Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Baking with Corde

Okay, maybe it was just a mix, but Corde got some baking in yesterday. It was a Hershey s’mores cupcake mix that a friend gave us. It was a pretty simple deal, chocolate cupcake with a graham cracker bottom crust and a marshmallow filling. Corde couldn’t wait to make it.

Corde wasn’t alone in her baking. Luca decided to help her with the mixing. The two looked so cute together at the table. Corde mixed up the graham crust mix while Luca mixed the cupcake batter. Then they both worked together to fill the cupcake cups.

While they were waiting things got a little crazy. Corde decided to prove she could walk on the half wall to the stairs and Luca, Sander, and Beekee went nuts playing LEGO Batman. They had an awesome time.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the finished product. We all ate them too quickly and I forgot. Even I had one, and they managed to save one for Oz. They were definitely good and gave Corde some ideas for her own baking future, which is always a win in my book!


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Science Means Yogurt

Yesterday we started the process of making yogurt as a part of our summer activities.  I almost said “homeschooling” then wanted to correct it to “unschooling”, but the truth is it’s really just living.  I guess that’s what unschooling is about.

It was bright and early in the morning (and by that I mean 8:30) that we got up and went over to our neighbor’s house.  It all started with reading the ingredients list on the yogurt container as a starter.  We talked about the different bacteria, and how the bacteria aren’t bad germs, even though they are germs.  The kids thought that was pretty cool.  Our only regret is not having a microscope to view the bacteria with.  That would have been cool.

We talked a bit about what makes an “active culture”.  Our neighbor was funny about it.  She had the kids pretend to be inactive if it was too cold to do anything, then they all jumped around the room when they were the “active” culture at the right temperature, then got sluggish and slow again when the temperature got too hot.  It was a great way to show the kids the difference between active cultures and inactive ones.  I never would have thought of doing it that way.  As much as I teach kids, I really don’t teach kids.  I teach as though I’m talking to adults.  Our methods really differ, but I think that’s a good thing.  It’s good for the kids to learn from different teaching styles.

After that each of the kids got to pour some of the milk into a giant pot.  We heated the pot to 180 degrees (to kill all other possible bacteria sources), then waited for it to cool down to 120 before we added the yogurt culture.  In the mean time the yogurt was mixed in with some of the milk that had been set aside and cooled so it would be liquid enough to mix in with the other milk.  We called this the “mother culture.”

Of course, when I think of “mother culture” I think of a book I read last summer, Ishmael.  It was a good read, but “culture” was viewed as a cage, trapping people from having real and meaningful experiences with each other and the world around them.  The idea of “mother culture” made me laugh because in my head that was not a good thing, but I suppose it fit.  We were “infecting” the milk with this “mother culture” to make something new, so I was amused.  I think we may end up reading Ishmael when the kids get a little older, or when we become more accustomed to reading together.

After the yogurt had cooled enough, we mixed the “mother culture” in with the yogurt to make our yogurt.  The kids quickly put all of the yogurt jars onto the table at the center of a towel, which was wrapped around them so the yogurt cultures could stay warm and do their magic.

That’s when the hard part came, the waiting.  We ended up going back there today to check out the yogurt because it would have been done too late for the kids to go check on it.  The yogurt was put up in the refrigerator to wait for them to check it out.

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Luca was super excited to make the yogurt, but was the only one who didn’t want to try it.  It was a little more runny than the neighbor had hoped, but about par for the course for commercial yogurts, from everything I could tell.  Here Luca is telling us all about the yogurt and what it looked like.

I’m seriously considering looking into a yogurt maker.  I know we can make it without one, but I would feel a little happier with one.  We can always get some fresh berries and things to mix in with the yogurt, and smoothies would definitely be a good thing to add in.  I bet even Luca would love a strawberry smoothie with fresh yogurt.  It’s something to look forward to doing in the future.

As for today, I’m posting this while I’m home from work.  Luca was restless last night for the second night in a row, so I got no sleep.  Luca wanted me to stay home today, so I did.  Hopefully Luca will get settled and follow a regular sleep routine soon.  As you can see from the picture, we’ve started to keep Luca’s hair up too.  We just found out Luca’s hair is long enough to French braid, and with keeping up the routine of brushing any time Luca eats anything this helps keep hair out of the way for that too.

