Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


Leave a comment

Fort Warren and George’s Island

(Posted a week late because it got lost in draft limbo…but it’s up now, so that’s got to count for something, right?)

We had quite the adventure this past weekend. We ended up going on Monday due to weather, which worked out well because it was a beautiful day.

The trip in started with a train ride into the city. The kids always love a good train ride. Luca got to read a Cat in the Hat book about sharks, which was exciting because we were going to be taking the ferry in.

This was the kids first trip on a boat of any kind. Beekee was a little worried about being on a boat, but he got over it quickly when he realized how exciting it was. Luca loved watching the white waves coming off the side of the ferry. They all loved the ride out.

When we got to the island they wanted to do a couple things right off the bat. First they wanted to eat a quick lunch. Then they wanted to go touch the water, since we aren’t near the ocean much. After that they went to check out the playground that looked like a miniature version of the fort.

The trip into the fort was a lot of fun, once we got in there. It started with a walk around the fort, then we got in to investigate. The younger three loved getting to use flashlights to look around. I think that was the best part for them. Perhaps if we get a chance to go in the future we can take a ranger guided tour, but for now exploring without being bogged down with the history of the place was a lot of fun.

wp-image-145841421The kids have already said they want to go back again next summer, but I think first up on the list is a whale watch. The kids are super excited to get to do that in the future too. It seems this trip inspired a whole lot of excitement. It was a great way to end the summer!

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Upcoming Weekend Fun

It’s been a rather “unschooling” week around here.  We haven’t done much of the actual work we’ve decided to do, just so that it looks like we’re meeting standards.  Now that I’ve put some thought into it, I’ve realized that it’s important for Corde and Beekee (for reasons having to do with their biological father), so it’s worth making sure we toe that line for now at least.

This weekend we’ve got an incredible event coming up.  We’re going to explore a Civil War fort with my dad and my sister.  This is going to be extra fun because the kids will go on their first ever boat ride on the ferry out to the island.  They’re really looking forward to that.

I suppose (if we were that kind of family) I could have prepared them for this by talking about the Civil War and getting their heads set in the history before they showed up.  That’s just not who we are.  I think it’ll be far more fun to jump on in and explore, then worry about the history after the fact.  “Hey, this is cool!  I wonder why they did that…  Let’s find out.”

Hopefully we should have some good pictures from the weekend trip.  It’s going to be quite the adventure, by train, by ferry, and on foot.  It’s somewhere I went as a kid and I think the kids will really love it.  It’s going to be a great time!

 


2 Comments

Back to School (or Not)

It’s that time of year again, when my Facebook feed blows up with kids going back to their first day of school, sometimes their first day in general, other times their first day in a new grade.  This time last year I was getting ready to send my own kids back to school, which wouldn’t last out the year for Sander and Beekee.  Now I’m only gearing up to send one back to school, Corde, and she’s not even sure she wants to last out the year.

For Corde, this year is basically a big experiment.  She’s going to do the career exploratory at the local tech school, and if she likes it, she may stay on long-term.  We may also look into working out a deal where she can homeschool for her academics and go to school for the technical training.  We’re still not sure what we want to do for that, but it at least gives her an idea of what she can do for a career, so it’s worth it.  She’s going to get a chance to try some things and hopefully narrow down what she wants to do with her life, and as a result, where she wants to go to college and what she studies when she gets there.

For the other three, this is a time of getting back into it.  We’ve been doing phonics and math through the summer, but for the fall we’re adding some workbooks that the kids actually enjoyed doing, now that we won’t have the distraction of Corde at home.  There are this series of workbooks that are listed as Daily (Subject).  The kids really like these books because it’s a short (10 minute or less) delve into a topic.  Last year Sander and Beekee did Daily Geography and Daily Science.  Beekee also did Daily Reading Comprehension, which I think Sander is going to do this year as well.  Since the kids like it, I don’t see why we wouldn’t keep doing them, for now at least.  If they enjoy it, why not?  Even if it really is curriculum, it’s still unschooling if it’s fun, right?

