Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Little Artist and Growing Greens

Let me first say that I’m so happy with Luca.  For the longest time all Luca’s pictures were pretty much scribbles.  I was starting to think there may be some kind of developmental delay or something.  So far as I’m aware kids have usually graduated beyond scribbles by the time they’re entering kindergarten.  Luca is almost there and still everything is scribbles instead of proper drawings.

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This is the picture I was given by Luca today.  This is “Bear”.  It actually looks like something.  I had only ever seen one face before, but this is a whole person.  I absolutely love this little picture.  I love that he does the eyes like empty orbs too.  There’s something I find so endearing about it.  I can’t help but be a proud mama after looking at the pictures I’ve gotten today.  Maybe Luca isn’t so impossibly behind on artistic talent as I worried he would be.

Then there’s the garden.  Well, I hesitate to call it a garden.  It’s only a handful of plants on our porch, but it’s doing pretty well for itself.  Everything is growing.  I’m not sure how much bounty we’re going to get this year, but it’s at least something that looks nice and will hopefully yield at least some tomatoes for Corde to chow down on.

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Everything is growing so well.  Those tomato plants were at least half the size when I brought them home, perhaps smaller than that.  The two closest to the house are smaller, but I think that has to do with getting less afternoon sun.  These ones are doing fantastically.  One of my tomato plants even has it’s first flower!  It’s so exciting!

And the strawberries already produced three strawberries.  I wasn’t really sure the tiny blobs they produced really counted as anything, since they were so small and misshapen, but apparently they were actual strawberries.  One of them managed to go bad within a day of it getting ripe.  One was stolen.  The third went bad and dropped off the plant just recently.  I think I’m going to have to keep a better eye on those plants.  Growing strawberries is completely new to me.

I’m going to have to invest in some kind of animal repellent too this year.  Last year we had a number of tomatoes, but they were all consumed by squirrels and left half eaten on the railing.  I don’t want to see my tomatoes go to waste like that again.  I’m not here to feed the squirrels!  Hopefully this year we’ll have better luck.

So that’s been our day in the 90 degree weather we’re having.  We’re just trying to chill and enjoy it for what it is.  We may call it before the public schools let out this year.  We’ve certainly been working hard enough at 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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Busy, Busy

Things have gotten a little chaotic around here. I took a job to help make ends meet. We want to be able to get a science curriculum for next year, so having the extra money would really help. We also want to do a handwriting curriculum because Sender’s writing is awful and I want the kids to learn cursive. It’s more curriculum and less unschooling, but the kids seem to think it’s fun, so why not?

With all the fuss over starting my new job we decided to take some time off of jujitsu. It’s just more in the week than we can handle right now. I know that’s the only real socialization we do, but It’s just too much. Even the kids were pretty burnt out on it. I think we all just needed a break.

Because we’re spending a lot of time on curriculum, we’ve decided to take two days out of each week for “TV school” where we watch documentaries as our daily work. I may just make that the end point to all our school days, but two days each week we try to do nothing but. So far we have four shows going. Two are on animal life. One is on castles. The last one is called Mega Builders and is about incredible building projects. It’s a good mix of stuff for the kids.

All of this end of the year stuff has me planning for next year. Luca has already made it through the first book of Get Ready for the Code. Sander finished his first book of Primary Phonics. That’s two things we can just put aside and call done. Thankfully I have the next set of Primary Phonics for Sander and up to Explode the Code book 2 for Luca. That should keep us going on phonics skills for a while. I’m less of a fan of Primary Phonics as it seems to really be set up for classroom use. I don’t have a board to write on, nor do I have the cards that go with the set. Still, It’s free, so I’ll use them.

The big reason I want to go with a curriculum for science next year is the experiments. I’m kind of rubbish at coming up with projects to do and I’m even worse at making sure I have the supplies on hand. I kind of stink at explaining the science behind things because It’s hard for me to explain things I haven’t studied in years. Having a curriculum gives us projects to start off with that are age appropriate with all the resources to explain what’s going on. The kits I’ve seen with all the experiments aren’t cheap, somewhere between $100 And  $200 per grade level, but I think It’s worth it. It may not be so much for someone else. The way I see it, I would probably spend just as much coming up with experiments to do myself. And we can always try it for a year and see if the kids like it. It doesn’t have to be a heavy curriculum with lots of writing and reading. Just some fun experiments should be enough.

This year I’m really not getting so far with the science I was hoping to do. I wanted to get some plants going on the back porch so we could use gardening as one of our lessons. I haven’t even started on that. Our budget has been too tight to really allow it, and the weather has been too gross to allow for much gardening anyway. I’m hoping this new job opens up some more opportunities for growing a garden. I’ve got some great ideas, though I’m not sure how practical all of them would be. I found these really cool apple trees called Urban Apples. They grow in a narrow column instead of branching out, which makes them ideal for urban settings. I may have to try some. Right now fruit trees are my main focus. I think those are easiest in the long run because I don’t have to replant them every year, which makes them more than pay for themselves. Plus, It’s a science experiment that just keeps growing, so the effects can be studied through the seasons and year after year.

