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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I’m Not Doing School Today

That’s how the day started. I was so not motivated. I pulled the blanket back over my head, determined to do nothing, even if it meant sending the kids back to the public school system. I would not do school today, or perhaps ever again.

That’s how the day started…

The next revision of this plan involved computer school and nothing else. We were going to do that since we’re paying for it, and that’s about it. We didn’t need to do anything else, right?

What is the reality? Luca has done everything today except computer time. Sander finished his computer time. Beekee is through his math and is on to his other subjects. We’re cooking through the work today, even though I said we wouldn’t. All we haven’t tackled is history, something we’re going to be skipping out on some because there’s a good on Story of the World so it can’t be renewed. We were two thirds of the way through it anyway. We may end up buying it in the long run, but we may just start with Volume 2. We’ll lose some content, but I’m not so worried about that. Most kids their age don’t even cover history in school. If we skip over the rest of Greece and Rome It’s no big deal.

This is how it’s gone the past week too. I get up, determined to do nothing, then we always end up doing more than I planned. Last week we did have two cheat days, one for my birthday and the other for Beekee’s. This week we have no excuses, and April Vacation starts in two weeks, so we’ll probably take the week off since Corde will be home. Of course, I say that now, but it will come time for break and they’ll all be working through the week.

I really don’t do well at taking days off. We end up working through all of the stuff anyway. It’s right up there with taking time off of jujitsu or missing appointments. Even if I feel like I’m dying I still get off my butt and go. It’s about commitment, and I think I’m teaching my kids a valuable lesson about commitment and dedication. It’s good that they see I have trouble getting motivated, but I still manage to get things done.

So maybe I start the day thinking we should take a day off, but at least I still get stuff done. It doesn’t make for much unschooling, but we’ll get there. For now I think just getting through stuff to keep the state happy makes me feel more secure about what we’re doing. Until I’m feeling more confident, I guess we just don’t have many days without school.


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The Last Day of Future Leaders Program

It’s finally here, the last day of the Future Leaders Program. I think Beekee is a little relieved. He didn’t even want to go today. I think the only reason he agreed was knowing it would be the last day. It’s been tough on him having so much commitment. I have to wonder how he ever made it in school. He must have been so burnt out all the time.

In honor of his last day of his program we did almost no homeschooling today. We really got nothing done. I half watched Tree House Builders while Luca napped on my lap and that was about as educational as we got. That and Luca did one more row of knitting. Beyond that we’ve been all on the unschooling train.

So while we wait for the last class to end, Luca and Sander are playing with the iPads the library has. Usually they’re pretty hopping places, but today they can both play with no one waiting. It’s good for them to have a chance to play, especially for Luca, who never gets a chance to play on them.

Even Nina is having a chill day. She’s normally swarmed with children. Today She’s tucked up under my chair and out of the way. She’s napping while the kids play. Every once in a while a grumble let’s me know she’s still with us.

All of this is happening on a reasonably nice spring day. The walk wasn’t too bad, which is a nice change from the earlier days of the program. Even so, rumor has it we should be getting snow this weekend. We are not excited. At least warmer days have been the trend lately and it shouldn’t be long before we can sign up for these programs knowing it will be good weather to walk there and back. Hopefully that will motivate us.


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So Much for Spring

Spring is supposed to bring nice weather, isn’t it? Flowers are supposed to bloom and it’s time to take off the winter layers. All I can think is how much I wished I were in Texas still. It’s cold out there! So much for spring…

We had to go out today, and by “had to” I mean I signed Beekee up for a program, of which he already missed one week. It was the day after the concert and I had nowhere near enough sleep. It was also crazy cold. I couldn’t justify yet another day out of the program. It’s only four weeks long! It’s good for him to get out and social with other kids his age, especially because he doesn’t quite fit in at jujitsu. We had to go out today. It was pretty much required.


So here I am, sitting at the library, guarding the coats while Sander plays on the iPad and Luca plays on the computer. This isn’t much change from the tech time at home. We can’t get any books because I forgot my library card, and neither of them wants to read while we’re here. With a half hour left in Beekee’s program, if they end on time, we’ve got a whole lot of tech time going on. I’m starting to wonder if they’ll ever get off of it.