Also, up and coming, Luca is getting a special present for his surgery ordeal.  More on that when it arrives…  And Luca’s birthday is coming up.  Poor kid lost all those teeth just as a birthday was coming up!  It’s okay, though.  It just means we’ve got to make sure Luca gets an awesome present for being so brave.  On top of that, Luca got $20 from the tooth fairy for all of that.  It’s been an ordeal, but awesome is on it’s way.


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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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Busy, Busy Day

Man, we got a lot done today!  I had no idea I would feel this good after being this productive.  I can’t even begin to describe how good it feels.  I usually slack off during the day, but I guess homeschooling has brought out the best in me again.

So I suppose I should begin at the beginning, which had me launching out of bed to throw my clothes on, have Oz ready Nika, and fly out the door.  I managed to wake up thirty minutes from my scheduled appointment today.  I ended up walking in the door at the exact time my appointment was supposed to start.  Thankfully it only takes me fifteen minutes to walk there, so I had time to get dressed and ready.

After that it was on to homeschooling.  I got home and meant to get them all set up to homeschool.  Unfortunately, my plan to start the day with computer time was all for nothing because A.J. ran down the charge on the laptop playing Pixel Quest yesterday, so it was dead when I went to set him up on it.  He learned about it in school and I just can’t keep him off of it.

img_20170206_104719_703Instead of working on the computer, like I had planned, A.J. did some of the lesson tests from his math program.  Somehow I didn’t equate the lesson tests to being for each lesson, somehow, so I didn’t have him do any of them.  Today I had him go through the lesson tests and then he corrected the problems he got wrong himself.  I love this program because it’s so incredibly easy for him to check his work, and that’s one thing I remember being cautioned time and time again in math, “Check your work!”

img_20170206_113606_252Luca even sat down to do some book work today.  That was a huge victory for me because Luca has the focus, I don’t know, name something incredibly unfocused.  Whatever that thing you named was, that’s what Luca’s attention span is like.  Luca will do well for a while, but realizes it’s more fun to be silly, so I get that instead of focus.  However, this Primary Phonics program has done wonderful things.  Luca seems to have all kinds of focus for it, and already knows the format of the lessons well enough that I don’t even need to read the instructions for more than just the story.  The rest Luca’s got without any need for help.

img_20170206_125658_407As if getting the kids through school wasn’t enough, I actually made lunch.  I know, it’s not much of anything I had to work for, but I did it, so that’s something.  They had peanut butter sandwiches with celery.  The celery then got slathered with peanut butter or cut up and used as a scoop.  As it turns out A.J. is just okay with celery, Sander hates it, and Luca loves it.  I guess I know who the rest of the celery is going to.  A.J. at least eats fruit and carrots.  Sander, on the other hand, doesn’t want to eat anything from the fruit and veggie side of things beyond applesauce.  Luca is the opposite and will eat pretty much everything.  I have no idea how I’m going to feed these kids healthy lunches, but I guess if Sander wasn’t eating the fruits and veggies at school, I’m really not offering him anything less here.

My only major flaw was thinking Luca has a much bigger stomach than is reality.  Luca is always eating, so I keep thinking, “Just feed Luca big meals and problem solved!”  Problem not solved…  Luca couldn’t finish all the food and ended up taking a nap with a very full belly.  Next time I know, give Luca a quarter as much, and then it will all end up gone.

IMG_20170206_144514_154.jpgLuca and Sander took a nap while A.J. worked on the computer.  We learned about Mesopotamia and the states of matter.  We then did a quick and easy experiment of bringing some water from solid state to gas.  It was super easy to throw some ice cubes in a pan, heat them up, and then watch the steam come off of them.  A.J. liked that experiment even though he already kind of knew what was going to happen.  He’d seen ice melt and steam rise off the tea kettle, but still, it was fun.

Then it was time for jujitsu.  We went through our usual scurry to get everyone dressed and ready to go.  Sander lost his shoes…again.  A.J. was ready way too early and didn’t want to wait.  Luca was generally chaos, as usual.  I packed the bag with La-La, my Kindle, A.J.’s uniform, and drinks for everyone, then we were on our way.

