Trailer Park Unschoolers

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

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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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Back to Freedom

You know the whole bedtime thing?  We decided it was time for a change.  It really wasn’t working out.  We were having tears and stomping up stairs the moment we said it was time for bed, courtesy of Sander.  He and Beekee would be wild at night, meaning someone had to go talk to them, several times, and the light had to keep being turned out.  It was frustrating, and it really didn’t seem to be doing any good.  We still had tired, miserable kids, for all our efforts.

That’s when we decided to go back to the radical unschooling approach to bedtime.  We stopped giving them one.  Would you believe the kids have actually been getting more sleep?  There’s no tantrums and tears.  There’s no fight to get them to go to sleep.  Most importantly, there’s no flipping on and off with the light.

How do we do it with the neighbors?  Well, that’s simple.  We’ve laid down some ground rules.  9 pm is quiet time.  Sander and Beekee need to be upstairs in their room.  They can be talking, reading, or even playing, so long as they’re doing it quietly.  The neighbors next door moved out, so we don’t have to worry about the kids disturbing them through the wall, so we decided this was the perfect time to try it.  Luckily we haven’t had a reason to worry.

As for Luca, we’ve decided he can’t play with Sander and Beekee quietly.  Luca can be upstairs watching movies with Corde, or on our bed watching movies or reading books in my room.  Who am I kidding?  The answer is watching movies.  Luca isn’t a huge fan of reading books, unless it’s something he can read himself (which isn’t anything at the moment, so it’s a struggle.)  Luca is perfectly content to sit in my lap, watching Oz play video games until he falls asleep, or watch shows with me in the living room.  At the same time, we have a “bedtime” for Luca.  When I go to bed the lights go off and Luca has to lay down with me.  We still cosleep, so having respect for my sleeping needs is a must.  More often than not, Luca agrees to lay down until I fall asleep, then he can get up and turn the movies back on, which results in Luca falling asleep anyway.

Surprisingly, this has resulted in the downstairs neighbor commenting on how quiet the kids have been at night.  We haven’t had any fights and only had tears on one night when Sander had to go upstairs because he wanted to watch a movie.  We don’t have a television upstairs in the bedrooms, so that’s a challenge for him.  Corde’s room might be getting a television, but that’s yet to be determined, and she may not want the boys in her room watching movies all night.  I told them once they find one of the missing Kindles they could use that, but no luck as of yet.  Since they were the ones that lost them, I feel it’s valuable that they learn their actions have consequences.

Now that the kids (well, all but Corde) are no longer in school, the lack of bedtime makes a lot of sense.  It’s not like they can’t take naps during the day.  Sander often does.  They don’t have to be up early for school, though they generally are up with the sun.  Most nights they all fall asleep quickly.  Best of all, they’re learning how to be responsible for their own needs.  It’s another whole level of independence.

This is just one more small way we’re edging in to a more “unschooling” kind of lifestyle.  We have no bedtimes.  The kids are free to eat or not eat as they like (so long as they don’t waste food…we’re not made of money!)  We’re not super formal about the “school” stuff we do happen to do, and as we go a lot of the “school” stuff is being phased out.  I have a feeling a lot more will go when we’re finally in a position to have a car again.  Things are moving in the right direction.  I couldn’t be happier about that.

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Someone Needs More Sleep

Luca was super cranky today.  This all came on the tails of not enough sleep the night before.  A late night plus an early morning leads to a very cranky Luca that threw a number of tantrums and fought going to sleep like crazy.  I finally ended up agreeing that Luca had to lay down for two minutes, and after that there was no requirement to lay down.

About a minute in Luca was asleep…

So why did Luca stay up so late last night?  Well, part of it is unrestricted screen time.  The long and the short of it is usually the kids are pretty good at moderating their own screen time and spend plenty of time doing other things.  Unfortunately, this means Luca would rather be up watching movies than sleeping.  Since the downstairs neighbor doesn’t like to hear Luca running around after 9pm, that means Luca’s kind of got to be restricted to one spot, which I think is pretty unfair, but it’s better to stay on good terms with our neighbors.  It just isn’t easy because the kids get home from jujitsu so incredibly late.  We don’t walk in until 8:30.  The kids don’t want to just go straight to sleep.  Even if we had a car we wouldn’t get home much earlier, and the kids wouldn’t have had the walk to wear them out.  It makes it tough to get the kids to settle down on the best of days.

