little from Today

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This was yesterday.  All the kids got handmade bottle holders for when we go out places, that way I wouldn’t have to hold their water bottles for them.  It’s a great idea, and they look super cute.  Also, look at that, I’m in a picture!

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They got some pretty awesome stuff.  There were only a couple pictures of Beekee, but I swear, he does exist!  Here’s proof!

Also, that Mario Uno game, they’ve played it a few times now.  It seems like it’s pretty fun.  It’s got a couple specialty rules, which makes it different from other versions of the game, I guess.  Whatever the difference, they really like it.

There’s a picture of Sander and Luca with their loot in there, and Corde (also proof that Corde does exist!)  They’ve been busy with their toys all day today too, which is nice.

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This is the picture I was talking about yesterday.  See that dive into the bag?  He was bound and determined to get those presents without help!

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And the final picture, just how far into the bag Luca actually went!  Ignore my messy house, but I thought the picture was pretty darn cute!

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And we made cookies tonight.  Luca has determined that these are cookies for Santa.  We haven’t mentioned the Santa thing at all this year, but I think he picked it up from Christmas movies.  Whatever, we’re going with it.  Imagination is everything in this case.

And the picture is dark, but we’ve already got presents under the tree!  This is a first for us.  Usually the presents end up going out late at night, after the kids go to bed.  That’s because I wait to wrap everything until last minute.  This year we actually got on it early, so there’s something under the tree on Christmas Eve!

It’s not long before everyone is off to bed and waiting for Christmas when they can open everything up.  This has already been a fantastic Christmas Eve!

 


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Christmas, Round 1

My aunt and uncle came over today to do their presents with the kids.  They normally do their gifts on Christmas Eve, but without having a car we can’t get out to the Christmas Eve event.  Instead they come to us, generally the weekend before Christmas.  It certainly makes for a different experience then when we’d get the gifts in the mail in Texas.

This was Luca’s favorite toy this year.  We could probably cancel the rest of Christmas and he would be good with it because he’s got a Toothless.  I had no idea they even made this stuff.  Luca loves all his other toys, but this by and far takes the cake.

Sander and Beekee both got some Star Wars LEGO sets.  They’re always a hit with the kids.  The kits never stay built long, but they love having all the pieces to build with.  When they some day decide they no longer want the LEGOs here I think we’re going to donate them to the library for their LEGO days.  We could easily triple the amount of LEGOs they have if we donated them now!  If the kids keep getting them we could supply everyone and then some!  They really have a lot of LEGOs.

Look at this!  An actual picture of Beekee!  When does that ever happen?  I swear, he’s the hardest kid to get a picture of.  He’s holding one of his favorite pieces.  They all got a couple of these “block head” people to build.  They’re really pretty cool.  We’re debating on getting some glue and making them permanent so we can set them all out on display.  We’ll see if that ends up happening.

And I can’t forget Corde.  You don’t see much of her anymore.  Still, I didn’t want to leave her out.  She got a whole bunch of art supplies for Christmas, pens, markers, and some really awesome coloring books.  This is just one of them.  They’re so detailed!  I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of her coloring book collection.  I may just have to get some of them for myself!

On top of all their favorite stuff, they also got a whole bunch of card games.  We’re going to have games to play for days, which should be fun.  I think we’re going to start including a lot more game time in our “homeschooling.”  It teaches kids so many skills, strategy, math sometimes, teamwork for some games, and definitely patience.  I’ll probably be posting more about the games we play when we start playing them.  That may be something we do tomorrow before we start baking.  We’ll see if we get to it.

So Christmas has only started for us and we’re already off to a wild start.  I wish I had pictures of some of the highlights, but I wasn’t able to catch any.  Maybe I’ll share some when my uncle sends me some, like Luca diving into the bottom of his bag to get more presents.  They really had a lot of fun with it.  I can’t wait to see what they think of their presents on Christmas Day!


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Once More to the Children’s Museum!

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First of all, a very happy birthday to this guy!  Sander got to spend the day with his siblings and a friend at the Children’s Museum.  What could be better?  This is him climbing in the big climbing area at the front of the museum.  I remember climbing on this thing when I was a kid.  It’s awesome, and was an awesome way to start the day for Sander’s birthday.

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The first thing the kids actually saw was an exhibit on dinosaurs put in by the Museum of Science.  Corde thought the fossils were pretty awesome.  She had to point out that her hand must have made that track.  Yeah, she’s just a little off on that.

That’s where we saw this beast.  It’s pretty cool, right?  What’s really extra awesome about it is it’s controlled by a kid off on the side (that you conveniently can’t see, and I didn’t know it at the time I filmed this.)  The kids thought it was incredible.

Then Corde had to do this, because it’s just who she is.  I couldn’t resist throwing in a little bit of her personality into the mix.  Yeah, she just might have had a good time too, just a little bit.

Just like last time they had a blast at the city area.  They all really love playing store in that shop.  I kind of wish I had a place they could play store like that here.  It would be so much fun for them.  Then again, if they had access to it everyday they probably wouldn’t love it so much.  Plus, it’s fun when the other kids come in, usually.  Today there were some really pushy kids that came in as a part of a school group.  Luca was waiting very patiently for a turn at the cash register, but the kids from this public school kept pushing right by them, and their chaperone said nothing about the pushing and the refusal to share (unless it was with another student from their school group).  I really think we may make our next visit when the school kids won’t be there.

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And Corde with her thing with mangoes.  It’s got to do with My Little Pony Abridged.  She loves that show, and there’s something on there about Apple Jack selling mangoes.  Since then it’s been a thing of hers.  Think she’s got enough mangoes there?

