Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Peter Pan

I’ve got to admit, I’ve been a horrible mom when it comes to reading to my kids.  I really should do it more often, but it never seems to be a good time.  There’s a whole big push in my area that reading to your kids 20 minutes a day is good for them, or having them read for 20 minutes a day.  Most days we manage 20 minutes of Sander and Beekee reading.  Corde (not surprisingly) hardly reads at all.  I try to squeeze in reading to Luca, but it’s not always that easy.

After watching an episode of Once Upon A Time (on Netflix) with Peter Pan, we decided I would read Peter Pan to the kids again.  We read it quite a few years back when we still lived in the trailer park.  Beekee was so into the story that I managed to read the whole book without a break when all the other kids had fallen asleep.

Now, I have to say Peter Pan isn’t the perfect read aloud for so much time off of reading together.  It’s long and wordy so the kids tend to glaze over and zone out.  They couldn’t even pull from the text that Nana was a dog.  Still, they’ll get used to hearing me read and eventually the stories will start sinking in.  On top of Peter Pan we also have the complete Wizard of Oz series, all of Anne of Green Gables, all of the Judy Moody books, as well as the ones about her brother, Stink, and Coraline.  We’ve got plenty of stuff on my Kindle to keep us reading aloud for quite some time.

I have to admit, I kind of like doing the read aloud stories on Kindle.  They’re easy to store and I don’t have to worry about losing the book from one night to the next.  I misplace things all the time, so having something so easily found (it’s in a bright turquoise case) is a definite benefit.

And poor Luca couldn’t last the whole chapter.  I had a floppy Bear draped over on my lap, perfectly content to sleep there.  I needed help to move the sleeping one out of my lap and onto the bed.  Luca actually managed to stay asleep straight through the night until morning, falling asleep almost two hours before the usual time.  I think we may need to keep that up, for no other reason than to get Luca to bed earlier.

As time passes I’m sure my skill at reading will improve again.  Like I said, the kids will get used to hearing my voice and hearing me read to them.  They’ll get used to the idea of books being a part of our regular day.  Their exposure to new ideas and vocabulary will definitely help, especially since books have a much more challenging vocabulary than television shows (except maybe some of the educational ones).  It’ll be good for them, and it’ll help their brains grow.

All of this will also continue to link back to other things in their lives.  They’re going to hear about Peter Pan and Captain Hook, characters they’re seeing in the television show.  Then they’re going to hear about the Wizard of Oz and we can watch the movies that go with that theme.  They can hear about Coraline’s adventure, then watch the movie again to compare.  There’s even a series on Netflix called Anne with an “E” that we can watch as we read Anne of Green Gables.  It should be fun.

Reading to the kids has always been on and off a thing that I’ve done.  Being radical unschoolers, we never really had a set routine, which made it difficult to keep the reading thing going.  Now that our lives have more structure it should be a lot easier to keep it going.  I’m not sure how it will fit in when we start going back to jujitsu, but we’ll find a way to make it work.  I’m really excited about being able to do this with them.


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Tomorrow Is Zoo Day

Luca, Sander, and Beekee get to go to the zoo tomorrow with my aunt and uncle.  This is one of the experience oriented birthdays my aunt is starting to do for the kids, which I love.  They’re going to remember these sorts of trips so much better than they would some gifts they would get, which makes me happy.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to get to be there for their first zoo trip.  I really wish I could, and see their excitement over all the animals.  I missed everyone’s first trip to the aquarium except for Luca.  It’s sad for me, but at the same time, it’s good that they get to have these experiences with their extended family.  I just wish I could go with them.

Of course, that’s not going to happen until we can get wheels again, and I’m not exactly available to go on the weekends anymore.  My work has seen to that.  We need the extra income, but it feels like I’m losing so much time with the kids.

Even so, I know they’re going to have a great time at the zoo.  They’re going to want to see everything and will come home suitably tired.  It’s going to be a good experience for them.  I remember going to the zoo when I was younger and loving it.  I’ve never been to the zoo they’re going to, I don’t think, so this will be a whole new adventure for them.

I’m actually looking forward to them having this experience.  Field trips to places like the zoo can be such an educational thing.  It’s a part of unschooling done right.  It’s something I hope we can do more of once we’re able to swing back to more radical unschooling.  Field trips are such an important part of education.