I think Sander and Luca are going to be problems in the same class.  Sander’s clowning and distraction tactics keep Luca unfocused.  Twice they had to be separated today.  The first time Luca was moved while one of the techniques was being demonstrated.  The second time was after a fight when Sander was being nothing but silly, which was making Luca think it was play time.  That’s the hardest part, Sander shows Luca it’s time for play, not work.  Then Luca runs with it.

As much as I hate to say it, I think they both got exactly what they needed.  Sander was put with a kid that was no-nonsense and had no problems holding Sander at bay.  This seemed to frustrate Sander enough to keep him focused.  Luca was put with a kid from A.J.’s class who gave just enough resistance to make Luca work for it.  Luca was supposed to push him from his knees onto his back, then get into the side control position, then demonstrate the technique they’d been learning for the whole of last week.  It took a few tries to get Luca focused, but Luca was starting to pick up on it.  I have a feeling with a few weeks and being pared with kids that don’t view it as just play, Luca will start to get it.  So Sander was forced into a position where he had to focus and Luca was encouraged to actually demonstrate technique and skill.  This could be good for both of them, so long as they don’t get paired together anymore.

img_20170206_192139_146After the class, while A.J. was in his class, the two actually demonstrated that they could play together.  They took turns playing Fruit Ninja on my Kindle while A.J. was in class.  I don’t see them play well together often, but it was good to see.  Maybe my eventual goal should be to get them all Kindles and set it up with audio books from the library so they can listen while class is going on.  It’s an idea…

A.J. has a long way to go in his class.  He’s far too timid when it comes to the other kids.  He doesn’t want to get pushy and assert himself and he’s very hesitant to actually put his hands on the other kids.  He’s either big on personal space or he has completely no understanding of personal space.  It’s on or off with him.  In this class, it’s on.  We need to teach him to turn it off so he can engage, but that will come with time.

I’ve also come to the understanding of why the boys in the class kind of leave A.J. out of everything.  Everyone thinks A.J. is a girl.  I know, he’s a boy with long hair so we should expect that.  His coat is a girl’s coat.  I get it.  But everyone thinks he’s a girl, even the instructor, and that’s awkward.  All I can do is hope that he gets it in time.

A.J. isn’t the only one everyone thinks is a girl.  Everyone thinks Luca is a girl too.  Of course, with Luca’s hair in a half ponytail and wearing My Little Pony, it’s not hard to figure where they’d get that idea.  I’m of the mindset that if Luca wants to correct them, Luca will.  But today that wasn’t going to happen.  I was informed that Luca was using the girl’s bathroom today because Luca is a girl today and most definitely not a boy.  Okay, I’m cool with that.  Whatever makes you happy, right?

After all that I still managed to come home, make dinner, and get everyone (but Luca who is watching television on a Kindle at midnight, mind you) off to bed.  Tomorrow I have one more appointment right before lunch time.  Here’s hoping it’s as motivated of a day as today was.  That would be awesome.


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Airplane Science, Business Math, the Fifty States, and Full Bellies

Yes, we’re hitting the unschool habits hard this weekend. We had no real plans to spend our Sunday learning. Somehow it just happened. Educational experiences are everywhere!

It started last night with Corde wanting to help Grumpy make goulash for dinner. She was soaking up every detail. Let me tell you, the kids ate last night! We all did. Corde and Beekee both had seconds. I did too. By the end of the night we were all stuffed. As if that wasn’t enough, we also had ice cream. I have to admit, even with having a late dinner and waiting an hour for dessert, I was still hungry when I went to bed. My appetite has been pretty fierce. I’m sure nursing a nearly fifteen-month-old has something to do with it. Today we ate rice with veggies until we were stuffed too. Rice and canned veggies may not make a fancy meal, but it’ll fill you.

The kids also made a discovery. Last year in our haste to move out the kids forgot their fifty states magnet puzzle that was on the fridge. They didn’t seem to miss it then, but they certainly love it now. Even Sanders loves to “find states”. Luca is better at destroying the whole thing so someone has to put it back together. I think at this point the kids know the states better than I do! Once upon a time I could pass a test on all the states and their locations. Now I’m rusty. I even knew all the capitals, but no more.

