Trailer Park Unschoolers

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

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Homeschool/Unschool Plan for 2018

We’re going into our second year of homeschooling.  By January 27th Beekee and Sander will have been home for an entire year.  That’s super exciting for me.  True, I’ve been homeschooling Luca right along, but it feels like we’re really making a statement working as a family like this.  It’s definitely a lot of fun.

So what’s our plan for 2018?  I suppose I really should go over that, if for no one else, then for me.  It’ll be good to have a record of a plan here because this is kind of becoming my record of things we’ve done.  It’s also fun to share it with the world.

The first thing I plan to do, once tax money comes in, is purchase the next level of Math U See.  I’m really loving the way they teach subjects.  Thankfully, I only need to pick up the workbook for Luca, given he’ll be moving into the same level that Sander’s already in.  I’ve got to pick up the “level up” kit for Sander, given I’ll want the teacher’s guide to go with it.  I don’t really use the teacher’s guide, so I suppose I could get by without it, but it’s good to refer back to if I’ve got any questions.  The same goes with the lesson DVD.  Sometimes the kids get it better when they can see the lesson explained in a way I can’t do it, because I’m just figuring it out with them.  Then I’ve got to get the kit for Beekee with the fractions stuff.  I’m a little intimidated to do fractions with him, because I always hated fractions, but it’s good that he’ll be learning by Math U See.  I really like the way they teach math.

We’re also going to continue with our phonics lessons.  Luca and Sander are both cruising through Primary Phonics.  All three of them are working with Explode the Code.  It’s been working well for them.  As much as I would like to say they’ll learn to read when they learn to read, I think this really works for us for now.  We may reassess the plan as we get further into it, but we’re going to stick with it.

I know those two aren’t particularly related to unschooling, which is where I wanted to get back to this year, but we’re definitely working towards unschooling.  I’m thinking we’re going to transition to just doing those two books by the start of summer, when I give up on the other books for the year anyway.  I think instead we’re going to start working on making sure we’ve got plenty of science stuff in the house.  For geography I think I’m going to start looking into fun projects we can do for each state.  I would love to be able to do something global, and maybe we’ll look into something more global (anyone have any good ideas for that?) but for now we’re going to stick with the country we’re a part of.  Once they’ve got a good understanding of the place we live in, we’ll expand from there.  Besides, it might be fun for the kids to figure out which states they want to visit when they get older.  You never know, we may even be able to set money aside in a year or two to take a family trip somewhere, and knowing the states would definitely help us plan what we wanted to see.

We’re going to stick with Story of the World for history, if for no other reason than the kids actually like it.  We’re planning to back it up with some other reading about the time period.  We’re getting into the middle ages, which is always fun for kids.  There’s nothing as exciting as learning about knights and castles.  Maybe we’ll map out our own castle grounds or something like that.  I bet that would be fun. Story of the World is a great way to introduce more topics, even if it is heavily Christian.  We’re not a Christian family, so that makes it a little more challenging, but I don’t want to exclude anything.  Since history is so seriously wrapped up with Christianity, it may not hurt at this point to have Christian history thrown in.  It helps understand what the world was really like.  And since we’re outside of the realm of the Bible, it’s not like I have to explain Bible stories that the kids don’t actually know about.  Still, it’s a great place to start.

What I really need to do is start looking into books with science experiments for kids.  I’m sure there are plenty out there.  Anything we can do at home would be a lot of fun, but stuff we can do outside will be great for the warmer weather.  Besides, I really love science, and even if I can’t explain why something happens, it’s definitely fun to see what does.  You can always look up the why later.

For physical fitness we’re starting to use Just Dance on the Wii U.  It’s not a super complex workout or anything, but it’s a lot of fun and it gets the kids moving when it’s really too cold to be out in the winter.  And by too cold I mean it’s 16°F (-9°C), feels like 1°F (-17°C), and that’s the warmest it’s been all week.  Actually, in comparison to how cold it’s been over the past week, this is positively tropical!

We’re also planning to do some more physical fitness type stuff when we can fit it in.  We want to go ice skating when we can.  It’s not super cheap to take the whole family, so we may not get to go often this year, but we’ll definitely try to go when we can.  In the spring I’m going to start running.  I think I’m going to invite the kids to come with me.  We’re not going to go very fast or for very long, but running is a good lifestyle.  Plus, there are some 5k runs that have spots available for kids.  I think it would be really fun to do a 5k as a family one of these days.  I think it would be great for all of us.  On top of all that, I’m going to start looking for places we can go on nature walks.  There may not be many options easy to get to from here, but we’ll do what we can.  And then there’s the plan for swimming in the summer.  We’re planning to get beach passes, and to make the most out of them.  We’ll have to get the kids new swimsuits for this year, but we’ll worry about that as the weather starts to turn warmer.  We’ve got a lot of physical stuff we can do, so I’m not too worried about that.