I’m sticking with the math and phonics.  These are really just core subjects that the school can use as measurable goals to make sure the kids are on track.  Their reading and math levels really matter when it comes to the school system, so I’m trying to keep them “on track.”  Sander needs to be reading and reading independently, which is an important milestone for the schools.  Once he’s doing that we can slack off a bit there.  Besides, some of the work is kind of fun, so that’s something.  Sander gets to color and enjoys reading all the new books with Primary Phonics, and some of the exercises in Explode the Code seem to be kind of fun.  It’s not the most “unschooler” approach to things, but I want to make sure we’re at least toeing the line on this one.  And the math?  The kids seem to enjoy doing the math with the blocks (even if some of it is more playing than doing their problems), and they’re doing pretty good with the exercises.  If I can get them through to the point of being “ahead” in math they can definitely slack off in that department.  Again, it’s just enough to keep the school system happy, and they’re making good progress (and having fun with it) so why not?

But history we’re definitely taking a more “unschooling” approach.  The kids liked Story of the World, so we’re going to start on Story of the World Vol 2 in the first few weeks of the school year.  I’m going to be ordering it early into the year.  We’re also going to be reading a lot of fairy tales, just for the fun of it.  You can learn a lot about a culture from their fairy tales.  We’re hopefully going to end the year with a trip to the Renaissance Faire in the spring, though that all depends on us getting a car.  We’re probably also going to talk about swords, archery, and other cool stuff like that.  You can’t start the middle ages without talking about that cool stuff.  And, just for the fun of it, we’re going to add playing Skyrim to the curriculum.  It’s not exactly an accurate portrayal of history in any means, but it does introduce concepts like armor, weapons, and castles.  We can find some cool videos online about siege weapons and there are more than a few on armor.  This is a period of history I absolutely love learning about, so we’re going to have some fun with it.  We may even throw in learning to make chainmail (or any of the numerous spellings), just for the fun of it.  Why not?  Oz knows how to make it.  It may be a bit too hard for Luca, but Sander and Beekee are definitely old enough to put together a simple piece of jewelry.  Best part is it gives Oz and I reasons to get back into some stuff we really love, which is never a bad thing.

And what about science, you may ask?  I had planned on ordering a science “curriculum” with lots of experiments for the boys to do, but I think I may just order a book of experiments to do at home.  I think we’re going to make sure we do everything scientifically, from forming a hypothesis to developing a conclusion.  Thankfully this is my home, so a conclusion of “That was really awesome!” counts as far as I’m concerned.  Well, that and a few details about what happened.  I’m expecting to record these answers for them and keep the “lab reports” in a big binder so the kids can all review what we’ve done later.  Maybe we’ll pick up some science kits at some point in the year, but for now we’re planning on keeping it simple.  We may also look into getting one of those snap circuit kits so the kids can learn about circuitry and that kind of thing, but I think sticking with stuff we can do with household goods, even if it’s not stuff we have readily on hand and have to purchase, sounds like the best place to start.

And, finally, on the essential skill of writing, I’m hoping we can get a letter writing thing going on.  Luca and Sander have a half brother they haven’t yet met, but lives almost clear across the country from them.  I’m hoping Oz can convince his mom to let them start writing letters.  I’m also going to be talking to my aunt (their great aunt) about maybe doing a letter exchange/penpal thing.  It’s a great way to get good at writing, but it’s also always fun to get stuff in the mail.  That’s going to do the boys a lot of good, even if they only send out one letter every other week or so.  It’s skill building, and something they’ve all expressed interest in doing.

Not only will they be doing letter writing, but Sander and Beekee both have asked about doing more writing projects.  Beekee wants to learn to write well so he can go to college some day.  Sander wants to learn to write stories.  Both of them have agreed to work on a paragraph a week, then maybe illustrating their paragraph, just for fun.  We’ve decided (while the kids have interest at least) we’re going to pick a topic every week (or more often if they choose to) and all three will get to write about it.  Sander and Beekee will work on doing a paragraph (maybe more for Beekee) and Luca will get to write a sentence.  They’re all really excited about this.  I plan to put this in each of their portfolios so they have a collection of work for the end of the year to look back on.  This will allow us to have dated samples of their work, should we be asked for it in the future, but also it’s a really cool way for them to look back at their writing skills.  Hopefully this will help Sander build into a creative writer, and teach Beekee the skills he’s going to need to write college papers, even if he’s still a ways away from having to do that yet.