And it’s the zoo!  The kids love animals.  They’ve been watching a lot of animal shows on Netflix, so having a chance to get up close enough to these animals to see them with their own eyes will be pretty awesome for them.  I know they’re going to love it.


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Absences

Yeah, I’ve been away a while again.  This happens.  I just got a new job working weekends so I’ve been incredibly busy.  I’m working Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and cramming about 20 hours into those three days.  It’s a lot of time on my feet and it’s really exhausting.  I’m in a garden center, so my job seems to be “plant mover” more than anything else.  I’m learning a lot, but it’s definitely not an easy way to make a buck.

There is some good to this whole working thing, though.  I was able to get some plants for our porch container garden this year.  It’s nowhere near as epic as last years, but it’s something.  We’ve got eight tomato plants, nine strawberry plants in a strawberry planter, and a little container of watermelon plants.  I’m not expecting to get much from the garden this year.  I’m guessing we’ll get enough tomatoes for Corde to eat straight from the vine.  Hopefully she can get them before the squirrels do this year.  We’ll probably get a handful of strawberries, not enough to do anything fancy with.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get any watermelons at all.  We didn’t last year.  Still, we’ve got our little garden going, and that’s something we can be pretty proud of.

This is Luca singing to “all the beanies” last year.  That’s a pretty good view of all of our garden at the time.  It got even bigger than that.  Most of what we grew didn’t end up producing much, which wasn’t so great, but it was fun to work on it.  Unfortunately, being a container garden, there wasn’t much for the kids to do.  There was no weeding or anything of that nature.  It’s pretty much just watering the plants and letting them grow.

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This is our happy little porch garden now.  We’ve got two patio tomatoes, two “Lemon Boy” tomatoes, and a handful of cherry tomatoes of different colors.  In the corner is our blackberry bush, which isn’t doing much yet.  You can also see the terracotta strawberry planter I got last year.  We tried some bare root strawberry starters last year, but they didn’t do anything.  This year I went with actual plants.  Apparently you’re supposed to put a tube of PVC piping down the center with holes drilled in it to spread the water better.  I have no idea about that.  We’re just rolling with it the way it is.  It’s not a huge expanse of garden, but it’s something.  Oh, and there’s a serano pepper (maybe?) in there along with a start of an apple tree, though who knows what’s going to happen with that.

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Luca’s favorite part is the strawberry planter.  As you can see we’ve gotten a good bit of rain, so I haven’t had to water any of it yet, but it’s looking pretty good.  You can see two white little strawberries forming.  Those were on the plant before I even got it.  Luca was so funny about it too.  “What?  You got me white strawberries?  Really?”  I had to explain that strawberries don’t start out red.  They become red as they ripen.  This will make a lot more sense when the strawberries actually ripen.  We’re excited to see some new strawberry blossoms appear when they do.  It’s going to be a learning experience because I’ve never grown strawberries before.

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This is Luca’s favorite part, the little starts of strawberries beginning to form.  It’s something we’re definitely going to be watching in the future.  These were like that when we got the plant, so we have no idea how long it takes to go from flower to here, but it’s something to keep an eye on.  It’s exciting to see the start of berries already being on some of the plants.  I didn’t see them when I picked out the plants.  To be honest, I just threw nine plants into a tray and hoped for the best.  It looks like we got some plants that were at least healthy enough to do something.

And this is Luca checking out the plant to see if there are any new strawberries to tell us about. This was on Friday before going to the doctor.  As you can see, it was rainy and gross.  Luca had to borrow Sander’s raincoat.  Don’t ask me how but somehow we’ve managed to get by without having any raincoats.  This one was sent to us by Great-Grandma and hasn’t seen much use.  I really should get us all some decent rain gear though, even if we don’t use it much.  Anyhow, Luca enjoys looking for strawberries.  Once the tomato plants are a bit bigger, I think looking for tomato blooms is going to be a thing as well.

That’s one thing I can say about all this.  The kids are going to get a chance to learn about growing things by watching things grow.  Unfortunately they’re not able to see it come up from seed, but some day.  I’m not much in a place to seed start right now.  Not only that, but I just can’t see myself doing it with so little space to actually garden.  I wish we had a place with an actual garden plot.

And speaking of places we wish we were, currently Oz is looking at getting back into the military.  He’s got some old tickets to pay off before he can get back in.  It’s not an ideal life, but it would give us a chance to do a little bit more and would open up our budget.  So everyone, wish us luck with doing it.  We’re going to need it!


