Trailer Park Unschoolers

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

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Cuddled Up to Sleep

Things have been good since we decided to nix bedtime. The kids do get cranky and need naps from time to time, but it’s gone pretty well. I count this an experiment well worth trying.

The tricky part has been finding a way to get Luca to sleep. If left to his own devices he would be up watching movies all night. It’s difficult because he still sleeps with me and the television keeps me up.

However, I have found a solution to this problem. Luca likes to cuddle. We spend time after the television goes off all cuddled up. Some nights we talk. Tonight Luca just wanted to cuddle to sleep. I’ve got him laying on my arm as I type this into my phone.

You know what? This is what life should be about. Life is too short for reading lessons and curriculum. What it really needs to be about is time together as a family.

I can’t say where the decisions I make today will lead the kids and I, but we will certainly spend more time on the things that matter.

And that’s only going to keep expanding. Luca found the other two tablets today so Sander and Beekee can watch movies while settling in to bed. We just need to get them headphones and they can listen without bothering each other if one wants to sleep.

Tomorrow will bring new changes in our lives, but tonight is simple. I just need to curl up on the bed with Luca and the dog. What better way is there to sleep?


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Back to Freedom

You know the whole bedtime thing?  We decided it was time for a change.  It really wasn’t working out.  We were having tears and stomping up stairs the moment we said it was time for bed, courtesy of Sander.  He and Beekee would be wild at night, meaning someone had to go talk to them, several times, and the light had to keep being turned out.  It was frustrating, and it really didn’t seem to be doing any good.  We still had tired, miserable kids, for all our efforts.

That’s when we decided to go back to the radical unschooling approach to bedtime.  We stopped giving them one.  Would you believe the kids have actually been getting more sleep?  There’s no tantrums and tears.  There’s no fight to get them to go to sleep.  Most importantly, there’s no flipping on and off with the light.

How do we do it with the neighbors?  Well, that’s simple.  We’ve laid down some ground rules.  9 pm is quiet time.  Sander and Beekee need to be upstairs in their room.  They can be talking, reading, or even playing, so long as they’re doing it quietly.  The neighbors next door moved out, so we don’t have to worry about the kids disturbing them through the wall, so we decided this was the perfect time to try it.  Luckily we haven’t had a reason to worry.

As for Luca, we’ve decided he can’t play with Sander and Beekee quietly.  Luca can be upstairs watching movies with Corde, or on our bed watching movies or reading books in my room.  Who am I kidding?  The answer is watching movies.  Luca isn’t a huge fan of reading books, unless it’s something he can read himself (which isn’t anything at the moment, so it’s a struggle.)  Luca is perfectly content to sit in my lap, watching Oz play video games until he falls asleep, or watch shows with me in the living room.  At the same time, we have a “bedtime” for Luca.  When I go to bed the lights go off and Luca has to lay down with me.  We still cosleep, so having respect for my sleeping needs is a must.  More often than not, Luca agrees to lay down until I fall asleep, then he can get up and turn the movies back on, which results in Luca falling asleep anyway.

Surprisingly, this has resulted in the downstairs neighbor commenting on how quiet the kids have been at night.  We haven’t had any fights and only had tears on one night when Sander had to go upstairs because he wanted to watch a movie.  We don’t have a television upstairs in the bedrooms, so that’s a challenge for him.  Corde’s room might be getting a television, but that’s yet to be determined, and she may not want the boys in her room watching movies all night.  I told them once they find one of the missing Kindles they could use that, but no luck as of yet.  Since they were the ones that lost them, I feel it’s valuable that they learn their actions have consequences.

Now that the kids (well, all but Corde) are no longer in school, the lack of bedtime makes a lot of sense.  It’s not like they can’t take naps during the day.  Sander often does.  They don’t have to be up early for school, though they generally are up with the sun.  Most nights they all fall asleep quickly.  Best of all, they’re learning how to be responsible for their own needs.  It’s another whole level of independence.

This is just one more small way we’re edging in to a more “unschooling” kind of lifestyle.  We have no bedtimes.  The kids are free to eat or not eat as they like (so long as they don’t waste food…we’re not made of money!)  We’re not super formal about the “school” stuff we do happen to do, and as we go a lot of the “school” stuff is being phased out.  I have a feeling a lot more will go when we’re finally in a position to have a car again.  Things are moving in the right direction.  I couldn’t be happier about that.


