Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Look Who Got New Glasses 

It’s been a while since I updated. I would like to say we’ve been busy, but we had a week off and that makes everyone lazy. The kids are all kind of burnt out on school, which makes it harder, but that’s all off track from what I wanted to write about.

A couple weeks ago I took Corde to the eye doctor. She was complaining about headaches at school, though I suspected fluorescent lights were more the problem. They give me headaches too. As it turns out, she barely needs glasses, only for driving, video games, and to see the board in school, much like I do. We picked out some glasses, and waited for them to come in.

I really like the glasses she picked out. There weren’t a lot of options that fit her there, but we found a couple she liked and these ones won out. She was told not to wear them all the time, but peer pressure from her friends means she does. They all say she needs glasses so she can look smart. I suppose there are worse things she could be getting peer pressure on, but I wish she didn’t feel she needed glasses to be smart. Glasses don’t change a person’s intelligence.

Still, the glasses look good and they suit her. She’s picked ones with personality. These have cute flowers on the side, so they aren’t plain. They’re cute on her.

The only down side is next year Corde wants to try passing for a boy in school, and that’s not going to happen with flowers on her glasses. I’m hoping this is just a phase brought on by more peer pressure because her friends think she can pass as a boy. We will see.


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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.


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Minecraft, Writing, and Playing Guitar

It’s vacation, so what are we doing?  A whole lot of not so much.  I have a feeling when all four kids are home we’re going to stop observing school vacations, but for the time being we’re going to go with it.  It only makes sense when we’ve got one still in school.

So what have the kids done today?  The same thing they’d do every day, if you gave them the chance, play Minecraft.  This is incredibly in line with the unschooling thing.  I’m not directing them on what to build.  It’s an exercise in cooperation, given they’re playing on console, not the computer (which is how I’m able to be writing this at the same time).  A good deal of what they do is conflict resolution.  They don’t always get along.  It’s always in creative mode, but they like to come up with stories for their building.  They also like to create their own houses and to live as neighbors, which sometimes means getting in each others way.  I have had to institute a couple of rules (like no TNT), but for the most part I let them go and do their own things.

As for the writing part, I’m not just talking about me.  Corde has started her own blog as a part of trying to get her into writing more.  You can check it out at Jolteon Fan Fic.  As the name would imply, she’s writing fan fiction, though her current project is really more of a creative writing project.  I haven’t edited any of her work, so it’s all in it’s raw form, spelling mistakes and all.  I’m hoping over time she slowly improves, but that blog will help show her progress.  It’s also cool for her to get her ideas out.

And the guitar playing?  That’s all me.  How can I show my kids how to follow their passions and learn new things if I don’t live by example.  Playing guitar doesn’t come easy to me, and I’ve had to work really hard to learn what little I have.  I’m really struggling through it, but I’m learning, slowly.  I think that in itself is a lesson.  I’ve taken a few months off because my skin has been doing what my skin does.  It was painfully bad for much of the winter.  Now I’m picking up where I left off, which isn’t exactly easy.  I have to work hard at it.  It would be different for my kids to see me do something I’m good at, something that comes naturally to me, but now they see me working and working hard.

That’s a part of this whole unschooling adventure too.  The kids need to see me working on things I’m learning.  They need to see me following my passions and learning things that are new to me.  If I want my kids to be readers, I need to do more than just read to them.  I need to show them that I read too.  If I want my kids to follow their passions and work hard at learning something new, I need to work hard at learning something I’m passionate about.  If I want them to take on challenges, I need to be willing to do the same.  Whatever I do, I’m modeling what adult life is to them.  And how can I expect them to do things I can’t even do myself?