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So Much for Spring

Spring is supposed to bring nice weather, isn’t it? Flowers are supposed to bloom and it’s time to take off the winter layers. All I can think is how much I wished I were in Texas still. It’s cold out there! So much for spring…

We had to go out today, and by “had to” I mean I signed Beekee up for a program, of which he already missed one week. It was the day after the concert and I had nowhere near enough sleep. It was also crazy cold. I couldn’t justify yet another day out of the program. It’s only four weeks long! It’s good for him to get out and social with other kids his age, especially because he doesn’t quite fit in at jujitsu. We had to go out today. It was pretty much required.


So here I am, sitting at the library, guarding the coats while Sander plays on the iPad and Luca plays on the computer. This isn’t much change from the tech time at home. We can’t get any books because I forgot my library card, and neither of them wants to read while we’re here. With a half hour left in Beekee’s program, if they end on time, we’ve got a whole lot of tech time going on. I’m starting to wonder if they’ll ever get off of it.

All of this has me thinking. Do the kids really need all the toys they have? They really only play with the LEGO blocks and sometimes the stuffed animals. They would all rather be playing on tech, and since I don’t limit screen time, I don’t see why they need so much.


Of course, getting my family on board with not getting us more stuff to clutter up my house is hard. I don’t want to be storing things in the basement to cycle through. Sander is proving me wrong by just starting to play with the trains at the library, but he doesn’t often play with toys at home, beyond the LEGO blocks. Still, I have an aunt that likes to buy the kids lots of stuff for birthdays and Christmas. The problem with this is we just don’t have room for it all. The kids aren’t reading the books. They’re not playing with the toys. It’s just taking up a lot of space that our big four bedroom just doesn’t have. And to be fair, it is a big four bedroom. I just don’t want toys up in the bedrooms because the kids play instead of sleep and their rooms are always messy. That means the living room is where it’s at. There’s just not room for a lot.

And even if I did allow the kids to have toys in their rooms, I don’t want their rooms to become a cluttered mess. That would mean only a small number of toys to play with in the rooms anyway.

Now I’m remembering why I wanted to live in a minimalist way. I’m tired of living under all this stuff. The summer I was in limbo was the most freeing thing ever. We lived out of one suitcase per person and still managed to have stuffed animals and some small toys. The kids appreciated what they had so much more and I was so much less burdened. I could breathe without feeling like my house was trying to suffocate me.

I think it’s time for a grand scale purge again. I’ll call it spring cleaning, even though spring hasn’t really found us yet. I can cut back on all the stuff we’re collapsing under and bring it back to the basics. We’ve got bags of toys in the basement that mostly just need to go. Some stuff needs to go back to the kids, but most of it is just stuff that’s been long since forgotten. I think that’s the big thing we need a car for, to get rid of all this extra stuff we no longer use and needs to be removed. It will make quite the Goodwill donation, that’s for sure! And we really need to do it too. I wonder if any of those places do pick ups. They’re good toys in practically unused condition, most of them. They just need to live with someone other than me and the family.

So maybe it isn’t spring outside. Maybe I’m longing for our little trailer again. I’m secretly plotting to go back to the trailer park days. But while all this is going on, some positive has come. We’re thinking ahead to the point at which we cut back the toys in my house to almost nothing again. It doesn’t feel like spring, but spring cleaning is coming.

Go stream of thought writing. I can tell I’m bored while waiting for Beekee’s program to let out. Any time now…any time…


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All Work and No Play

Today it took Beekee forever to get through his work.  Today was like the days his teacher used to complain about at school.  The difference here is he can keep working on a task until he completes it, even if it takes him all day.  If he gets distracted a few times, it’s no big deal.

Sander, on the other hand, cruised through his work like it was nothing.  It was one of those days where he was on it.  We had a couple millisecond meltdowns about reading words he was unfamiliar with, but we moved on quickly.  It was like it was all too easy for him, and maybe it was.  I have a feeling once he gets the routine down he’ll be flying through his work today.