Thoughts on “A Day Without Women”

Apparently I’m out of the loop on this one.  The first I heard about it was last night at probably 6pm, much to late to get on board with the red shirt wearing to show support (not that I had many places to go and show my support).  I don’t own a red shirt, so that put me completely out of the running.  I own a red sweater, but the weather isn’t suited to wearing it, so I go without red and wear my Joker shirt instead.

A few things have struck me about this whole thing.  It’s hard for me to think of a way to put things into order, but I think they all revolve around the same basic principal.  This was not necessarily the best thought through event.

Now, I’m not knocking anyone who took the day off today from paid and unpaid labor.  If you’ve got the ability to do it and choose to, that’s your choice.  I don’t have that kind of privilege.  I suppose we could have taken the day off from homeschooling, but that’s not the only unpaid task I do during the day.  I make food.  I play referee.  I walk the kids to jujitsu and play entertainment the whole way there and back.  Today I cuddled a cranky Luca that needed a nap and was too tired to realize it.  All of this stuff can be considered “unpaid work”, but I did it today, not because of my opinion on women’s equality, but because it needs to be done.  And to me, it’s not really work.  I don’t do it because it’s one more thing to check off my to-do list.  I do it because I love my kids.  I chose to be a parent and I’m choosing to be a good parent by taking care of my kids.

But thinking about this more seriously, let’s say I was working.  I’ll be honest about my financial situation here, I couldn’t afford to take the day off of work for something like this.  We’re strapped about as tight as can be right now, living well below the poverty line for my state.  That means we can’t afford the luxury of taking the day off just because it’s falling in line with a national protest day.  My life is not that privileged.  For how many other women is this situation true?

And how many women can’t wear red because it conflicts with their work uniform?  Sure, if you work at Target, you’re set, but if you work at Walmart, for example, the work uniform is blue.  This is a very real situation to those below the poverty line.  Many people work at menial minimum wage jobs, which means they have to play by the rules and can’t just call in because they’re making a statement.  It’s only for people who are in situations where they can call out of work and not suffer, or people who don’t have a strict uniform at work.  It would be better to have everyone wear a pin or a sticker, similar to the “I Voted” stickers they give out after the elections.  That’s something universal that everyone can do if they can afford the cost of a pin, sticker, or button.  And those who have money to spare can get some extras and hand them out throughout the day.

One thing I noticed as I was out, no one was wearing red shirts.  At my appointment that day all the women were there.  My counselor called me today, indicating she was in the office today.  The people waiting in the office (mostly women), were all there, not wearing red shirts.  I saw not a single person while I was out wearing red, except for Beekee, who was wearing a red hoodie.  It seemed like the message missed the people in my poor section of town.  It’s either that or they just don’t care.  These kinds of problems are for the privileged, not for the poor who struggle to survive every week.  The office I go to caters to people who are recovering from addiction, victims of domestic violence, and clients of a local organization that helps the poor and the homeless.  This is the same organization that helped us find our apartment.  These are not people who can afford to miss a day of work to make a statement.  The idea of wearing red to show you support women is so far above their considerations for the day that they’re probably unaware it’s even a thing.  For that matter, I didn’t even know until last minute.  Even knowing, this is a problem that’s above my pay grade (to use some military talk there).  I’m living in a world where my focus is on paying my bills and figuring out how to afford homeschooling on a very tight budget.  I don’t worry about things like this because it’s so far above my level of needs on a daily basis that I can’t even see it.

I have strong feelings about events that encourage people to not do things.  There are people that rely on other people to show up that day.  How would the world operate if all the daycares and schools failed to open because their teachers didn’t show?  How would small businesses handle losing a day of business.  What if all the doctors and nurses failed to show up at work?  I understand the point is to show how the country could grind to a halt, but there are people who rely on those services.  However, is the need to prove that point really worth it?  And what does it tell our children to suddenly cause the world to come to a screeching halt just to make a point?