If we can manage, we’re also going to try and swing a membership to the Museum of Science, which means we’ll be spending a lot of time at the museum too.  We’ll be there at least once a month when the weather is warm enough to hop the train.  That’s going to provide tons of learning opportunities, which the kids will definitely love.

So that’s our plan for 2018.  I’m feeling pretty good about it.  We’re definitely going into the new year on a much better track than we were last year.  I’ve got a bit more of an idea of what works and what doesn’t work.  I think things are just going to keep getting better from here on in!



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.


I Have A High Schooler…

19260294_10155502250101055_2729313268743668774_nCorde made it through 8th grade, her 3rd year in public schools.  While I’m not a fan of the public school system, I’m proud of her for sticking to it once she made up her mind to do something.  She’s going on to high school next year, and that’s a huge thing for her.  It’s hard to believe she’s already old enough for high school!

Yesterday we celebrated her completion of this landmark with going out to Dunkin’ Donuts.  I took her and her friend out to get something for lunch.  Then they wanted to go to the library for a teen day.  While I trust Corde to walk by herself, her friend’s mom wasn’t comfortable with it, so I walked them to the library.  They got bored there and decided to go to the park.

That’s when things got crazy.  Her friend’s mother didn’t know which park they went to and worried.  She drove around to all the local parks to try and find them when she wasn’t able to reach her son on the phone.  I couldn’t reach Corde either, so that complicated things even more.

Now, personally, I wasn’t too worried about it.  I figured Corde would check in soon enough.  She’s been really good about telling me where she was going to be and letting me know when plans change.  It was still early (I didn’t expect them home until 5:30), and they would undoubtedly check in soon.  The thing that worried me was her friend’s mom saying she went to all the parks in the area and she hadn’t seen them at any of them.  I wasn’t ready to worry yet, but I was definitely a bit concerned.

At the prompting of Corde’s friend’s mom, we went down to the police station to report them missing.  Again, I wasn’t too worried, but I can totally understand where his mother was coming from, and they weren’t checking in and hadn’t been able to be reached in two hours.  I figured the worst that can happen is they get tracked down and everything turns out fine.  My prediction was the kids would be found by the police on their walk home and everything would be fine.

Now comes the point when I’m really proud of Corde.  When they checked in, they were exactly where they said they would be, at the park.  It turns out that they were at a park Corde’s friend’s mom didn’t expect them to be at.  She thought it was too far for them to walk.  I wasn’t totally surprised and I felt a little better when I found out she hadn’t checked that park.  To be fair, it’s a big park and it wouldn’t be surprising if they’d been on the far side of the baseball field and hard to spot from the parking lot.  I wasn’t at all surprised to find out they’d been at the park the whole time.  Thankfully they checked in before any kind of police report was filed, so that’s a plus, though the cop we talked to did ask me to say “hello” to Corde for her.  When Corde got lost at the marathon, that’s the cop Corde talked to in order to get help getting back to us.

This is how I learned Corde really has a decent bit of freedom in comparison to her friends.  I let her go off on her own, so long as she tells me where she’s at and checks in if plans change.  I let her walk to the library by herself, all of a mile away.  The park she went to was the bigger one that’s a little further away than the local one.  I have no problems with her walking there from the library.  I would be okay with her taking the bus to the mall or the movie theater.  For the most part, all she has to do is say, “Mom, I’m going to X and I’ll be home around Y.”

That’s not to say we haven’t had a few bumps in the road.  She’s gone over friends’ houses without telling me when she’s going to be home, then she doesn’t have her phone on her, so I can’t reach her.  Then there’s times when she’s late and forgets to tell me.  One time she told Oz I told her she could go swimming with her friend, when I hadn’t given her permission.  I said I didn’t care because I was at work, but she knows when I’m at work she’s got to ask Oz for permission.  These have all been little bumps in the road, but we’ve gotten through them.  Overall she’s learned from these mistakes and things get better from that point on.

Corde is a great girl, and I can’t wait to see the kind of adult she’s going to grow into.  While she can be a bit of a drama queen, she’s also funny, creative, and wacky.  She’s obviously proving to be responsible (even if she’s not always reachable by phone), and for the most part is pretty honest.  These qualities are going to do her well when she gets older and goes on into the adult world.  Now if only that wasn’t so frighteningly close!

