Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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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.


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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!


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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.


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What Reading Should Be Like vs. What Reading Is

In my house right now, at least for Sander, reading is tears.  Writing is tears.  He’s having the hardest time with both.  I feel for him, really, but since he’s still in school we have to power through.  I’m looking forward to the final date I withdraw him from school because of it.  He’s clearly not succeeding there.

Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to let him learn at his own rate.  If left to my own devices I wouldn’t push reading on him until he’s ready, but state standards and all.  We’re going to have to keep up and comply.  I could try not including samples of writing in the portfolio, but I’m thinking that’s not going to get a pass, so writing we will include, and through it, we’ll start to work on reading.

I’ve got to be honest, I’m not sure what that part of our homeschooling is going to look like right now.  Right now I’m thinking it’ll probably look like spelling words, figuring that as he learns to write the words, he’ll learn to read the words.  I don’t want to do any tests or anything.  Again, this is where unschooling meets the edge of state requirements.

However, in spite of the tears, the frustration, and the hatred of reading, I’m finding that Corde and Beekee still have moments like this:

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Beekee is reading a book called The Monster Ring by Bruce Coville.  He was stuck on a word, so Corde poked her head over and helped him out.  She was sitting there in the middle of looking up fan art for Naruto on her phone.  She was listening to him read to help him with his reading skills.  That’s what reading should look like in my house.  No tears, just the older sibling helping the younger one.

This is why I want to homeschool, because learning to read and write shouldn’t be full of tears.  It should be fun and enjoyable.  Doing school work shouldn’t inspire an hour of crying because Sander doesn’t know how to spell the words he needs in order to complete his homework.  He’s expected to write one sentence for each of his “snap” words every week, but he doesn’t have the vocabulary to do it on his own, so he gets so caught up thinking about not knowing how to write the words that he can’t think of a sentence.  He’s so tired he can’t focus.  That’s not how it should be.

The countdown is on.  Once payday hits we’ll be getting the boys hooked up on Time 4 Learning, and then they’re coming home.  Hopefully that will make learning fun again, and it should satisfy the state requirements because I can get weekly progress reports from the program.  Those in the portfolio with writing samples (for the writing share of language arts) and photos of whatever science projects we do should suffice.  That should be much more enjoyable.

Of course, being the unschooler at heart, I’ll get the kids hooked up with the curriculum, but I’m not going to really make it a thing unless they’re having fun with it.  Luca is having a blast with it and actually asks to do “computer school” on a daily basis, so it might not be so bad after all.  Keep your fingers crossed!


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Our Two Week Experiment with School

If you’ve been following along, you already know I’ve been doing the single mom thing. It’s hard to get a job when you’ve got four young kids at home, so I was encouraged to give school a chance, if I was open to it. Actually, the woman helping me out was very supportive of homeschooling, so she wasn’t pushy in the least. The kids were interested in trying it, so we did it. There were only about two and a half weeks left in the year, so it would be a good time to give them a sample. I was assured no testing would happen in that time and placement wouldn’t be effected until next year. They would just be passed through to the next grade.

It started out with a huge disappointment. Sander was supposed to start preschool. Last minute, the school said he couldn’t start so late in the year. He cried for days, all because he wanted to go to school.

Next I hear that Beekee is constantly in trouble. Of course, I don’t here this from the school. Beekee tells me himself. He’s constantly in trouble for breaking the rules.

Then Corde complained about being bullied. The kids at school were teasing her because she spent time with the boys. It got to the point where she wanted nothing more than to quit school.

Near the end of our experiment, I get a call. Beekee has been acting up in class. He won’t stand in line. He apparently can’t count past three. He can’t read. He can’t hold appropriate conversations. The principal and his teacher had decided to retain him.

I fought the decision to the bitter end. I know my child and I know it’s not a lack of education or that he just doesn’t have experience in a school setting. He’s just not handling these changes well. As much as he appears to cope with change well he really doesn’t. He acts up a lot and tests people. Of course, they don’t know my child, so they didn’t know that. The answer was adjusting from homeschool and he clearly wouldn’t know the difference. “Lots of kids get held back.” Yeah, in my experience with Texas schools, I know maybe five people that weren’t held back at some point. And blowing it off like that gives me no confidence in the school system.

Then there was the final blow. I was asked why I didn’t go to all the school events, the graduation, the award ceremonies, field day, and all of that. I’m a single mom with two small children at home. I was trying to care for them and look for work. I have no car, and I lived two and a half miles from the school, not walking distance for Sander. Since I have no toddler carrier, that meant Luca got the stroller. However, I was judged poorly because I couldn’t attend. Maybe if I had they would have worked with me.

As things stand, Sander wants to go to school. Beekee only wants to go back if he goes on to second grade. Corde doesn’t want to go back at all. I might see if I can find some kind of class for Sander to attend as “school”. Beyond that, I’m done with school. I gave it a try, like everyone I knew kept telling me I should. Now all my friends that do prefer school can stop telling me to give it a chance, even though I know they’ll excuse bullying as “normal” or blame me for encouraging my kids to be weird. They’ll probably tell me to try a different school. I’ve just had it. I gave it an honest try, hoping Corde would enjoy having friends and we might be able to find out what’s going on with Beekee. I found out, at best, they wouldn’t test him until halfway through the year next year for a learning problem, and that’s pretty standard across the state. So I’m done with it. I went in pretty positive and in two weeks the school managed to get under my skin, make Corde hate it, and made me the bad guy on telling Beekee he was being held back, which he told me I couldn’t do. He was a second grader. If that’s what they do in two weeks, I’d hate to see what a school year would do.