To promote equality I’m actively doing things, not choosing not to do things.  I’m teaching my children to respect, whether a  person is male, female, gay, straight, trans, or any color of the rainbow and description they may choose for themselves.  My children are being taught that respecting themselves and those around them is just what you do.  If the world worked on this idea that you show respect to everyone, perhaps there wouldn’t need to be “A Day Without Women”.  Perhaps women would be more equally viewed in the workplace.  Stay at home moms might get better treatment from everyone around them.  There might even be less cattiness in women oriented groups.  Respect is the point that holds it all together.

So, no, I may not be wearing red today, and I’m certainly not going to give up the unpaid tasks I do (making more work for myself later), but I am doing my part to promote equality of women in the world around me, and not just women but everyone.  I’m raising my children, male and female alike, to be aware of the issues in the world around them.  I’m raising strong, educated kids that are going to go out into the world and make it a better place, to be the change they want to see in the world.  If that’s not promoting the cause, then I give.  I’m doing the best I can.

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The Things My Kids Don’t Know

We’ve been following through with Story of the World, and the kids discovered that Anansi is just a really cool character.  They absolutely loved the story of Anansi.  So what does this have me doing?  As a good mother I go to the library website and request every story known to man with Anansi…because I’m that mom…

It got me thinking about something I hadn’t even realized I’ve never done with the kids.  We’ve never read Aesop’s fables.  We’ve also never done Just So Stories.  These were so much of a factor in my own life that I can’t believe we haven’t done anything with them.  They are living proof that (to some degree) I am a failure as a mom.  How can I neglect these things that were such a part of my own childhood?

I’ve already realized that my kids were growing up in a weird little bubble when I realized my kids don’t know how to sing Twinkle, Twinkle or The Wheels on the Bus.  I’d never taught them to sing Do Your Ears Hang Low.  We never sang any of the classic kids songs.  For that matter, we rarely sing as a family.  The only one we regularly do is On Top of Spaghetti, which Luca insists on me singing at least fifty times over when we’re walking to or from jujitsu.  I really need to brush up on some other fun songs because that one’s getting kind of old.  (Of course, it might help if I actually remembered the other three versus, so that’s a thing.  Luca would probably find that MUCH funnier.)

But my kids really do seem to live in a bubble where they don’t know the traditional stuff kids know at their age.  I mean, how many kids Sander and Luca’s age are studying history?  I find it not at all a problem that they don’t know how to sing those childhood songs every other kid seems to know.

And as Sander’s bus drives by the house, I’m reminded again why I’m so glad he’s home.  I don’t have to worry about him getting off the bus at 4pm, then still having homework to do, and being too tired to do it.  Jujitsu wouldn’t even begin to be an option if he was in traditional school.  He wouldn’t be home for more than an hour and a half before I had to bustle him back out the door!

I digress…what was the point I was making?  Oh, yes, that my kids don’t know the stuff I knew when I was their age.  I guess that makes me feel that my kids are growing up with a weird existence.  I’m not raising them on a healthy diet of children’s songs and things like that.  The kids hardly watch television (aside from Luca who binges like nothing else), and we don’t listen to the radio tons, so they don’t get a whole lot of that poured on them.  They live in this weird state of reality that was so much different than my life growing up.

Yet I can’t help but feel their lives are somehow lacking because these really cool things haven’t been explored by them.  They haven’t learned about Aesop’s Fables or read the Just So Stories.  Now they’re being introduced to Anansi, which is the closest they’ve come to any of that.  While those stories are really cool, we’re just now getting to them, and those were the only ones.  We need to incorporate more of that into our learning time, I think.  The kids would probably dig that kind of stuff.

At the same time, the things my kids have been learning are pretty awesome.  They’ve gotten to watch a garden grow last year.  They’ll be seeing it again this year.  We’re going to be spending time in nature as soon as the weather gets warm, and we’re going to start making note of the things that indicate the change of seasons once Daylight Savings hits and we’ll still have light when we go to jujitsu.  We’re delving into a lot of history, which is great for the kids and they’re really digging into it.  These are things I thought were pretty cool when I was a kid and it’s great to see they’re enjoying it as much as I do.  They’re really getting to experience some awesome things that way.

It isn’t too late to introduce the kids to things I feel are missing in their lives.  Aesop’s Fables will continue to be around.  I’m sure I can find a free ebook with them on Kindle.  The Just So Stories can be gotten from the library, I’m sure.  Since we’re homeschooling there are far more options to bring them up as a part of our homeschooling activities, and I no longer have to worry about Sander getting off the bus at 4 and not being interested in doing anymore school related anything after that.

