Our unschooling planner system: Documenting relaxed homeschooling

For being part of a family that doesn’t ever need to go back-to-school shopping, I LOVE school and office supplies. It’s probably not surprising that I’ve been a planner junkie since high school, when my best friend Phil and I had matching Five Star First Gear planners that went everywhere with us. Fast-forward ::cough:: some number ::cough:: of years later, and now I have an unschooling planner system that helps me organize my life and keep track of our relaxed homeschooling lifestyle.

Documentation is one of those things I’m ALWAYS asked about. In some cases, people ask me specific questions about what they should record and how. In other cases, I hear from readers who love the ideas of unschooling but wonder, “How will I know if they’re learning?”

That’s why I want to share a look at our family’s unschooling planner system today. The goal is not for you to replicate this system by any means – but I thought if I show how I think about what I track, maybe it will help other families figure out what will work best for them!

Unschool Rules: Documenting relaxed homeschooling with an unschooling planner system

Planning supplies I use

Last year, I started using the Extra-Large Flexi Planner from Orange Circle Studios. These run from August of one year through December of the following, so I started my new “2018” one last month. You can see all of the 2018 design options here; I’m using the “Hello Aquarelle,” as I am not really into flowers and actually am allergic to pineapples, and thus didn’t want to stare at them all year. I like this because there is a set of monthly calendars in the front, followed by pages with lined sections for each day in week-by-week format behind the monthly pages.

Let me be really clear: You don’t need to buy anything fancy to implement a planning system. While I drool over the Instagram accounts of those $200-in-planner-supplies people, I have no desire to become one. Get a dollar-store calendar and a pen, and you can do pretty much everything I show here.

But if, like me, you HAPPEN to have a lot of craft and office supplies on hand, you can probably use some of those. Here’s absolutely everything I use for my planner, which is WAY more than is required:

Unschool Rules guide to an unschooling planner system: My base planner is the 2018 "Hello, Aquarelle" from Orange Circle Studio.

My base planner is the 2018 “Hello, Aquarelle” from Orange Circle Studio. The “Stay Curious”
owl sticker was actually a freebie at a tech conference I went to for work, and I loved it so much I carefully carried it over from last year’s planner.

A word about bullet journaling

Before I used this planner, I was a devoted user of the bullet journal system. I’m not going into detail about what that is, but my friend Jen McGrail’s “Bullet Journaling 101” post is a great place to start if you don’t know much about it.

I was doing a LOT of work by hand in my old bullet journal, though – writing every day’s date, drawing my monthly calendars, etc. The system I have now takes the parts of bullet journaling that were working well for me, but gets rid of a lot of the routine work.

Is it as fully customizable? Definitely not, but the time saved is a great trade-off for me.

Why use an unschooling planner system?

Another point of radical clarity: I am not a proponent of over-documenting your unschooling. If you try to make a list of everything your kids “learn” in a day, you’re kind of missing the point.

So why keep track of unschooling or relaxed homeschooling? A few reasons:

  • I like sharing what we do on this website. My month-in-review wrapups are designed to show people some of the things unschoolers do – especially for those who are just starting their journey and wondering, “Will my kids ever learn anything?” So for myself, I don’t necessarily need to keep track of the cool rabbit trails we go down, but jotting short notes about them makes it easier to share and help others.
  • It makes our end-of-year portfolio creation and transcript updating easier. Not all states require any kind of documentation; ours, Pennsylvania, requires a few specific things. Luckily, the evaluator who reviews our family’s portfolio is VERY unschool friendly. I often will just write a paragraph summary on a topic and list a couple places we went or methods we used to explore it and call it good; the hard part of that, though, is remembering in March what topics we were into in September, so our short notes help. Read more about the Pennsylvania homeschooling portfolio – and see samples of ours, as well as Sarah’s transcript – here.
  • It can help you be more present with your kids. Let me be realistic: I work full-time away from home, and, since she’s in her late teens now, a lot of Sarah’s free time is spent engaged in activities I’m not part of, like acting with local theater groups. Taking the time every day or couple of days to stop and think, “What have Sarah and I really been talking about lately?” is a good reset point for me when I don’t feel like we’ve been well-connected. If I have three days in a row where I have no idea what she did, my first thought isn’t, “Wow, she wasn’t learning,” it’s “Wow, I’m not engaged with her.” That helps me make it a point to check in and find out what’s up!
Unschool Rules guide to an unschooling planner system: An overview look at a month's unschooling documentation.

An overview look at a month’s unschooling documentation.

The monthly log

This is the first section of the planner I use, and it’s where the unschooling record-keeping piece comes in.

Almost every day, I jot down a few things we did. These aren’t necessarily “educational” things in any traditional sense – but if we watched a movie or TV show, had a cool conversation, tried a new Universal Yums snack box, went to a restaurant or store, took part in a music lesson or play practice… that’s what gets written in the square for the day.