I digress, the point is, Luca isn’t tired at 9 because of the late nights for jujitsu, so that means keeping Luca settled down in one spot.  The best way to do this is to let Luca watch movies while sitting on the bed.  Unless I go in and lay down with Luca, that’s what it continues to be, or a lot of tears.

The awesome part of co-sleeping?  Luca actually sleeps well at night and doesn’t fuss and wake up in the middle of the night.  If that happens, I’m always right there.  It hasn’t been an issue to this point.  The downside?  Luca doesn’t want to go to sleep unless I’m settling down to sleep too.  That often means Luca doesn’t go to bed until I’m ready to sleep, which can mean late nights, like last night when I wasn’t ready to go to sleep until 11.  Yes, Luca had a very late night.

That brings me to a perk on the other side of the night for co-sleeping.  On the plus side, Luca tends to sleep later being comfortable having me right there.  If we have a morning where Luca wakes up early, I’m right there to settle Luca down to sleep again.  It also means I wake up when Luca wakes up, which is a total benefit.  There isn’t much of a downside here unless I want to sleep in.  There’s no hope for sleeping in after Luca climbs over me to get me up, kneeing me in the gut in the process.  That part is not so fun.

I knew early on this was going to be a rough day.  Not only did the lack of sleep give me warning, but early tantrums were also a huge tip off.  We had a tantrum over breakfast.  (The milk had to come from the little jug, not the big one!)  We had a tantrum over computer time.  (Sander had to go first and that was just it!)  We had a tantrum over the tablet.  (Luca wanted to play the baby panda games and nothing else would do!)  At the point we had a tantrum because the kids decided to turn off Netflix and play Minecraft, that’s when I was done.  Sure, Luca wanted to watch Mighty Med with the big kids, but no one else wanted to.  If I didn’t bring an end to these tantrums, there was no way we were going to make it to jujitsu.

It’s too bad it worked out that way too.  It’s a beautiful day out.  It would have been a great day to get out to the park.  Our temperatures are approaching 60 out there.  The snow is almost all melted.  The birds were chirping like crazy this morning.  It’s starting to feel like spring is actually rolling in, but I couldn’t take an already tired and cranky kid out to the park to get more tired and even more cranky, to then go to jujitsu where that kid was going to get even more tired and cranky, and still have to walk home.  It was already bad enough that we had a tired, cranky kid because Luca’s class was cancelled on Monday due to lack of participation.  I don’t need Luca to be upset at jujitsu again.

Oh well, Luca got a much needed nap and that’s what really matters in the end.  Hopefully Luca will wake up to be a much happier sort of bear.  That would definitely make the day flow a lot more smoothly.


Because Babies Don’t Keep

Four Day Old Luca

It seems like it couldn’t possibly be that long ago that Luca joined our lives.  He was so small back then, but not so small all the same.  Born at 9lbs 6oz, he was anything but small.  The labor seemed all to fast at four and a half hours from first contraction to baby, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that time seems to be passing us by so fast as well.

As each day passes, I notice my little man growing up more and more.  It seems like he’s just taking off, unwilling to wait for change.  He’s been rolling over for a couple of weeks now, starting before he was even two months old.  It seems like his birth was just the start.  He’s hit the ground running and can’t possibly stop and wait for us to catch up with his busy schedule.  He’s got big plans and wants to get there fast, wherever there is.

When he was a tiny little baby he was the most precious thing ever.  He would finish nursing, then he’d wriggle himself around so his hand was under his cheek and his head was resting on my breast.  We used to joke that Sander has Blinket and Minket that he can’t sleep without.  Luca had the mama boob pillow.  As he’s gotten older he’s realized that the boob doesn’t make such a great pillow, mostly because it leaks.  Instead he’s taken to holding onto it all night as though it were a teddy bear.  He used to grumble and growl about everything, even in his sleep.  There was never a moment in the day where he was quiet.  Now he gets so quiet and still during naps that it scares me.  I’m so used to his noisy little ways that I worry something’s happened to him.

Luca, Stylin’ in Daddy’s Hat

I know babies grow up so fast and time flies, but I just wish I could hold on to him and keep him small for just a little longer.  I’m going to miss these moments where he’s so small, soft, and sweet.  It won’t be long before he’s up and on the move, something that will be it’s own wonderful adventure.  That’s a different space, a different aspect of it all, and I want to hold onto these moments as long as I can.  They fly by far too quickly.