I’m pretty excited about this year.  We’ve got some cool stuff we want to do in history and science.  We’ve got some daily lessons to keep the kids busy.  We’re making progress in math, which we’re blowing through the lessons faster than I expected.  Phonics is coming along pretty well, which means Sander will be reading independently before long and Luca will be reading in no time.  We’ll have plenty of pieces of work to put together in a portfolio, and tons of new experiences on the way.  I have a feeling Corde’s going to be sad she’s being left out, but she’s got half the year to decide what she wants to do.  Who knows?  Maybe all the fun the kids are having will inspire her to come home and join the fun too?  Or maybe school will be really awesome for her.  Either way, it’s going to be a wild year!


Leave a comment

Knitting with Kids

Just a week or so ago we came to the conclusion that the kids needed a hobby.  This wasn’t an adult decision.  Sander and Beekee decided they wanted to start working on some non-school activities.  This resulted in the decision to go to the craft store, pick up some yarn and needles, and get to knitting.

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much.  I got them cheap yarn and needles because I fully expected this to be a one week thing and then done.  They’d move on from it, and I would once again be the only knitter in the house.

It started out just as I would expect it would, with the kids starting off very eagerly, but soon finding it was a little trickier than they’d thought it was.  Beekee took off on his own fairly quickly, while Sander needed a lot more attention.  I decided it would be best if I did exactly like I did with Luca, held his hands and guided him through the motions until he started to get it.  It all looked like it was going fairly well at first.

IMG_20170801_180658_154Sander, with his dark green yarn and metallic green needles, was making some pretty good progress.  Though he didn’t do his knitting regularly, he’s adding rows as he goes and it’s looking pretty good.  His tension is really good and he’s been really careful with his stitches, so we haven’t ended up with extra stitches everywhere.  He still likes to sit between my legs while he knits, just so I’m there if he runs into trouble.  We tried him sitting on my lap but he’s just too tall for that.  I can’t see his knitting that way!  Still, it’s only going to be a matter of time before he’s working completely independently, at least until we move on to the purl stitch.

IMG_20170801_181944_153Luca is even taking off in regards to that.  He’s been working hard at knitting without my help, and if I try to interfere or guide I get a very firm, “Let me do it!”  It’s only a matter of time before my assistance is just needed to fix mistakes or to help with the counting to keep the stitches right.  Even then, it’s not going to be long before Luca can count the stitches without help, and then I won’t be needed anymore.

IMG_20170801_181341_257Beekee, on the other hand, I have no idea what he was doing.  Somehow he was “knitting” row after row, didn’t add any actual rows of knitting.  All he succeeded in doing was winding up the stitches tighter and tighter until he could barely get his needle into them.  We decided just yesterday we were going to start over from scratch.  He sat next to me and knit two rows, one with a lot of guidance and one completely on his own.  Today he added yet another row, which was looking pretty good.  He’s getting there.  I think I had too much faith in him figuring it out quickly and let him run with it too soon.  As a result, his first memories of knitting are frustrating, but he’s working to rebuild with better experiences.

The younger ones aren’t the only ones learning to knit.  Though I’ve got no picture (since she’s off at Rainbow Camp this week…and hopefully isn’t getting the rain we are), Corde is learning to knit too.  She’s done some crochet, but when the boys decided they wanted to learn to knit, she decided she had to be in on it too.  So far she’s got a swatch of garter stitch started up that’s about three inches long, in sock yarn, on size 2 needles.  She wanted small, so that’s what I had that was small.  For all her frustrations at small needle and yarn size, she’s doing fairly well too.

At first I was overjoyed at the new knitters at the house.  I thought of all the fun projects they could do, and I could be giving them a gift that will last them a lifetime.  Knitting is not only a fun pastime, but it ends off with a product that’s (hopefully) usable.  If I knit a hat, I can then wear that hat.  I can knit a sweater.  I can knit socks, and who doesn’t need socks?  There’s something deliciously wonderful about hand knit socks.  So it’s productive time and enjoyment.  And it allows me to do more than one thing at once.  I can knit and watch television, or listen to an audio book.  I can knit while having a conversation with friends.  I can even knit and help the kids through the traditional elements of homeschooling we keep so the state can be happy.  I can knit while Sander reads a book to me, or Luca tells me an epic story.  So what’s not to like about knitting?