And then after Sander’s work was done, we started talking about bees.  This started because there was a spider in the house.  Normally I would insist on the spider being taken outside, but given the cold, I decided it could stay, so long as it keeps out of our way.  I’m not responsible for it accidentally being squished.  We talked about how spiders are arachnids, but that makes them bugs.  Insects are also bugs.  I said that some examples I could think of as insects were ants, wasps, and bees.  This got the kids all excited.  They really like bees, and I have no idea why.  They have a personal want to save all the world’s honey bees, which is a good thing because we’re well aware of the worlds vanishing bee problem.  It’s good to know my little nature lovers are geared towards saving the bees.

And it’s not all about work and play for the kids either.  I’m going to have fun tonight too.  I know I don’t mention what I’m doing much, because this blog wasn’t started about me, but we’re all a family, which means what we do impacts each other.  So tonight I’m going out to a concert, Dropkick Murpheys!

Now, what’s important about this in a greater family context, aside from Corde being really jealous that I’m going, is that I have a chance to do something for me every once in a while.  It’s good to know I have a chance to be someone other than mom now and again.  This has been a more common occurance in more recent times.  I get to have more time to be me, which makes me a better mom in the end.

This brought up another idea I was thinking about.  I’m going to start looking for all ages shows that I can take Corde too.  She’s old enough now that she’s interested in that kind of thing, and I think it would be fun for her to go.  I’d love to be the person to take her.

Years ago my dad took me to my first concert.  It was a free concert at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River.  We went to see a bunch of artists, the biggest one being Paula Cole.  At the time I’d heard her on the radio quite a bit and was really excited to get to see her performing live.  It was quite the adventure, and a great day in the cuty.

I hope that I’m the one that gets to take all my kids (if they’re so inclined) to their first concerts.  I know I won’t be able to afford taking them often, but it would be great to be able to say I took them to their first one, even if we can’t afford to do anything after that.  Concerts are expensive!  And so many of them are not all-ages shows.  It would mean I’d have to look around for something that is, and those are generally bigger shows that are much more expensive.  I’m sure we can find something good for the kids.

But for tonight it’s about me and my fun.  Since my birthday is in a couple weeks, this is kind of a birthday present for me.  As an added bonus I’ll be picking up a shirt or something from the show, because I want something to remember this by.  I’ve only wanted to see them for I don’t even know how long.  As they’ve only been around since 1996, I guess you would say I’m an early adopter of the band.  I’ve wanted to see them since high school, so I’m thinking it can’t be long after they became a band in the first place.  This is one thing I can check off the list of life experiences I would love to have!

So, here’s hoping you all have as wonderful of a night as I will!


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The Cold Makes Us Lazy

It was cold out today.  We’d been enjoying such nice weather that the cold seemed to hit especially hard, resulting in none of us wanting to do anything.  We plowed through the stuff we really need to knock out every day, then moved on with our day.  Everyone but Corde took a nap.

Oh, did I mention Corde was home today?  She missed her bus.  I’ve determined that this is the last time she misses her bus.  If she misses again I’m just going to tell the school we’re withdrawing her to homeschool for the rest of the year.  She wants to stay because it means she can go to all of the end of the year events, but she wants to homeschool next year.  Personally I think she might be better off going to the local vocational school for culinary, but that’s just me.  I can’t decide her life for her.

As for the rest of us, we skipped out on jujitsu today.  It was cold and none of us really felt like going.  Given there’s supposed to be snow tomorrow and Wednesday, we’re not going to Wednesday class either.  The kids are going to be home on Friday, so it’s going to be a whole week off.  I just hope the weather turns nice next week so that we can get back to going again.  I don’t want to miss too many days.

Tomorrow is going to be a snow day for Corde, which means more working from home.  It’s going to be good having her home in a lot of ways.  She helps Sander with his work much better than I ever could.  There’s something cool about having big sister help instead of mom.  Sisters are so much cooler, right?

I’m honestly looking forward to the warmer weather.  I have a feeling we’re never really going to be home.  I plan to do a lot of science in nature.  We’ve already started with making note of the signs of spring.  I hope to do a lot more outside time.  It’ll mean falling behind in math, phonics, and writing, but I’m okay with that.  The kids need to be learning from life more than they need to be sitting down with books anyway.

All of that seemed like it was just around the corner, and then the forecast called for snow.  I’m not thrilled about that.  I’m ready to be over the snow and I’m waiting for a chance where we can move down south again where it’s warm.  (Of course, I talk a big game, but I’ll probably find myself in an RV traveling the country first, which isn’t going to happen any time soon.)