This is mostly just me rambling about what we’ve been up to. It seems like it hasn’t been much, just the same old routine day in and day out. We’re living a kind of quiet existence these days and I’m really okay with that. I think we all needed some down time. Life has been too busy.


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Summer Colds

I hate summer colds. The kids all got slammed with one this season. It’s been horrible. All the fun stuff we do has been put on pause for now.

However, we’ve had fun stuff going on. Sander’s morning glories are growing strong. Our purple basil is almost ready for a small pruning to encourage growth. The tomato plants are starting to turn around from the near dead state I got them in. Beekee has the cucumber plant that won’t die even though it should have three times over. Tomorrow I may replant some sunflowers to start off a garden for Corde. It’s almost time to start separating them out. They’re going to turn out well.

In other news, Corde learned how to crochet. She’s making a blanket for Julie, her American Girl doll. She also learned how to make friendship bracelets.

Next up, archery! There’s a homeschool archery group starting in the area. Corde’s been a full year without archery and is itching to get back into it. Beekee is old enough to start up thos year too. He can’t wait!

So that’s it for now. Feel free to keep up with our photos on Instagram. My user name is Sarasyn Fox. Maybe next time I’ll weigh in my concerns about dreads and kids, since Corde amd Beekee both want dreads. We’ll see…


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We May Sound Crazy, But…

I’ve been writing all my posts on my phone lately, and since it doesn’t always list all my most recent posts. I have no idea how long it’s been. I can only guess it’s been a while.

In the time we’ve been away, we inhereted two chickens only to find out we can’t keep them. My garden has gone from looking pretty pathetic to looking like it’s pretty healthy. The basil and morning glories are looking especially good. The only ones of Beekee’s plants that survived were a few carrots, one bean plant that’s barely holding on, and a very happy cucumber plant. The bugs killed the rest when we brought them inside in a hail storm. I can’t wait until we have victory over these bugs. We’ve also been very tight on money, so it’s made us consider a lot in our lives. Oz has taken a second job at Taco Bell to help balance out the finances. He’s getting run down, but he feels it’s worth it in the end.

So where does the crazy come in? I’m thinking about starting a small farm. I’ve been thinking about having a farm and an intentional community for years. I’d had the idea to do everything from a CSA to something historic and done the old fashioned way.

Of course, I’m not crazy enough to start out with a full scale farm business. I have no idea what that entails. However we do want to buy enough land that we can raise a few chickens for eggs and have our own home grown fruits, veggies, berries, and nuts. We’ll see if I like it enough to turn it into a full scale operation and not just a personal hobby and way to be sustainable.

What does this have to do with unschooling? It sounds like it’s more about me than the kids, right? The truth is it’s just as much for them as it is for me. Just in the short time my garden has existed we’ve seen pill bugs, caterpillars, fire ants, grasshoppers, butterflies, and spiders crawling around in there. We even woke up this morning to see a garden spider had made her home on the porch and stairs over the morning glories. There was an egg sac on the basil too, which has been relocated to a safer spot. When we used to have a garden in Troy we would attract sparrows, doves, humming birds, and rabbits. As a kid we had a garden and always saw squirrels investigating it as well as all kinds of birds. We even had some foxes get curious, which was rather unexpected in suburbia. Having a large garden will not only teach the kids how their food gets on the table, but gives Beekee the chance to pick his own foods for his budding interest in cooking. It teaches the kids to be a little more self-sustaining. It could drastically cut back or almost eliminate our grocery bill. If I had the guts to butcher our own animals we could possibly live without a grocery bill at all, but I think that’s a bit extreme for.out family. At most I could see us bartering for meat.

All of that can be seen as logical and practical. Growing a sustainable garden is practical. Raising chickens provides fresh eggs and they’re much more practical for kids than cats, dogs, and rodents. Sander wants to have “chicken friends” as pets. These are all life skills, maybe not for someone with no interest in gardening or farming, but it never hurts to know.

However, I’m thinking of going a little extreme with being prepared, at least as far as your average family goes. No, I won’t be featured on an upcoming episode of Doomsday Preppers or anything, but we want to be ready for emergency situations. I mean, sure, I would love to be prepared for the colapse of the US economy or war on our home soil. It could happen, and by taking the time to set up contingencies now, the plans and stores just have to be updated. However, that’s not what I’m worried about. I’m more concerned with things that are a little more proven. If they happen now or have happened before in our lives, they could easily happen again. For example, we live in territory that gets hit by tornadoes. We also face our own personal financial problems. If Oz keeps up at this pace we won’t qualify for food stamps anymore, so money troubles not only mean juggling bills, but could mean having no money for food. It never hurts to be prepared.