Then I realized the long term impact of what I’m doing.  I’m creating more knitters.  That means more people potentially making socks, hats, sweaters, scarves, whatever it is they decide to knit.  I know Corde and Sander both want to knit socks.  This means they’ll be tempted to dive in my tiny stash to get yarn, which also means I’ll need to buy more yarn.  (No really, twist my arm and make me buy more yarn…)  It means I’m potentially going to have less to make for the kids because they’re going to start making stuff themselves.  If this really takes off they could be knitting their own socks, hats, and mittens!  I mean, that’s great, but that leaves only myself and Oz to knit socks, hats, and mittens for.  I guess it’s good that they learn to provide for themselves, and maybe they’ll want to keep better track of their socks, hats, and mittens if they make them on their own, but I kind of like the idea of knitting socks, hats, and mittens for them.  I’ve been quite the slacker and haven’t done many for them, but I’ve got enough of a budget to start doing that for them.  If this takes off, it means competition for yarn, and less people to knit for.  Isn’t that kind of tragic?

But, really, I’m happy they’re learning to do this.  I think of all the joy knitting brings me, and I like the idea that I’m going to be passing this on to them.  My grandmother knits, and while my mother doesn’t, it’s sort of a family tradition.  It’s a skill that will keep on giving to them, so long as they keep on practicing it.  In college they could have the coolest socks, the most unique hats, and awesome sweaters to show off.  They could some day knit for their own kids.  Once they get good at it they can do it while they’re doing other things, like I can, which means they can potentially keep their hands busy during an important meeting at work.  It helped me focus during class, so long as I picked something with a simple enough pattern.  It means I don’t have much idle time, since I can always be knitting while I’m doing something else.  Television time doesn’t become vegging out that way.  These are things I’m potentially passing on to them.

Of course, this is still just a new habit.  They may knit through a few rows and never pick it up again.  Corde, at least, I see continuing on to knit other things, but she’s also older and has more of an idea of what she wants to get out of knitting.  Sander and Beekee are going strong with it for now, but with only a row or two when they decide to pick it up, it’s not like they’ll knock out their first garter scarves in a month or anything.  Luca is still working on the same scarf from last fall or winter, whenever it was I picked up the yarn.  It’s still a long way to go before we figure out if this is just a passing interest or a new life-long hobby.  Still, it’s nice to think they have a choice in that now.  They’re learning, and in time they’ll have an opportunity to decide for themselves.  I’ve given them the chance to learn, and where they go from there is up to them.


2 Comments

Unschooling Is Back, Baby!

This week I did something I didn’t even realize I needed to do.  I called to find out where I have to send in a progress report for my children’s year of homeschooling.  I had expected to go in with portfolio in hand to show them the work we’d done (which is why we even bothered to keep a portfolio in the first place).  As it turns out, I don’t need to do that at all.  The process is much simpler than that.

So what do I have to do?  I need to send in a progress report for each of my children talking about what we covered in every subject.  I was also told I have to send in samples of their work, though I’m not sure how that works.  I was told it’s standardized testing OR a progress report OR samples of their work.  I’m still ironing out the details of what exactly I have to include, but we’re getting there.  One thing at a time, right?  For now, I’m going to be compiling a progress report covering what we did with each subject, and putting together my education plan for next year.

The plans for next year are pretty simple, really.  We’re going to keep with the phonics program and the math program, but my goal beyond that is to try and do a year of totally unschooling.  I know I’ve got daily exercise books for the kids that my aunt got me, and if the kids have interest in doing them, great.  I may suggest the geography and science ones on a regular basis because the kids really liked those and they cover some good topics.  I’m thinking we’re going to do Story of the World again next year, though if they don’t totally soak it up, I’m not too worried about it.  But beyond that, anything goes.

More accurately, I’m going to stick it out with math.  We’re going to try and blow through the remaining phonics.  Once we’re done with phonics, we’re going to be done with everything but math, and then it’s back to unschooling time!