We also spent a bit of time talking profit and loss in getting ready for the fairy festival. Grumpy did some math with Corde to show how much profit he can make on his products. It was simple and didn’t include overhead like the cost of his booth and all that. We just wanted to give her a basic understanding.

So far the day has been capped off with a lesson with paper airplanes. The kids made theories on what would improve or degrade their flight. They tried throwing their airplanes at different speeds and heights. They included a passenger in some of their trials. It was all a lot of fun. I felt a little bad because I just sat back and watched, but I was tired. I still am. The fatigue is starting to set in. I can honestly say the stress has worn me thin.

It really feels good to get back to unschooling and away from homework, classes, and formal education. I kind of miss being free-spirited unschoolers! It was good to spend the day back at our roots. We need to do more of this.

Oh, and we still haven’t forgotten the documentary challenge. We may have a couple more to add to the list. Corde decided we should pick one winner for the whole year. It’s just been to crazy of a year otherwise. Each video watched counts as it’s own entry. The prize thus far is going to be a small sculpture, a friendship bracelet, a picture in some fashion (she’s working on something more unique than a sketch or a painting), and a hand made card. Don’t forget to check it out. As the year rolls to a close some other goodies may be added. Keep checking in for details.


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No School Today…

So much for all my worries of getting everything done in time for co-op… Last night Corde was up until 2am. Beekee was coughing all night from allergies. That meant I got no sleep.

In a way it’s probably best that we didn’t go to co-op today. I had a chance to get all the cleaning done I needed to while we’re staying with Oz’s dad. We went to our trailer so we can start packing things up. Everything we’re keeping goes into storage this weekend. It’s hard to go through it all, but we need to. Some of the toys will be let go. Some of the clothes will go. We’re mostly looking to keep books and toys. I feel bad losing some of my stuff, but it’s better that than have the kids give up a lot.

After we determined it was too hot to work in a house with no AC any longer we moved on to survival needs. We’ve been waiting on our food stamps to come in. We were told it should be this week, but maybe next week will bring more luck. In the meant time we’re being humbled by going to food pantries. I hate it, but Sander seems to think it’s fun. At least the kids don’t hate it. They love sorting through the food when we get home. It’s like Christmas, only it’s food.

I hate admitting stuff like this, but it’s important to know homeschoolers come from all walks of life. Maybe our struggles can give another family strength. I’m not afraid of admitting hard times in our lives, especially as they make the bright spots all that better.

Sleepy kids turned out to be a good thing. Now we’re going to be back on schedule again. We have a whole bunch of food. Life is good, maybe not great, but good.

It’s funny. Heidi has this huge religious message. Trust in God and everything will be okay. It will all work out when it needs to. I’m not sure how I feel about all that, but in a way it was a message we all needed to hear. Everything’s gonna be alright.


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Four Years Is A Long Time

Today Oz and I celebrated our four year anniversary.  I know for some of my fantastic readers, that’s no big deal.  For us it’s really a big mile marker.  His last marriage barely lasted at all.  My last marriage had already started to turn bad by this time.  The fact that, sure, we’ve got our issues, but we’re still going strong is really something for us.  We’ve both heard the first five years you live together are the worst.  It’s really the make-it-or-break-it kind of phase within relationships.  We’ve got one year left, and after the trials we’ve faced, I’m pretty confident we’re going to be fine.

We were lucky enough to have Oz’s aunt babysit most of the kids for us to go out to lunch.  We went to this cute little Italian place that the whole family loves.  It was just the two of us and Luca.  He came along because we didn’t think he’d last without getting hungry.  He had almost a whole dinner roll, half a fried ravioli, and a few bites of meatball.  Oz got stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and I chose fried ravioli, an incredibly good choice.  Then we both got a side salad, though I didn’t have much time to eat mine before the meal arrived.  He had spaghetti with meatballs and mushroom sauce, which was okay, and I had their pasta sampler, lasagna, manicotti, and canneloni.  Okay, I probably butchered the spelling of the last two.  What can I say?  I love my stuffed pasta!  The three of us were completely stuffed.