Realistically, there are two ways we can handle this problem. Either we can plan financially, or we can load up with supplies and alternatives. We’re chosing to do a bit of both. If we end up riding out another Great Depression, trusting the banks to be reliable seems a bit iffy. All the bank bailouts that helped spawn the Occupy Together campaigns on Wall Street and everywhere else make me a bit leery. At the same time, storing my money in my matress or in some secret cashe seems equally as risky. A break in or someone finding my cashe would just as easily make me broke as a “too big to fail” banking institution. We can only pay our rent and bills with money. They don’t accept barter at this point. I know Oz isn’t the best with money. If he has access to it, he’ll spend it, so it might be wise to accept that strictly financially preparing ourselves is going to be challenging at best. We need to be prepared for the things we can handle without money too.

So, this is where food storage comes into play. If we had a bit of a reserve we wouldn’t have to worry about whether we pay for rent or get groceries. Better yet, if we plan well we should never have to rely on junk food like Ramen or plain pasta and sauce again. Planning well should mean we can have real meals where all the necessary food groups are adequately represented. It would help my kids be ready for their own financially hard times too. Even the best financially off people could lose everything. It happened to my grandfather. It never hurts to know food won’t be on that list of worries, at least for a while.

Now, this could be as simple as stocking up on non-perishable items. Canned veggies and soup are cheap. Pasta and dried beans can be gotten for just as little. However it would be far more satisfying to can our own stuff, especially if it was stuff we grew ourselves. Canning could be a fun life skill or even hobby too if they enjoyed it.

So that’s where we’re thinking if heading these days.


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Attack of the Pill Bugs!

I’ve finally started a garden. It certainly took me long enough in the year. If it wasn’t for the free plants I scored on Freecycle I probably would have given up this year. As is I stopped just in time for it to get dark.

I have to admit, I should have planned better. I would have been wise to prep the garden plot before I brought my new plants home. I’m not sure how many will take as a result. The morning glories and four o’ clocks seem to have survived okay, but the basil was starting to wilt by the time we got it home. I stuxk the roots in water to hopefully revive the plants a bit, but we’ll see how it goes. At the very least, I tried.

Originally I had planned to have the kids help with the gardening. I’m really glad I decided not to. I love my kids. They’re incredibly capable. They can handle a lot of hard work when they put their minds to it. I don’t think having them help this time would have worked out as it did in my mind.

First I had to move the friendship tree, which seems determinded to look dead. I’m starting to think I somehow killed it. The spot underneath was the easiest place to clear. Even that was hard work. The grass here is one clump of root that develops a whole section of grass. This tangles with other clumps, making it a pain to clear. I ended up having to take a knife to cut the clumps into segments small enough to pry up and pull out. Several pieces had long root offshoots going well under our stairs. Worse still, under the tree was infested with ants that took none too kindly to my efforts. I don’t think I destroyed a nest because none of the other signs were there, but I might have disturbed a source of food they were going for. It may have also been where they were going for water. Then there were the giant stalks of grass I had to cut with a knife to get through. Breaking it or pullng it up wasn’t an option. I had to chop it back, then work at the roots once I could see them. Scott, our house guest, gave me some help by doing the second half for me. I still ended up having to expand it more, and I’m not even done. I wouldn’t want the kids messing with that kind if situation.

However, this and the rain we’ve had have made some interesting creepy crawlers appear. Yesterday we saw a caterpillar. Some day it will likely become a painted lady butterfly. They’re very common around here. We found wasps nesting on our porch. Scott wants to smoke them out and relocate them. I sure won’t be near when he does. The rain always brings geckos and the frogs will soon be out. Today we saw fire ants in swarms, beetles, a couple of skinny earth worms, three different wolf spiders, and whole messes of pill bugs. Sander sat on the stairs to watch the bugs. He thought they were attacking at first. Then he decided they were just making friends. He was all upset because one balled up and he thought I killed it. When I explained it was just scared and defending itself he had to watch it for a while until it unballed and went back about it’s business. There were hundreds of them, more than I’d ever seen. It was quite a day.

I’ve also decided to relocate some stinging nettle when I get some good gloves. It grows wild all over the park. Apparently it has a ton of uses, so we may as well make use of the natural resource, right?

Today was an eventful day. Hopefully the plants will take and I’ll be seeing some pretty new growth soon.

We’re planning to transplant Beekee’s plants soon too. Sadly, between wind, bugs, and the local cats, his plants aren’t doing so well. We repotted the ones we think will make it. Those will go in the ground as soon as the next section is ready.

For now I’m pretty beat. I think it’s time for bed.