The next room we went to had all the work trucks.  The kids absolutely love this room, though it was a little hard to keep track of them.  Again, the school group plagued us here.  They were literally running circuits around the place.  It made it less fun for a while, but it got really quiet when they left.  I even got a picture of Corde playing with the trucks by herself!

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The kids always like the raceway room too.  Nothing says fun like science experiments with golf balls.  Hey, look at that, it’s even a picture of me!  Corde took that because I figured I never have pictures of myself in these things, so it might be nice if I were included every now and then.  I probably would be if Oz was with us, but his work schedule often prevents it, like it did today.

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This was particularly fun for the kids.  The whole board is a series of lights.  They change color when you twist the light fixture.  It started with Corde and dad that wanted to turn the whole thing red.  They kept having little kids come up and swipe the board or just start randomly turning things.  He eventually gave up, but Corde kept going back to it.  Eventually (with the help of all the kids), they got it done.  This is the result:

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Isn’t that cool?  I particularly thought so.  I’d love to have one of those things in my living room, just to play with.  I can imagine writing messages across it.  Somehow it reminds me of the old Light Bright thing kids used to have.  The only problem with this one is the center dot wouldn’t turn red for some reason, so they turned it black and went wit it.  I think they did a pretty good job.

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The whole section was based on snow and winter.  They had a sock skating rink, snowflake lights on the ground, and this collection of boxes, challenging kids to make a snow fort.  Luca found these inside the snow fort and decided a hot chocolate party in a snow fort is every bit as fun as a tea party, so we got to enjoy that.  It was a small bit of Luca and me time we were able to squeeze out today.  Usually Luca likes a lot of one-on-one time, but it’s rough when there are so many other kids that need my attention, so this was extra nice.

This is a collection of some of the other photos we took today.  We got to see a lot of the museum, which works because we were there for five hours at least.  When we got there we had lunch, but after that we were on to the exhibits.  I say exhibits loosely because it’s really more like a giant playground than a museum.  It’s got plenty of opportunities to experiment, but it’s not a classical museum in any sense of the word.

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We had a great time, but you can see the results.  (Okay, what you can’t see is Luca sleeping on top of me and my backpack on the seat beside me, but you get the idea.)  The kids were all tired out, almost too tired for Sander’s birthday dinner (pepperoni pizza).

All together I’d say the museum was really fun, aside from that one school group that caused all the problems.  I really wish the chaperones had spent more time focused on the kids and less time chatting or on their phones.  At one point a fist fight even broke out, which is no good for anyone.  I’m not saying schools are horrible or anything, but this school group in particular was a nightmare.  If I have my way, we’ll never go again when there’s a school group there.  There’s too much chaos, too much noise, and too many people to settle in and really enjoy anything.

We’ve also talked a lot about just sucking it up and getting a membership at one of the local museums, a place we’d probably plan to visit enough times each year to make it worth the investment.  This will not be one of those places.  While it’s fun to play, it’s one of the most expensive museum memberships for our family size, nearly twice what they ask at the Museum of Science.  It’s more of a playground than a place of learning, and the stuff is really geared towards preschoolers more than anything, maybe kindergarten and first grade kids or something, but certainly not a teen, a nearly tween, and a newly turned 8 year old.  They had fun, and I can see us visiting once a year for a while (because the cost of one visit for all of us is reasonable), but I don’t think it’s worth a membership, especially since we’d have to go three times in a year to be worth it.  We’ll probably go once a year and call it good for the next couple of years until even Luca is really too old for it.


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Holiday Chaos

It’s the holiday season. I should be updating more often, but it’s been tough. I had an abscessed tooth, which really stunk, and that messed up my sleep schedule a good deal.

This has put us back to unschooling. This is really where I wanted to be to begin with. We’re going to start doing regular game nights. I hope to get some cool science stuff going. I really need to look up some cool history stuff to do together. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to learn a lot together without standard curriculum.

Going into the new year we’re going to be holding on to a couple of things from the past year. We’re going to keep with the phonics program, for now at least. We plan to keep going with the math, at least until we can get in the habit of more practical math. But beyond that we plan to do very little. We’ll probably stick to Story of the World, too. The kids seem to like it well enough, so while they’re interested we plan to stick with it.

In other news, it looks like Corde may finally be coming back to homeschooling. She’s not loving school and has been looking for an excuse to leave. I suggested she at least do the career exploratory because she may not have access to that stuff any other way. It’s worth the experience, but if she wants to quit, I won’t stop here.

Funny, this time last year I was thinking about homeschooling Sander and Beekee. Only Luca was home. Now we’re getting the whole gang back. It’ll be nice to have them all home again, even if it ends up only being a few short years until Corde goes to college. That’s not far off, if she decides to go.

But the holiday season this year has been busier than last year, even if we’ve been doing less work. I had my abscessed tooth. We’ve been sitting for the neighbors two days a week, which means the kids have plenty of social time with their friends. We even managed to squeeze in a few holiday movies. It’s been nice.

Of course, part of this whole thing is what we would do differently next year. We hopefully will have a car by then, so we should be able to get to more events. I’d love to take the kids skating at the Frog Pond on Boston Common. It would be fun to do the colonial Christmas event at whatever historic site they hold it at. We could do a breakfast with Santa in there somewhere. It could be a lot of fun. Then there’s Christmas Eve at my aunt and uncle’s house. There’s just so much more potential on what we can do!

For now, we’re waiting to see what plans for what happens next week. We may have even more stuff to do, or it may just be quiet. Either way, it should be a good time. Christmas is almost here!