All of this has me thinking. Do the kids really need all the toys they have? They really only play with the LEGO blocks and sometimes the stuffed animals. They would all rather be playing on tech, and since I don’t limit screen time, I don’t see why they need so much.


Of course, getting my family on board with not getting us more stuff to clutter up my house is hard. I don’t want to be storing things in the basement to cycle through. Sander is proving me wrong by just starting to play with the trains at the library, but he doesn’t often play with toys at home, beyond the LEGO blocks. Still, I have an aunt that likes to buy the kids lots of stuff for birthdays and Christmas. The problem with this is we just don’t have room for it all. The kids aren’t reading the books. They’re not playing with the toys. It’s just taking up a lot of space that our big four bedroom just doesn’t have. And to be fair, it is a big four bedroom. I just don’t want toys up in the bedrooms because the kids play instead of sleep and their rooms are always messy. That means the living room is where it’s at. There’s just not room for a lot.

And even if I did allow the kids to have toys in their rooms, I don’t want their rooms to become a cluttered mess. That would mean only a small number of toys to play with in the rooms anyway.

Now I’m remembering why I wanted to live in a minimalist way. I’m tired of living under all this stuff. The summer I was in limbo was the most freeing thing ever. We lived out of one suitcase per person and still managed to have stuffed animals and some small toys. The kids appreciated what they had so much more and I was so much less burdened. I could breathe without feeling like my house was trying to suffocate me.

I think it’s time for a grand scale purge again. I’ll call it spring cleaning, even though spring hasn’t really found us yet. I can cut back on all the stuff we’re collapsing under and bring it back to the basics. We’ve got bags of toys in the basement that mostly just need to go. Some stuff needs to go back to the kids, but most of it is just stuff that’s been long since forgotten. I think that’s the big thing we need a car for, to get rid of all this extra stuff we no longer use and needs to be removed. It will make quite the Goodwill donation, that’s for sure! And we really need to do it too. I wonder if any of those places do pick ups. They’re good toys in practically unused condition, most of them. They just need to live with someone other than me and the family.

So maybe it isn’t spring outside. Maybe I’m longing for our little trailer again. I’m secretly plotting to go back to the trailer park days. But while all this is going on, some positive has come. We’re thinking ahead to the point at which we cut back the toys in my house to almost nothing again. It doesn’t feel like spring, but spring cleaning is coming.

Go stream of thought writing. I can tell I’m bored while waiting for Beekee’s program to let out. Any time now…any time…


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I Would Like A Voice, Please

Learning has been interesting this week. Last week I went to a concert and didn’t lose my voice. This week, out of the blue, I have no voice. Doesn’t that figure? It’s made it an interesting week of homeschooling.

However, not having a voice allowed me to make some interesting observations. For example, I really don’t like Primary Phonics. Doing it right requires an obnoxious amount of talking, and I feel Sander isn’t getting as much out of it if I just say, “There are the workbooks pages. Have at.” It feels like I should be putting in the effort to read through the lessons. I’ll be honest, this is why I haven’t put more effort into doing Primary Phonics with Luca. I think Explode the Code does the same basic thing, but better. The only advantage to Primary Phonics is the basic readers that really make it easy for Sander to build some confidence with reading. I prefer the phonics box sets for that kind of stuff though. To be honest, Primary Phonics seems like a dated system of learning phonics. Will I still use it? Yes, if for no other reason than feeling guilty that money was spent on it for both Sander and Luca, but I much prefer Explode the Code. It’s a lot more fun for both Sander and Luca.

I’ve also realized that having a curriculum doesn’t suit me so much. We really are unschoolers at heart. I hate sticking to the curriculum and the workbooks. I feel like I’m spending my whole day working through books, even though we really don’t spend that long. It’s not my favorite thing. We’re it up to me we would do Explode the Code and Math U See and call it a day after that.

It’s also struck me how much time I spend reading to the kids every day. Our homeschool days have been really short without having reading as a component. We cruise through our daily workbook time without it. It feels like our last few days have been severely lacking. We usually read so much!

And it’s not just the reading we’ve been missing out on, but the discussions as well. We generally spend a lot of time talking about what we’ve been learning or doing. We haven’t been able to do that because my voice (when it’s there) sounds like talking through gravel. As a result, we haven’t been able to do much of that either. It’s been tough losing that whole part of it. I never realized how much talking I do as a part of homeschooling these days!