Now we’ve got this incredible opportunity to fix what I feel like is a major failing in raising my kids (at least the younger three).  I still have time to get them knowledgeable about the things they don’t know, things that I’ve come to understand most kids don’t know anymore.  It’s a chance to open up a world to them that they’d never even known to consider before.  I have a feeling we’re in for a really great experience.


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.


This Feels Like A Parenting Fail

For those of you who don’t know, I’m big on the whole “unconditional parenting” or “gentle parenting” thing.  The idea of not forcing or coercing your children to do things has always appealed to me.  It’s a very “unschool” way of parenting too, so it’s only logical that I would think in that kind of way.

Well, today I realized I fail at that to some degree.  For example, when I know Luca is hyper and it’s only a short while before we hit meltdown lane, I insist Luca lies down quietly for fifteen minutes.  Usually this is met with a major “I don’t wanna take a nap!” meltdown, so we wait until Luca is finally quiet, possibly with some compromises on where or with what Luca will lay down.  Then within that fifteen minutes, never fail, Luca is asleep.

Now, I know coercing my child into taking a nap isn’t exactly the best thing I can do, but the kid’s got to sleep.  When it’s facing a meltdown now over the need to take a nap, or multiple meltdowns later because of a tired, cranky kid, I’ll take the meltdown now.  When Luca is getting crazy hyper and out of control, that usually results in boundaries not being respected and sometimes people getting hurt.  At the very least it leaves the house being destroyed and me having to clean up in the wake of hurricane Luca.

Yet I know this is teaching Luca, and all my kids, for that matter, a vital life skill, how to recognize when you’re tired and need to take a moment to rest.  Sander employs this often.  He gets cranky and starts crying at everything.  Then the next thing you know he’s saying, “Mom, where’s Minket?  I want to take a nap.”  Moments later he’s curled up with his blanket, Minket, and a pillow, asleep on my living room floor.

This has also resulted in other situations where requirements have to be made.  For example, bed time.  Part of that is out of courtesy to our downstairs neighbor.  She’s complained to us numerous times about the kids being up after 9:30pm when she’s trying to get to sleep.  The other reason is the neighbors waking the kids up at 6am with their noise.  Because the kids get up so early in the morning, we need to make sure they get to bed earlier so they get a decent amount of sleep.  After all, there’s nothing I can do about the downstairs neighbor, nor the neighbor next door that likes to yell at her kids from the crack of dawn until they leave for school.  (And this is where I REALLY miss the trailer park.  The kids had virtually no bedtime then.)

As if bed time and naps for Luca wasn’t enough, I’ve also found myself employing the requirement of chores.  I could do all of it myself, but it’s often exhausting trying to keep after all of them, manage disputes, help them learn, and everything else I do throughout the day.  Having some help with the dishes or the trash may not seem like much, but it helps a good deal.  Corde is really the only one resistant to helping around the house.  Sander rebels when I ask him to clean up his toys or his room.  That aside, the kids are really good about helping to keep after the house.  I almost wouldn’t have to require it at all, but instead just ask the kids to help out.  The only one that’s really required is Corde, and that’s because she wouldn’t do anything but watch anime on her iPod anyway.

Still, I feel like this is a fail.  So many other families manage to just get by on nothing but respect for themselves and others.  Am I doing it wrong?  There’s got to be a way.

But when I think about it, I have to remind myself that my family isn’t like all families.  I’ve got a four year old that sees nap time as missing out on something good that may happen during a nap.  I’ve got a teenager that would avoid doing anything that could be considered “work”.  I’ve also got stater requirements to keep up with for homeschooling, which means we’ve got to include stuff I’d really rather avoid having to do, like curriculum (though the younger three seem to have no problems with doing it.)

This is when I need to remind myself that this isn’t a parenting fail.  My family’s needs are different than other families.  Our challenges are different.  Just on the fact that we’ve got neighbors in such close proximity alters the reality we face in our own home.  Hopefully that will change soon enough.  We’re exploring the option of moving back down south where we can afford to have our own place without sharing a wall with our neighbors, but that’s not going to happen this year, or even next year.  It’s going to take time.  Until then, we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.