So, why are we sticking with math and phonics?  Well, phonics has really helped Sander with his reading, so I figure the more we can give him tools to be successful, the better he’ll be.  I know as long as we live near family, a lot of pressure is going to be put on the kids to be reading.  While I’d love to let them learn it organically, I know things will go much more smoothly if the kids learn how to read and we go from there.  And math?  Well, that’s a life skill that they’re going to need if they ever want to go to college, and while I’m not holding my breath that the kids will want to go to college, I want to keep that option available to them.

As if gearing up for a more unschooling heavy year wasn’t enough, we’re also working on getting back to a more unschooling life in general.  Once we have a car we intend to take to the road a lot more and visit some historic places, museums, and other cool places filled with learning.  We’re definitely going to start going on more nature walks.  It may not be until spring that we have a car, but we’re totally going to be looking forward to that in the coming school year.

It feels so good to know we’re going to be getting back to the roots of it all again.  I can’t wait to take another step forward, progressing into the next phase of our schooling life.  I’m looking forward to filling the house with experiments, talking about crazy inventions on Minecraft, and all kinds of other cool things.  We’re in for an absolutely fantastic “school” year!


4 Comments

Why She Wants to Go to School

I’m honestly really sad about Corde wanting to go to high school next year.  Part of it is her grades.  She’s a B/C student and feels like she can’t aspire to anything better.  I have a feeling reliance on grades will only hold her back and make her that much less ready for college, if she decides to go.  But there are other factors in all of that.  I just feel like she could get so much better of an education at home.

For starters, no one is teaching her how to write, and I mean properly write.  I’ve heard this complaint from a lot of high school students entering college.  No one taught them the proper way to write a research paper.  No one showed them how to craft a properly supported argument.  They struggle when they get to college because they don’t know how to do these things.  I can honestly say that was the hardest part about peer editing in college, I felt like I had to make a lot of comments and edits.  Actually, that’s not true.  I had a wonderful time in my literature class, but my history class it felt like I was working with a lot of people that didn’t know how to write.

And then there’s other aspects of education.  Corde is tracked into a specific plan for next year.  While she’s not doing great in math (a solid B student, so not horrible), she’s getting through the material quickly.  If she was homeschooled she could advance through the material and get “back on track” that much quicker.  There’s no reason she couldn’t be through Algebra 1 right now if she just applied herself.  We could have easily gotten through it this summer, but what’s the point if she’s not going to be able to advance to the next level next year in school?  She can’t move forward at her pace.  She has to move at the pace everyone else sets for her.

Let’s not forget her woes in science and history.  Those classes are all about memorizing facts, something she’s really struggling with.  I know college will be full of that.  She may not have to remember names and dates in science, but she is going to have to remember things like the laws of physics, or the parts of a cell.  In history it’ll be names and dates.  However, I could teach her to study those things and improve her skills.  Going to school she had a study block, which was where she did all her work.  None of her work came home, so she didn’t study, and because she didn’t study, she didn’t do well in her classes.  These are things we could easily improve upon with homeschooling.

However, she doesn’t want to homeschool.  It’s not about the high school experience.  It’s not even because she’s really interested in the things she’ll learn in tech school.  She’s really only interested in going to high school to be with her friends.  She said, “You don’t understand, Mom.  Once you no longer go to school with kids they don’t have time for you anymore.”  I hate to say it, but there’s every chance her friends won’t have time for her in high school either.  She may choose a different vocational career than them, or they may all choose the same thing to be together, which is the wrong way to choose something.  There’s every chance she and her friends will drift apart anyway.

Going to school just for her friends isn’t a good answer in my opinion.  If she works hard to maintain her friendships, she won’t have to worry about losing her friends when they go to different schools.  They’ll make other friends, I’m sure, but she’ll still be able to hang out with her friends after school.  She’ll have even more time because she won’t have homework to worry about.

Still, I know I can’t change her mind, so we’re going to see how it goes.  I think it would be different if we had a car and could get her to homeschooling events.  That’s going to be a while in coming though, so we’re doing the best we can.  Maybe she’ll decide she wants to homeschool her academics and we can work something out with the school for that.  We may have a compromise yet.


2 Comments

Percy Jackson and Screen Time

We just started reading a new book today.  I’m not done with Peter Pan yet, but we decided to mix it up with something more fun.  We’ll work our way through the last 20% of Peter Pan, but we’ll do it at night when the kids are getting ready for bed.