Instead of a lot of work tomorrow, we’re probably going to be doing a lot of gaming.  The kids like playing Minecraft and Little Big Planet.  They haven’t even gotten to the creator stuff in Little Big Planet.  They’ll really like it when they get there.  I have a feeling, in spite of the snow, we’re going to have a good day tomorrow.


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A Day in the Life Plus LEGO Day

It’s been a while since I posted anything about what we do on a day to day basis.  The last time I wrote about a regular day for us, Corde wasn’t yet a teenager and was still a tween.  Well, gone are the days when Corde was wrapped up in little kid things.  Life is changing, and the kids are all growing up, which must seem especially fast if you see the gap in the posts from two years ago.

So, what does the average day look like for us?  That’s soon going to be changing, but right now it looks like math and writing in the mornings with Luca, and on Monday the boys are going to be joining in.  Math with Luca generally means building with the manipulatives, now that we have them.  We’re working on counting, which is apparently too much fun.  Today we counted tickles, pokes, belly pats, and other crazy things, just for fun.  We generally move on to some form of writing after math.  In this case the last sentence was written by Luca with just help in figuring out what letters to write.  I think Luca is picking up on writing faster than math, and I’m okay with that.

As for the afternoon, there tends to be a lot of lounging and laziness.  The boys like to play DS and Minecraft.  Corde likes to watch movies and videos on her iPod.  It tends to be pretty chill.  Even Nika gets in the lounging around, when she’s not being harassed by Luca.  Thankfully for her, Luca prefers to watch Netflix in the afternoon.  I’ve stopped limiting afternoon screen time because everyone has just wanted to chill after school so having a quiet house is good for that.  We’ll see how that changes when everyone is home.

Then there was LEGO day at the library.  We haven’t been to one since the last time I wrote about one.  That was back when Corde was still willing to participate and build.  I guess she’s gotten too old for it now because she had no interest in building.  I’ll be honest, our local library doesn’t have the greatest selection of blocks.  The library when we lived in Texas was much better.  Still, the kids had fun and built some awesome creations.  I think we’ll be going back in the future.

I think if we ever decide to downsize and do the tiny house thing, or road schooling, or whatever, we’re going to send our LEGO collection to the local library.  Their build days are a great idea, though the room they’re in is a bit small for the number of kids they get, but they could really use more LEGO blocks to their collection.  There’s some real potential to build, but nothing like the setup when we were in Texas.  We’re actually thinking we may want to move back that direction some day.

So that’s what we’ve been up to.  This next week is really going to be a big trial run for school with the boys, so there should be some big changes coming up.  For starters, we are going to have three kids home, so that’s a change.  I picked up some books from the library to do with the kids.  We’re going to be studying frogs (for Sander), turtles (for A.J. and Luca), and we have a couple books for Valentine’s Day.  We’ve got six books to read this week, hopefully, then (provided the weather is good enough), we’ll make another library trip in a week.  Though if the weather doesn’t stay warm we may end up pushing that three week due date a little bit.  We’ve had such unseasonably warm weather that it’s hard to imagine spring is right around the corner already and library dates will soon become a weekly thing without doubt!

After today I’m a lot less worried about socialization for the kids.  There were plenty of other kids to play with at the library.  Sure, none of them were regular friends that they’ll see on a constant basis, but it’s a start.  On Monday they start their trial run of martial arts, which will hopefully be another good way to keep the kids active, moving, and making friends.  We’re moving on to some pretty good things.

To cap the day off we decided to eat out at Subway.  We eat out once for every pay period (every two weeks), which is a big deal because it costs a lot to feed four kids and two adults.  Eating out is never cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but Subway was a special treat, and a nice change from our regular go-to of pizza.  The kids absolutely loved it.  We may make that our regular spot for our dining out.  It’s not a horrible choice.  It’s healthy enough, healthier than a lot of the inexpensive options, so it’s worth it.  Besides, the kids were absolutely stuffed when we got done, so our early dinner will definitely hold them for the rest of the night!

Now they’re all playing Minecraft with Oz while listening to music, well, everyone but Luca.  Luca (who has not had a nap today and I’m surprised is still up and functioning) is laying on the bed watching Netflix.  In not that long we’re going to start our wind down procedure for the night so Luca can settle in for bed.  It’s good to end the day on a note of feeling really positive.  Everyone had a really good day!