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The Titanic and Tech School Accepted Students Day

Today was another unschool day.  We decided to do this by way of watching Titanic’s Final Mystery followed by Brain Games.  We’ve added these to our Documentary Challenge page, and we’ll keep adding to that as we watch more videos (provided we can get images from Amazon).  For full disclosure, I use Amazon Associate links.  This is a great way to help support the blog, but also it’s the best way I know for delivering content.  Most of what we try to stick to are stuff that’s available free on Prime, so it’s not even generally stuff you have to pay for, and if it’s not on Prime, it’s on Netflix.

Anyhow, the Titanic, right?  The kids got all excited about a Titanic documentary, so we decided to check it out.  It went into all kinds of detail about the myths surrounding the sinking of the Titanic, as well as why those myths were undoubtedly nothing more.  It talked about who was to blame for the sinking of the ship and why things happened the way they did.

I’m not going to go into it in great detail.  If you want that, you should definitely check out the documentary.  It’s free on Netflix.  However, I will share a little of what we found really interesting in the whole thing.  In particular, the scientific reasoning behind the sinking of the Titanic.

Long story short, the Titanic sank because they didn’t see the ice burg until an estimated 37 seconds from impact.  This gave the ship enough time to turn, but not turn off enough to avoid impact.  The reason for this was something called a “cold air mirage.”  This made the ice burg almost invisible until the last minute.  There’s nothing about the watchmen needing binoculars or the ship going to fast or anything else.  It was all a trick of the weather, something that was demonstrated in the video.  Watch it.  Trust me.  It’s pretty darn cool to watch.

But more than just preventing the crew from spotting the ice burg in time, the mirage was also likely the reason why the Californian didn’t come to the aid of the Titanic.  They saw a ship off in the distance but thought it too small to be the Titanic.  This could be explained by the mirage theory.  That also explains why the Morse signals were sent, but neither side got a proper answer.  The Californian thought it was just a flickering light on the other ship while the Titanic reportedly didn’t see the return signal at all.  Imagine how different things would have been if that signal came through.

That whole thing makes so much sense.  If it were all just a mirage, that would explain why so many signals got crossed and why so much information that seems obvious went unnoticed.  It all adds up to the whole situation being a huge, unfortunate stroke of bad luck, all at the hands of the weather.

Best of all, they actually go through the documented reports that make this story the most believable of all.  They read off transcripts from eyewitness accounts.  They study the weather as recorded by other ships that happened to be in the area at the time.  They even went out on a ship in modern day to record some of the data that may continue to reflect the situation at the time.  It was great to see all that evidence stacked up to actually produce a viable answer to why the biggest ship in the world at the time would sink, and why even modern ships would likely have gone down under similar conditions.

From there we watched Brain Games, which was a really neat show on how the brain actually works.  The episode we walked talked about vision, and how the eye focuses on certain things while missing details that would otherwise be useful information.  It was actually pretty cool.  I don’t want to go too much into that, as I’ll probably talk about it later, but it’s there.  If you’re interested in checking that out, it’s also free on Netflix from Season 2.  We all thought it was a pretty cool show, well, everyone but Corde because she’s not here.

Then there’s tonight.  I get to go to the parents’ orientation at the tech school Corde has opted to attend in the fall.  She’s going to an accepted students day and I’ll be walking home with her.  I’m so glad this school is in walking distance because it means she can actually go to this sort of thing.  If it wasn’t for the fact that they specify the parents or guardians must pick their kids up from school I would just tell Corde to walk home.  She knows the way and I trust her to walk it alone.

I’m actually kind of looking forward to Corde going to this school, in a way.  It’ll give her a chance to check out different career opportunities.  There are some she flat out knows she doesn’t want to pursue, like cosmetology, and others she thinks may be kind of fun, like culinary and “legal and protective services”.  It would be a great way for her to really experiment, which is something she hasn’t had much of a chance to do.  It will be good for her to see what’s out there and have a chance to try some of it.

So that’s what we’ve been up to.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say about accepted students day once we’re all said and done with that.  And this weekend the younger three are in for a treat because they’re off on a trip to the zoo.  That should make for a fun day.  And summer is going to be on us soon, so I’m sure we’ll have all sorts of opportunities for fun and learning, even if we don’t get out as much as we want to.  We’ll definitely see how it goes.  It all depends on if this summer continues to be so rainy, or if it turns out brutally hot, like last year.