So we started Percy Jackson today.  Corde listened along, figuring she can count it as part of her summer reading (it’s like a book on tape).  She thinks it’s more interesting than the first chapter of Harry Potter, where absolutely nothing interesting happens, not really.  I think she’s wishing she’d read Percy Jackson as her summer reading book instead.  Oh well.  She can always change her mind.

However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve got to limit screen time for Luca.  Now, I’ll be honest, Luca spends a lot of time watching Netflix, sometimes what feels like too much time.  I’ve tried to be the good radical unschooler when it comes to this, but it’s taking over Luca’s life.  He seems to want to do nothing but watch movies, to the point where it’s starting to get in the way of doing anything else.

Part of this is really Sander’s fault.  Well, I guess the origin is Corde.  She complains that reading is boring for years.  Now Sander says reading is boring.  He’s taken it one step farther to say being read to is boring.  This resulted in Luca crying for twenty minutes because he didn’t want to hear the story, he just wanted to watch a movie.

Well, I was having none of it.  Against all of my unschooling desires, I made up my mind that Luca was at least going to sit quietly while the movie was on, even if all he did was munch on his sandwich and ignore us.  He would be in the same room, and the screen would be off.  He didn’t have to listen, but he had to be quiet and let everyone else listen, and he had to be in the room.

After the whole crying, screaming fit over not being allowed to watch Netflix, we’ve decided it’s time for Netflix to go, at least in anything other than watching as a family.  Luca is on a Netflix fast for a week.  Luca’s really got to start doing other things, playing, interacting, reading.  I thought that summer reading and the potential to win a prize would be enough, but apparently not.

Of course, summer reading at our library is decidedly not cool.  All of the libraries I’ve been to before have all done things where you get prizes for reading so many books, so much time, whatever.  I think when I was a kid you would read so many books and you got a book as a prize.  Now everywhere seems to do time.  Even if they’re just little cheap toys (one place did book marks, rubber duckies, that sort of thing), they get to feel like they won something for all their work.  That was the motivation, to get the next prize.

This library does it different.  You get tickets for every so many hours you read.  The first one is free.  You get another at 1 hour, another at 5 hours, then 15, 30, and 50.  Each of the tickets can be deposited into a box to try and win a prize.  I won’t lie, some of the prizes are some pretty nice stuff, like the gardening kit and the Lincoln Logs.  Still, I find it hard to motivate them when their only reward for all that is a chance to win something.  They could work hard all summer to read all 50 hours and not win a single thing.  And what do I do if one of them wins, but the rest of them get nothing?  This didn’t matter last year because Sander and Beekee only got far enough to do their 1 hour tickets and then we forgot about recording their time, not that we did much reading last summer.  This year I’ve got all three of them doing the elementary summer reading program, and they’re not super excited about it.

I had really hoped to use the summer reading program to motivate the kids to get their reading done.  I wanted them to become stronger readers, and hopefully get Luca started on reading through exposure, but it’s not really happening.  They’re just not motivated for a chance to win something.  I mean, at 5 hours they get a t-shirt, so that’s something.  I just really don’t see this as giving them something to work to.  They like it a lot better when there’s a clear goal in sight.  This is just a maybe, and they don’t like maybes.

Still, it’s getting them to sit for a story every day.  We’re counting read aloud (I don’t know if we should) because Luca can’t read yet, and we’re spending a half hour each day with the reading aloud.  That means Sander has to read one or two more books to get his hour every day.  Luca needs to have two more books read to him.  Beekee gets to read for a half hour quietly.  That gives them a good chunk of reading time down.  Anything else is just a bonus at that point.

It’s especially hard because Sander is a very reluctant reader.  He’s taken on Corde’s cries that reading is boring, so he doesn’t want to read, ever.  He’s also taken on her argument that reading is hard.  That’s trickling down to Luca, who now says he doesn’t want to read because reading isn’t fun.  It’s just a whole mess of a thing.  I think they all need a role model (not me) to show them that reading really is fun.

Oh well, for now we have Percy Jackson, and that seems to have lit a spark in them for wanting to hear a good story.  That’s definitely something.  I’ll take it for what it is.  We’ll count that towards their reading (whether it’s permitted or not) and run with that.  Hopefully that will help them see how great reading really can be.