Over the next few months I intend to start working on things I’ve been meaning to do again.  I’m going to be picking up my guitar more often.  I’m doing yoga every night, and I’m going to start working on doing yoga in the morning too.  It’s an intense workout, but I’m never going to build up to it if I don’t just do it.  Once we’ve got the chance to get a couple more dance DVDs, I plan on getting back into dancing too.  (Yes, I know, as a belly dancer I should be able to make up my own practices, but without a DVD to follow, I tend to get lazy about it…)

This is something I think a lot of people don’t realize about unschooling.  It’s a lot of work.  It’s not just work in getting kids to do something more than playing video games all day.  It’s also work because you have to model for your kids what you want them to do.  If you live by example, they’re likely to follow.  If you show them that you never do anything hard, never follow your passions, and do nothing but veg out all day, why would you expect them to do any different.

When I set out to write today I didn’t think I had anything to write about.  Nothing special happened today.  It was just more of the same, with a little more arguing than usual.  There were no shocking revelations, no incredible moments of understanding.  It seemed like just another boring day in our house.  I had no idea I’d be the one to have that incredible moment of understanding myself.  This is why I absolutely love being an unschooling family.


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Making Muffins

Corde has just started on the baking thing again.  Granted, part of that was lack of anything else easy for breakfast.  She was offered the chance to bake, so she took it.  Otherwise I was going to do it myself.  Corde wants to be a baker, so I’m not surprised that she wanted to bake this morning.

Granted, this wasn’t the big, fancy baking project so many other people do.  We didn’t bust out flour and everything to bake from scratch.  We used a box with instructions.  Corde melted the butter, cracked the eggs, mixed in the milk and the mix.  I helped Luca put the muffin mix into the cups with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar, then into the oven they went.

img_20170219_102243_647Those muffins rose a surprising amount.  I didn’t expect them to puff up so much.  Had I known that I would have put less in each muffin cup to begin with.  We’re using some silicon muffin cups that we got at Ikea.  I love these things, but they’re a little toasty coming out of the oven.  I have to let them cool much longer before I can squeeze them out of the muffin cups.  I did that for the first batch because they were still far too toasty warm when I tried to pop them out.  Next time I go to Ikea I have to pick up some more of those things, that way we can do a whole dozen at once.

img_20170219_105308_066Of course, the best part of Corde making her own muffins was being able to sample them when all was said and done.  Even I got to have one.  They weren’t all that bad, and that was of no fault of Corde’s.  The muffins were plain with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top, which gave them a pretty basic taste.  Plus they were gluten-free, which is something I’m not entirely used to yet.  There’s definitely a taste difference between gluten-free and regular foods.  If it wasn’t for the fact that gluten is death for me, we’d just keep the regular stuff in the house.  All in all, for gluten-free muffins, they were pretty darn good.  All compliments to the baker!

I can honestly say that was a successful morning.  Corde got to bake.  Everyone got yummy muffins.  All together it was a pretty good start to the day.  I’d call this a victory over breakfast, and hopefully Corde will get many chances to experiment with other flavors and maybe even making them from scratch!


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Computer Time for All!

Today, after my bout of homeschool jitters, I decided (since Corde was home from school) that we had to make the most of the day.  She was home because she missed her bus (again) and decided it was better to take the detention than to show up late (and probably still get a detention anyway).  That made it the perfect time to do some homeschooling.

img_20170126_125942_309Corde spent a good bit of time on Time 4 Learning today.  Originally it was just something to do to keep her busy, but she kept at it for a good long while.  It was good to know that the math program covered subjects she hadn’t learned before, and it seemed like the science curriculum was all new to her too.  That was definitely a good thing.  She enjoyed the “Gameroom” time at the end of the lesson too.  She played some classic arcade games and had a pretty good time with it.

img_20170126_171539_168Since Corde was enjoying it so much, I busted out the laptop.  It had to be attached to a cord during use since I didn’t let it charge fully, so I set it up on my bed where it would be comfortable to use.  The plan was to let A.J. sit on my bed and work on the laptop while Corde was on the desktop.  There was a slight problem with this plan.  Some of the lessons required more reading than A.J. was ready for and it was a little complex for him.  I ended up reading the lessons to him instead.  The mouse was a little hard for him to use so we may look into getting a mouse as an extension to help that out.  It means his work is something I’m not necessarily going to be able to leave him to do while I’m doing math with the other kids, but we’ll get his reading there.  It might not be something I can have him do while Sander and Luca are working on math, but we’ll get there.