Also, keep your fingers crossed on the whole military thing.  We’re in the process of trying to make that happen.  It could be so incredibly good for our family, but we could use all the luck on this we can get.

Until later, have a wonderful day, and I’ll likely be checking in with you all again soon!

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Last Day of School

Well, it’s here, the last day of school for Sander and A.J.  I won’t lie.  I cried over the whole thing.  I was upset that the kids were going to lose their friends, especially Sander, but I’ve done everything I can to try and make contact with their friends’ parents, so there’s nothing more I can do.  I know this is best for my kids, I just feel guilty about the whole friends thing.  Sander only has one friend at school, and if it took him that long to make friends with the other kids, I can’t help but think he’s going to take just as long to make friends outside of school, maybe longer because he won’t see the other kids as long or as often.  It could be hard for him.

That aside, I’m also happy about this.  Once I get past the guilt and the constant nagging feeling that I’m in over my head, I’m happy to think my boys are going to be home with me.  Sure, it’s going to be more complicated to have all three of them at home, doing their work all at the same time, but I think we’ll get through this.  I can do well by my kids, and that’s why I’m doing this.  They’ll get more individual attention and should be able to get more done that much quicker.

Of course, Oz is totally supportive.  He was reminding me that I’ve already got the first project lined up for the kids.  We’re going to be making fantasy maps from a project I saw on Water Street Academy.  Then we’re going to make myths that go with the maps we make, so we’ll be working on writing as well as art and creativity.  We’re going to be stalking other homeschool blogs for ideas of projects we can do with the kids as well.  It’s not going to be bad.  I know I’ve got this.

Now I just need to work on getting Corde home.  I know she’s waiting for the date, but I’m not sure she really wants to just yet.  I want to make sure she’s really in it before I make any kind of final move.  I don’t want her to change her mind two weeks later, if that makes sense.  I’m also going to try and pick up some more curriculum stuff for her.  As much as I want to unschool, I want to get this kicked off in a way that eases my concerns when it comes to state regulations.  I need to trust in my kids but I think that’s a bit of a leap right about now.

So here we are, officially a homeschool family for more than just a preschooler that’s working on kindergarten level stuff.  We’re back on track and where we’re supposed to be again.  I’m not going to say we’re back to unschooling yet, because we aren’t, but as I’ve discussed before, name changes on wordpress aren’t something you can do, so that’s something we’re going to have to stick with, and we hope to get back to someday.


Back from the Plague

It’s been far too long since I updated everyone on what’s going on with us.  I got a nasty stomach bug that lingered for days.  Thankfully the kids weren’t hit with it too hard.

So what have we been up to?  Well, aside from the stomach bug thing, we’ve been trying to focus on staying “normal” for this week.  By that I mean keeping in the school schedule and continuing on the way we have been.  I’ve got to admit, I’ve been horrible about that in one way.  I haven’t given the slightest care if Sander finishes his homework.  Friday will be his last day, so he’ll turn it in for what purpose?  It really isn’t worth the fight.

To a certain degree I’ve been letting the kids get on with the deschooling process, even though that can’t properly happen until they’re out of school.  I’ve stopped caring about their mandatory reading every night.  I let them play Minecraft and watch Once Upon A Time.  We’ve been doing pretty much nothing “educational” at home after school.

There’s a reason I use quotes there.  I really do think that these things are educational.  The kids are experimenting a lot when they play Minecraft.  Once Upon A Time gives them an alternate look at fairy tales.  In this case there’s also a good bit of mystery because the kids try to guess which characters belong to which stories before it’s made obvious.  Since we don’t do a lot of Disney or fairy tales, that can sometimes be challenging, especially since the show has a very Disney bend.  Belle is shown in her traditional blue and white dress.  Later Elsa shows up, apparently.  It’s very Disney.

And our math books came yesterday.  I still haven’t dug into them to check it out yet.  I opened the box with the manipulatives, just to take a look, but I didn’t want to get into messing with all the curriculum pieces until I was ready to go through them and give them an actual look through.  Still getting over the plague yesterday meant it didn’t get done.

I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit nervous to have the boys home again.  I’ve been working with Luca quite a bit (though this week has been pretty well a waste thus far).  We haven’t done much, but we work on some writing and on the computer every day.  We’re making progress there.  I’m just not sure how well it’s all going to work out when I have three kids at home instead of just the one.