This whole process of my smallest growing up is even harder on me than it was with the other ones because he may just be my last.  I promised myself I would stop having children at 35 because of the health risks involved, especially in my family.  I’m 31 now, so that leaves just under four years to do whatever it is I’m going to do, but Oz doesn’t want anymore.  He feels our family is full to bursting already and can’t imagine what we would do with one more.  That fills me with a sadness because I enjoy my children too much and I’m longing for that one birth experience that is exactly what I want it to be.

Of course, as I write of my sadness I look at my little Luca as he waves his arms around and tries to get his sister’s attention and think that it’s not because he’s not good enough, or that his birth wasn’t beautiful.  It’s because I want so much for my children, to grow up in a large family, like I didn’t have.  I want them to enjoy all the benefits that having siblings can be.  I want their children to be surrounded by aunts and uncles, like I was.  Never have I seen a closer lot than my kids, and I just don’t feel that my little bear is supposed to be the baby of the bunch.  Or maybe I just don’t want him to be the baby of the bunch because he’s growing up all too fast.

Luca on Moving Day

Of course, the changes are subtle.  It’s not like I wake up and he’s all new.  It’s just the way time flies.  It seems like he’s always been like this.  It’s hard to remember back to a day when he was different, when he wasn’t rolling over and trying so hard to get his siblings’ attention.  It seems like he’s always been holding his head up so strong.  His smiles brighten up everyone’s day and his new-found goofy little laugh makes everyone smile and laugh.  Even the colicky moments have finally passed and we’re on to a new normal where his former colic and gassiness seem like far away nightmares.  Instead we’re met with adorable expressions, even cuter noises than the last, and gobs of personality.

Then again, some of those early days we really don’t want to remember.  We were staying with Oz’s dad and sister for a while and I’m sure Luca could tell he wasn’t wanted there.  As a result of that stay Oz and I nearly split up and I felt depressed and under-appreciated all the time.  I felt like a child in the house, being expected to do what I was told.  Our parenting style became incredibly authoritarian and our homeschooling style became even worse.  It ended with daily fights with my daughter where both of us would end up angry and screaming at each other.  The whole time Corde was being told about how incredibly wonderful school was and how she would get so many new opportunities.  It felt like they were trying to sabotage our family, and I think Luca could feel that too.  He cried all the time, was hungry all the time, and I couldn’t put him down to do anything.  He refused to be comfortable in any kind of carrier.  All he ever wanted was to be held in my lap and comforted.  Who could blame him?  I felt very much the same way, only I was an adult and had to deal with it.  It wasn’t a fun situation for any of us.

Luca at 2ish Months Old

Then we moved and everything seemed to get better.  Luca’s colic seemed to disappear almost instantly.  He stopped being so fussy and cranky to the point where he wanted to be put down all the time.  He still didn’t like being worn in a sling or other carrier for quite a while, but he was happy to be put down on his belly where he could interact with his brothers and sister.  He didn’t really want to be held so much and would get fussy if I held him for too long.  He’d rather spend time with the other kids.  He’s finally grown into the baby wearing thing and likes to be taken along on walks, though he’s not such a fan in the house.  He cuddles with Oz while he plays video games, almost as though he’s watching Daddy play.  He especially likes to sleep curled up next to me all night and somehow manages to sleep through the night, or as much as any baby his age can be expected to.  He doesn’t sleep nearly as well if we have him out of the bed for any reason.

When people ask me how old he is, I honestly can’t remember half the time.  Is it 6 weeks?  7? 8?  I can’t think of his age because it’s all flown so quickly.  Instead I default to an approximation.  Two days after he turned a month old he was “a month and a half”.  Somewhere just past a month and a half he started being “2 months”.  I have to admit, my gut instinct tells me I should just shrug at people and say, “I don’t know.  He ran away the day he was born and hasn’t bothered with knowing his age since!”  Of course, that’s a tribute to Peter Pan there, the story my kids and I have been reading.  That’s kind of how I feel.  His age doesn’t matter.  All that matters is he’s a happy kid, that all my kids are happy.  Age is just a number, right?

It seems like it won’t be long before he’s sitting, crawling, walking, and talking up a storm.  Babies just grow up to fast.  I’m going to miss these times when he’s small, even though I love getting to know him more and more each day and watching him grow into such a unique individual.  A part of me can’t wait to hear what his first words will be, to watch him take his first steps, and to wonder what he’ll aspire to do with his life.  I want to see the beautiful person he’ll grow up to be, but for now, let me savor these moments when he’s so very small and sweet.  He won’t be like this forever.  I’d best enjoy it while it lasts.