img_20170126_171626_462Once Corde was done, Sander wanted to jump on too.  Even after a full day of school Sander still managed to squeeze in over a half an hour on the computer.  He’s really become a fan of the school program.  I have a feeling we’re going to get some really good education time out of that program.  Downside to this, you can see how cluttered and messy my desk really is…I am not an organized person at all…

img_20170126_182005_700And, of course, since everyone else was doing it, Luca wanted to play again, sitting on my lap (which made taking this picture a little challenging).  I was excited to see that Luca was all about learning again, even though we’d done school earlier in the day, Luca still wanted to do more.  This program is really working out for us.  I’d say we’re getting our money’s worth.  It’s been a real hit, especially with Luca, who logged nine hours on the program last week.

And the final touch to this day of massive educational victory?  The kids are going to be doing a trial run at the martial arts school next week!  They’ll be going three days next week to try it out and see if they like it.  At the end of the week we talk price, which scares me.  I kind of wish I knew what I was getting myself into financially before we started all of this, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough.  Keep your fingers crossed that this is in our price range to afford.  It would be so good for the kids!


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Instead of Family Days

Sunday used to be our family day, but now that Oz is working Sundays, it’s no longer the day we spend together as a family.  Undoubtedly that will fall on a different day of the week, once all the kids are homeschooled.  Which, by the way, we just received our notice that we have approval to homeschool Corde as well.  Now we just need to get the schools to figure out how to let us withdraw our kids!

Instead of family day we’ve been having kind of a “do whatever you want day.”  It’s been working out pretty well for us.  Everyone’s pretty much been doing their own thing, and for the most part, that’s been perfectly fine.  I think homeschooling is going to be a lot like this.  I’m okay with that.

img_20170115_080143_885My day has been filled with watching Arrow.  As you can see by the above picture, I’ve been more than just watching.  As you can see in the picture above, I’ve been identifying the city they’ve been using.  There’s the Prudential Center there on the left, and in the center is the building with the Hiroshima memorial on the top.  I believe the dark building in the background (which is really blue on the screen) is the new Hancock building.  I’ve also seen the old Hancock building and the ugly green highway that is Rt. 1.  Yes, you guessed it, I know that skyline well.  That’s the skyline I grew up with so I’d better know it!  That just made my day.

img_20170115_125136_901The kids, however, have been doing something totally different.  They’ve been at their addiction, Minecraft.  They’ve been doing a really good job of playing and not upsetting each other terribly much.  They played for a while, then watched a few movies, then played some more.  It’s been quite the Minecraft day!

Even the Minecraft LEGO sets came out today, though they’ve been kept in my room to keep them safe from the destructive force that is Luca.  The other sets have met the fate of Luca destruction, though we may try to dig out the pieces to build them again, since we still have all the instructions.  I hope this gives them inspiration to build their own LEGO creations as well, but who knows.  They don’t seem to like building with LEGO blocks as much as I did when I was a kid.

img_20170115_125316_456And what did Luca do all day?  Aside from watching the other kids play, and threatening to be destructive with the LEGO sets, Luca’s been watching a lot of television, mostly Glitter Force and Voltron.  I’ve found it keeps Luca quiet and occupied.  I’m not a fan of the electronic babysitter, but some days it’s nice to have a quiet Luca given most days we’ve got an energetic, crazy Luca.

This isn’t as cool as the family days we used to have on Sundays, but it’s kind of nice to have one day of the week where no one has to get up early and there are no required activities.  I think even when we go back to homeschooling we’re going to keep Sundays as the day we do nothing but chill and enjoy the day.  It’s good to have a day where learning isn’t so much the goal as just relaxing.