Originally I’d planned to pace myself.  Start with Luca home, then bring A.J. back from school.  Sander would be next.  Finally Corde would come home at the end of the school year and just not go back after summer was over.  Then I could slowly add my amount of responsibility.  Instead I’m bringing home two at once, and waiting for Corde to stop being wishy-washy on when she wants to be home.  Last week she wanted a few more weeks.  This week she wants it to be on Friday.  She needs to make up her mind!

Anyhow, in anticipation of the kids all coming home I’ve needed to do some serious thinking on how our household is going to need to run. We’re going to need to do breakfast and lunch at home, which means buying more food every week.  I need to figure out a schedule that will work for the whole family.  I don’t know if schedule is the right word, but maybe routine.  We’re going to have to figure some stuff out and that’s intimidating.  Have I said that enough about this change?

At the same time, I’m excited to have them home again.  I anticipate a lot more days of Minecraft, watching movies, and in general relaxing.  I mean, sure, we’re going to get school done, but we’re also going to have more freedom to do other things throughout the day as well.  Homeschooling doesn’t take near as much time as going to school does.

Well, Luca is up from a nap and A.J. is soon to be home, so I guess that means it’s time to hop off this thing and get on with my day!


There’s Good News and Ugly News, Which Do You Want First?

It’s been one of those days.  There’s just no good way to put it.  There were good things, bad things, and just plain ugly things.  Okay, I can’t even say bad, just frustrating, and that part was only trying to convince Luca to take a much needed nap.

Because I’m the kind inclined to get the nasty part over with, let’s start with the ugly news.  Beekee’s teacher is a (inset something unpleasant here).  I can’t even think of a good word for it myself, at least not without getting vulgar.  She found out Beekee might be homeschooling, and then cornered the poor kid to tell him he doesn’t have to homeschool if he doesn’t want to, and won’t he miss his friends from school?  It was awful to hear him come home and say he suddenly doesn’t want to homeschool because he was going to miss his friends and his teacher told him he didn’t have to.

Now, let me just put something out there, straight as I can be.  The teacher not only had no right to do that, but completely overstepped her bounds in raising my kid.  Beekee is 9 years old.  That is most definitely not old enough to decide for himself if he homeschools or stays in school.  That was not her place, and she completely undermined the preparation I’d done in getting Beekee ready to homeschool.

Well, I’m going to solve that as best I can.  I’m sending Beekee to school with letters to his friends’ parents giving them my contact information.  That way they can set up play dates with Beekee still if they want to.  If they don’t, well, it’s sad that he’s going to lose friends, but it just means we need to work on making more friends.  We’re going to be working on getting a car come tax season, so we can get out and go to homeschool play dates for the local group.  I think it would be good for them.  Plus there’s always trips to the Saturday library events.  Undoubtedly there will be other things we can get out and do for the kids to meet people.  It’s not going to be nearly so bad.  I’m not going to let this one incident scare me off of homeschooling, especially playing on the guilt I’d already been feeling about taking the kids away from their friends.

So, now that the nasty business is taken care of, let’s move on to the good news side of things.  We’re making some progress on the homeschool front.  It’s not going to be long before we’re doing school at home full time!

The first good thing that happened today was making contact with the schools.  The 15th was the day I determined we would have the kids out of school by.  I’ve revised my statement.  The 15th is the day I want to have everything in process with the schools.  If the kids don’t come home for a few days after that, I’m okay with that.  It just gives me more time to get everything in order.

img_20170112_164652_727And learning at home hasn’t been all together a drag either.  Sander and Beekee are starting to get into the reading swing of things.  Both of them are doing their reading out loud every day without too much problem.  Sander is working with the Star Wars Phonics Book Set.  It’s not really curriculum, which I love, and the books are good at vocabulary building, so Sander doesn’t get too frustrated.  It’s a good match for us.

img_20170112_162037_386Then there’s our other discovery.  Sander actually likes the Primary Phonics Workbooks.  He’s been incredibly turned off from reading and writing by school, but this is giving him a good place to start at a level that’s comfortable.  It’s not very “unschooler” of us, but if he likes it, it works for me.  Actually, if he likes it, that kind of makes it unschooling, now doesn’t it?  If it gets him into reading and writing, all the better!

And now for the final thing, he’s something Luca managed to do with my necklace that we’re still trying to figure out how he did it.  We’ve tried to replicate it with absolutely no luck.  I have no idea how it worked.

img_20170112_162610_698These are the moments I’ve missed while the kids were in school, watching them figure out how to do crazy things.  They don’t have as much time for it now that they’re in school full time.  They’re crazy, inventive, playful kids, but school has kind of taken it out of them.  They’re no longer in love with the idea of learning, but we’re getting back there.  We’ll be there before long.