Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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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.


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Knitting Is Homeschooling?

That’s the question I was asked today. I had Luca on my lap, helping little fingers so their work. Beekee looked at me in surprise when I asked Luca if knitting school was the best.

This is really where unschooling comes in. Anything can be a learning moment. Why does it need to fit the traditional label of “school” anyway? Isn’t learning for the sake of learning enough? That’s really the root of unschooling.

I still remember the day Luca went with me to the craft store on a mission to find some knitting needles I needed. I pointed out the cute kid’s needles and Luca announced that they had bears, so Luca needed them. I always thought they were vaguely animal of a non-specific sort, but bears never occurred to me. This was met with telling Luca “no” and stopping the ensuing meltdown of tires kid by changing to, “If we get them, you have to learn to knit.”

Just like that we had needles in hand and a quest to get some yarn, blue yarn, Luca’s favorite color. The first ball Luca liked was a pretty deep blue, but at $5 for a ball, I opted to keep looking to see if we could find a cheaper solution to the probably swiftly abandoned new hobby. Luca clung to that ball like it was treasure, needles clutched tightly alongside. I feared for whoever tried to separate the two.

Then there it was, this perfect, bright blue yarn with a sparkling rainbow strand twisted in. The best part? It was on clearance for $2. Not only did Luca love it, but the other ball was swiftly tossed back into it’s bin and Luca came barreling after me to grab this new, sparkly treasure.

Guiding Luca’s hands, we started knitting the next day. Luca was excited to start the day we brought everything home, but it was too late and everyone was too tired. The first few days we went one row at a time across twenty stitches, me guiding Luca through the steps.

Then one day we just stopped. The bag of yarn and the needles were stuffed on the shelf under my nightstand and forgotten. Soon Luca’s brothers were home and Luca’s knitting was forgotten.

Just yesterday I unearthed the bag while looking for I forget what. We sat down together and Luca worked through the first stitches, seemingly not needing my help at all. I was just there to steady the needles and to help slide the stitches and hold the needles in place when Luca changed grips. We worked through two rows then and there.


Today it was back to knitting again. Luca cruised through three more rows, stopping now and again to count how many stitches were left. I guess now is as good a time as any to work on counting to twenty. The work was almost easy.

For not even being five yet, Luca’s stitches are incredibly near and even. This little garter stitch scarf is looking pretty good. It’s a sport weight yarn, so the weave is a little loose, but I don’t think that will matter much to Luca. Luca just can’t wait to get to wear it. If course, at a row or three a day, it could still take a year, but we’re getting there.

Now Sander and Beekee want to learn. I can get them each their own set of knitting needles and a cheap ball of yarn and they’ll be on their way too. It’s nice to have them interested in the hobby I pursue, and it’s a lifelong skill. Knitting may not be as useful as car repair or something of that nature, but it does allow you to make some pretty nice, quality stuff. Plus it’s a hobby that results in a wearable product, making it both fun and useful!

This is what unschooling is really about. Sharing your passions and helping them discover theirs. This is all of why we do it.