After that Luca was dropped off with Oz’s aunt so we could have some adult time.  In this time we went to the library.  I know!  Exciting anniversary trip, huh?  It was actually kind of nice though.  We got to go hang out at the library and take our time without having to worry about what the kids are getting into.  They can get a little wild at the library, or anywhere, really.  The library is small and doesn’t have much selection, but I got to enjoy the craft books and found a couple of books that directly relate to a project I’m working on.  I picked up a book on writing too.  It should be a good read.  It’s a thick book though, so I’m not sure I’ll have time to finish it, but that’s what book renewals are for.  I found another book that might inspire some quilting projects too!  It’s on fabulous fairy tale quilts.  I’m probably going to take some notes and work on some ideas for myself.  It’s a bit complex and probably above my skill level, but I’ve always been one to dive in to projects head first, even when they are beyond my skills.  That’s the kind of quilt I’d love to make.  I like patchwork quilts and traditional quilts, but they really don’t suit my sense of style.  If the kids are interested, I might even see if they’d be inspired by it too!  After all, quilting is kind of an art.  Well, it’s a craft, but close enough.

IMG_20130115_155903(1)On our way home we saw a fantastic car that Oz had found previously and it made him think of me.  I can totally see why.  The car was fantastic.  It’s also fantastically for sale.  It’s unfortunately a little two door and not big enough to fit the whole family.  For $750, I’m not sure what kind of condition it’s in either, but it’s worth a look.  The low price might just be due to it’s age and all of the artistic additions.  Sadly, art devalues a car unless it’s a legitimate paint job, which this is clearly not.  I’ve been toying with the idea of finding a way to afford it because Oz is right, this is totally the perfect looking car for me.  It would make for a great A to B car, which would be great for grocery runs, visits to the library, and other errands.  We may just be able to fit all the kids if Corde sits in the front, though it wouldn’t be ideal.  It could be a practical solution until we can afford something bigger, which would probably end up looking much the same in the long run.  If it sounds like I’m trying to get my readers to encourage me to buy it, that’s probably what I’m doing somewhere in my mind.  Oz is going to call to find out what condition it’s in and how it runs.  We saw someone else stop by to look at it too, so I’m not sure we’re even going to stand half a chance at getting it anyway, especially as we don’t have the money for it right now.  Its just a dream, and a dream that I find particularly inspiring for my own vehicle at some point in the future.

IMG_20130115_155913(1)The rest of the day was spent at his aunt’s house chatting with her.  The kids all chilled with a couple of movies.  Beekee told Oz’s cousin she needed Clean House to come in and organize her room, which was kind of funny.  Sander managed to go the whole day through without a nap, and though he got a little cranky at the end of the day, he did pretty well.  It was nice to be able to relax with other adults for a little while.

Now it’s the end of the day and the kids are all settling down for bed.  We’re going to watch a movie from the library, another advantage to going there.  It may not have been the perfect anniversary, but we got some snow, had a good time, and were at least able to actually go out last year.

Best of all, we learned some things about our local library.  Tomorrow morning I might try and get the boys up early, weather permitting, so we can get them down to the story hour at 10.  Then two Saturdays a month they have a knitting and crocheting group, and the women want to learn sock knitting!  I love sock knitting, so this will be a good excuse to bust out my sock yarn, needles, and books to knit and help other people learn the fine art of making socks!  I might get to learn to crochet out of the deal too.  They have video game competitions.  It looks like they hold them every month, which is good for Oz.  They might even be looking at starting a Pokemon league, which would be awesome for Corde too!  Our local library also accepts donated books, so if we’ve got books we don’t want, we might be able to get them a home that way.  And the best part?  Everyone in our library is so nice and there is no limit to the number of books you can take out.  They don’t have a huge selection, being a tiny, country library, but they’re all really nice there and try to do what they can to acquire things you’re looking for from other libraries.  If we can get there for story times and knitting days, we should never have a problem worrying about things getting back late!  And Corde can be very excited to get a new library card.  Beekee might even be able to get a card himself too.  All he has to do is be able to write his first and last name clearly.  He might want to learn just so he can get his own card.

All in all it was a great way to mark 4 years.  We were able to look back at some of the great moments, share our interests, and best of all, we were able to do a couple of grown up things that we really love.  It was calm and enjoyable.  It wasn’t the fancy, exciting, and interesting like we hoped.  It wasn’t some super special occasion, but it was what we needed.  Maybe we’ll go bigger next year.  For the time being, I think we got exactly what we needed.