Trailer Park Unschoolers

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

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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.


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.