As for what you missed in the last six days I wasn’t able to pop on the computer (which I’m now posting from my phone, so I’m still not on the computer…) there’s been some good moments. I think I need to share some pictures to show what kind of week it’s been.

This was when Luca decided to serenade me with Beekee’s guitar. It was super cute. The song was called “I love mommy!” Can I just tell you how that made me feel? Luca is awesome like that.

We took last week off of jujitsu, and we’re taking today off as well due to Luca’s dental consultation. (Poor kid needs caps on a bunch of teeth, so that’s a whole ordeal…) We did, however, go on Monday. The kids had a blast on the walk and they loved getting out in the warm weather. If only it was warm like that today!

Sander had crazy spiky hair after his shower. He looks so much more like himself since we hacked off his crazy mop of hair. He wants to keep it that short and spike it up every time he showers. He thinks it’s the most fun part of having short hair.

And then I got this. It’s perhaps the best picture I’ve taken of Beekee in a long time. He’s hard to get a picture of at the best of times. This one just worked out well. He was in the middle of doing his math work for the day. Homeschooling seems to suit him. He still gets easily distracted, but we still get through the content, and that’s what matters, right? It’s working out for us.

Then this happened to my living room. Luca had one tent from last Christmas and got another one this Christmas with a tunnel. This makes for an epic fortress in my living room. Thankfully, they fold up flat so I can put them away when not in use. That means I get my living room back most of the time, aside from when Luca decides to set up the tunnel towers again. I need a bigger living room. That’s what it comes down to.

Today Luca had the consultation for the scary amount of dental work (surgery! Yikes!) I’m glad Oz is going to be taking Luca in for that. Luca needs caps on the upper front teeth and an extraction. I don’t know why either. Luca’s teeth have been treated the same as the rest of the kids. We would have had it seen to earlier but there was that whole moving around thing a couple years ago and once we were settled it was already too late. So that being said, we’re doing the best we can with a bad situation. (Also, this is why I think even radical unschoolers should encourage their kids to brush their teeth!)

Luca came home with an apple fritters as a special treat for being good at the dentist. Luca called it an “apple critter.” It was super cute. That made my day!

So now you’re caught up with us. Now I’m off to watch Jurassic World with the kids. It’s their first Jurassic Park movie. This should be interesting


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A Quiet Day With Just Two

There’s just two today, Corde and Luca.  Beekee and Sander are out for the day, which leaves a pretty quiet house.  It’s amazing how quiet things get when there’s just Corde and Luca at home.  I forget how loud Sander and Beekee can be.

I haven’t had this kind of quiet during the day since the kids were in school, and you know what?  I don’t miss it.  I’m glad to have the kids home, as noisy and chaotic as it can be.  I love the time together with the kids.  We spend so much more time together now.

Still, it’s nice to have a day of peace and quiet every once in a while.  The only sounds are Corde’s reactions as she watches Liv and Maddie with Luca.  The two of them like watching television together.  It’s one of the few times they actually spend together anymore, since Corde is too grown up to want to spend time with a preschooler.

It’s funny, the two of them used to be so close when Luca was a baby.  Corde would sneak into my room every morning and make off with Luca.  The two would play all morning long, best buddies.  I miss those days.  I wish I could have them back, but time flies so quickly.  They’ve flown away so quickly.

There’s likely no more baby days in my future.  Instead I watch my kids grow and change.  I see new moments, like Corde and Luca watching television together, or all the kids quietly sitting on the floor, coloring and drawing.  Instead of changing diapers I’m teaching Luca to write.  Instead of Corde carrying off a little baby, she’s sitting Luca on her lap to watch a show together, or just to cuddle together in my chair.  She loves to pick out clothes for Luca at the store, especially the frilliest tutus.  It’s a different dynamic with them, and it’s fun to watch them grow together, as much as I miss the days when they were small.

Time is a funny thing.  Days like today really highlight what time does to my family.  They’re all growing up so fast.  Corde goes into high school next year.  Beekee is one year away from being old enough for middle school.  Sander is already in first grade, and Luca will be old enough for kindergarten next year.  Where has the time gone, and what happened to my little kids?