In a way I miss the old family days.  It would be great to spend the morning getting donuts and coming home to movies or a hike or whatever.  At the same time, I’m okay with not having them.  Being without a car and being in New England during the winter, it’s kind of nice not to need to walk anywhere, but to stay holed up in the house during the cold weather.  Of course, it’s nothing like my friends in Canada are getting this time of year, but it’s cold enough to make going out a less than fun idea, at least for me who doesn’t handle the cold well at all.

It’s also kind of nice to be able to get to my computer again.  It’s been buried under LEGO sets on and off throughout the day, so I’ve been kicking back and watching my show.  I know I could be playing with my kids or watching movies with them.  I could play Minecraft with them too, but it’s kind of nice to have a day where I can be off Mommy mode.  Actually, that’s been today and yesterday, but yesterday I wasn’t feeling well, yet still got up to make pancakes for dinner.  I also had no access to my computer yesterday because LEGO sets.  I guess that’s not too big of a deal.  Let’s be real, how many of my readers are actually checking in over the weekend anyway?

So here it is, our nice, relaxed, Sunday.  I’m hoping the week will bring with it some more eventful news.  Keep your fingers crossed that things go well with the schools and we’re able to withdraw the kids to homeschool them this week.  It sounds like I may actually need to go down to the schools themselves to plea for our case.  I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that, but whatever it takes, right?  Here’s hoping it all goes well.


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What Reading Should Be Like vs. What Reading Is

In my house right now, at least for Sander, reading is tears.  Writing is tears.  He’s having the hardest time with both.  I feel for him, really, but since he’s still in school we have to power through.  I’m looking forward to the final date I withdraw him from school because of it.  He’s clearly not succeeding there.

Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to let him learn at his own rate.  If left to my own devices I wouldn’t push reading on him until he’s ready, but state standards and all.  We’re going to have to keep up and comply.  I could try not including samples of writing in the portfolio, but I’m thinking that’s not going to get a pass, so writing we will include, and through it, we’ll start to work on reading.

I’ve got to be honest, I’m not sure what that part of our homeschooling is going to look like right now.  Right now I’m thinking it’ll probably look like spelling words, figuring that as he learns to write the words, he’ll learn to read the words.  I don’t want to do any tests or anything.  Again, this is where unschooling meets the edge of state requirements.

However, in spite of the tears, the frustration, and the hatred of reading, I’m finding that Corde and Beekee still have moments like this:

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Beekee is reading a book called The Monster Ring by Bruce Coville.  He was stuck on a word, so Corde poked her head over and helped him out.  She was sitting there in the middle of looking up fan art for Naruto on her phone.  She was listening to him read to help him with his reading skills.  That’s what reading should look like in my house.  No tears, just the older sibling helping the younger one.

This is why I want to homeschool, because learning to read and write shouldn’t be full of tears.  It should be fun and enjoyable.  Doing school work shouldn’t inspire an hour of crying because Sander doesn’t know how to spell the words he needs in order to complete his homework.  He’s expected to write one sentence for each of his “snap” words every week, but he doesn’t have the vocabulary to do it on his own, so he gets so caught up thinking about not knowing how to write the words that he can’t think of a sentence.  He’s so tired he can’t focus.  That’s not how it should be.

The countdown is on.  Once payday hits we’ll be getting the boys hooked up on Time 4 Learning, and then they’re coming home.  Hopefully that will make learning fun again, and it should satisfy the state requirements because I can get weekly progress reports from the program.  Those in the portfolio with writing samples (for the writing share of language arts) and photos of whatever science projects we do should suffice.  That should be much more enjoyable.

Of course, being the unschooler at heart, I’ll get the kids hooked up with the curriculum, but I’m not going to really make it a thing unless they’re having fun with it.  Luca is having a blast with it and actually asks to do “computer school” on a daily basis, so it might not be so bad after all.  Keep your fingers crossed!