I didn’t intend this post to be nostalgic at all.  It somehow just happened.  That’s how life is, isn’t it?  It just kind of happens, ending up with funny moments, sweet ones, and even the infuriating or annoying.  And I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.  In a few short years my oldest is going to be graduating high school, or at least done with it on a homeschool level, and fast on her way to moving on with her life.  It’s scary to think about, how close it all seems.

But for now I have the moments, Corde sitting in the chair with Luca, giggling over a television show.  I have Luca, content to sit with big sister.  They’re not grown yet.  I’ve still got time for these wonderful moments.


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Someone Needs More Sleep

Luca was super cranky today.  This all came on the tails of not enough sleep the night before.  A late night plus an early morning leads to a very cranky Luca that threw a number of tantrums and fought going to sleep like crazy.  I finally ended up agreeing that Luca had to lay down for two minutes, and after that there was no requirement to lay down.

About a minute in Luca was asleep…

So why did Luca stay up so late last night?  Well, part of it is unrestricted screen time.  The long and the short of it is usually the kids are pretty good at moderating their own screen time and spend plenty of time doing other things.  Unfortunately, this means Luca would rather be up watching movies than sleeping.  Since the downstairs neighbor doesn’t like to hear Luca running around after 9pm, that means Luca’s kind of got to be restricted to one spot, which I think is pretty unfair, but it’s better to stay on good terms with our neighbors.  It just isn’t easy because the kids get home from jujitsu so incredibly late.  We don’t walk in until 8:30.  The kids don’t want to just go straight to sleep.  Even if we had a car we wouldn’t get home much earlier, and the kids wouldn’t have had the walk to wear them out.  It makes it tough to get the kids to settle down on the best of days.

I digress, the point is, Luca isn’t tired at 9 because of the late nights for jujitsu, so that means keeping Luca settled down in one spot.  The best way to do this is to let Luca watch movies while sitting on the bed.  Unless I go in and lay down with Luca, that’s what it continues to be, or a lot of tears.

The awesome part of co-sleeping?  Luca actually sleeps well at night and doesn’t fuss and wake up in the middle of the night.  If that happens, I’m always right there.  It hasn’t been an issue to this point.  The downside?  Luca doesn’t want to go to sleep unless I’m settling down to sleep too.  That often means Luca doesn’t go to bed until I’m ready to sleep, which can mean late nights, like last night when I wasn’t ready to go to sleep until 11.  Yes, Luca had a very late night.

That brings me to a perk on the other side of the night for co-sleeping.  On the plus side, Luca tends to sleep later being comfortable having me right there.  If we have a morning where Luca wakes up early, I’m right there to settle Luca down to sleep again.  It also means I wake up when Luca wakes up, which is a total benefit.  There isn’t much of a downside here unless I want to sleep in.  There’s no hope for sleeping in after Luca climbs over me to get me up, kneeing me in the gut in the process.  That part is not so fun.

I knew early on this was going to be a rough day.  Not only did the lack of sleep give me warning, but early tantrums were also a huge tip off.  We had a tantrum over breakfast.  (The milk had to come from the little jug, not the big one!)  We had a tantrum over computer time.  (Sander had to go first and that was just it!)  We had a tantrum over the tablet.  (Luca wanted to play the baby panda games and nothing else would do!)  At the point we had a tantrum because the kids decided to turn off Netflix and play Minecraft, that’s when I was done.  Sure, Luca wanted to watch Mighty Med with the big kids, but no one else wanted to.  If I didn’t bring an end to these tantrums, there was no way we were going to make it to jujitsu.

It’s too bad it worked out that way too.  It’s a beautiful day out.  It would have been a great day to get out to the park.  Our temperatures are approaching 60 out there.  The snow is almost all melted.  The birds were chirping like crazy this morning.  It’s starting to feel like spring is actually rolling in, but I couldn’t take an already tired and cranky kid out to the park to get more tired and even more cranky, to then go to jujitsu where that kid was going to get even more tired and cranky, and still have to walk home.  It was already bad enough that we had a tired, cranky kid because Luca’s class was cancelled on Monday due to lack of participation.  I don’t need Luca to be upset at jujitsu again.

Oh well, Luca got a much needed nap and that’s what really matters in the end.  Hopefully Luca will wake up to be a much happier sort of bear.  That would definitely make the day flow a lot more smoothly.