You can see that some days have more than others. That has nothing to do with how much Sarah is doing or learning or experiencing – as I mentioned above, a lot of my focus in the record-keeping is to be engaged with what Sarah is doing. On the days where you only see one or two things, it’s where I was at work all day and Sarah was at play practice all night and then I sat down to do grad school homework and we barely said two sentences to each other.

Monthly log basics

  • Each day, jot down the highlights in the main calendar box – a book, movie, conversation topic, place you went, etc.
  • In the sidebar, keep track of important family notes, like paydays or bills or number of stuffed penguins you mailed.
  • Don’t stress, and don’t overdo. If you miss a day, either add one thing you remember or just skip it. If you run out of room, don’t write anything else.
Unschool Rules guide to an unschooling planner system: A closer look at the monthly unschooling log. Items are highlighted once I mention them in my monthly wrapup post on Unschool Rules. Other things like bills, paydays and stuffed penguins sent are in the sidebar.

A closer look at the monthly unschooling log. Items are highlighted once I mention them in my monthly wrapup post on Unschool Rules. Other things like bills, paydays and stuffed penguins sent are in the sidebar.

The daily log

The monthly log might be where the basic “unschooling planner system” comes in, but the daily log is how I run my life.

Here, I list all our appointments, my freelance work projects, my grad school assignments, our trips to the library, house-cleaning tasks, and a ton more. Basically, if it needs to get done outside my 9-to-5 job, it goes here. (The day job has its own set of to-do lists, on a Page-a-Day Calendar + Notepad, which I fear they have stopped making effective 2018, which is a little bit making me lose my mind.)

But anyway, the daily log: This is where everything goes that I need to accomplish (or make sure someone else accomplishes, like getting Sarah to a class or practice).

Daily log basics

  • My biggest goal: Don’t add more “to-do” items to a day than there are spaces. You would think this was obvious, but…
  • Write appointments in a different color. (You can see mine are teal.) That keeps you from overlooking them among the things that can migrate to another day.
  • Controversial tip: Use Wite-Out Tape for the things you didn’t get done that you’re moving to another day. Some people follow the bullet journal method of crossing it out with an arrow, then carrying it forward. I need the mental freedom of not seeing a list of things I didn’t manage to do.
  • Similarly, I don’t cross off things I have done, either. If you value a sense of accomplishment the way I do, highlighting tasks when you complete them feels really good. No, YOU wrote something down just to highlight it. That wasn’t me. Ever. Much.
  • When you do something special, note it in another color at the bottom. In my former bullet journal, I would sometimes even draw pictures; I’m not that invested any more, but I love seeing the milestone moments stand out in pink. I’ll come back to another way this helps me later when I talk about my “end products.”
  • On a day toward the end of one month, make a task to plan the next month. I’m always writing in appointments and specific events as I go,
    but the “regular stuff” – vacuuming most weekends, cleaning the bathrooms, long-term freelance projects that get done on specific days each week, sending invoices to other clients, etc. – those, I add a month at a time, as I need them.
Unschool Rules guide to an unschooling planner system: A detailed look at the weekly log. Finished tasks are highlighted; appointments with fixed times are written in teal.

A detailed look at the weekly log. Finished tasks are highlighted; appointments with fixed times are written in teal.

The year in pixels and other bonus features

One of the coolest things in my older, more traditional bullet journal was my “year in pixels” spread. This is a place where you can keep track of your mood or the kind of day you’re having. As someone who lives with bipolar disorder, this has long been something I’ve found helpful to keep an eye on my moods and make sure they’re not going somewhere I don’t want to go.

The Orange Circle Studios planners have a “Rate Your Year” page where this is already set up for you with a five-point scale! Just pick your colors (mine range from blue for great days to brown for horrible days) and color a square each day. I don’t remember to do this every night, but I try to do it every 2 or 3 nights.

You might see that my scale is always “so-so” and up. This is sort of a weird fluke of my personality; I also grade almost all books I read on Goodreads at three, four or five stars. Of the 417 books rated there, I have given three reviews less than 3 stars. Similarly, I have no days so far in my year in pixels that are bad or horrible. Call it an optimistic personality; call it reserving bad ratings for things that really deserve them; call it creating a three-point scale. I don’t know. Anyway. Now you know a new thing about me, right?

(And to be clear – there are things that could happen that would render a day bad or horrible – immense tragedy or illness related to someone I love, for instance – but thankfully these aren’t regular occurrences.)

Unschool Rules guide to an unschooling planner system: The "Rate Your Year" page takes the Year in Pixels bullet journal concept and makes it easier for me to actually do it.

The “Rate Your Year” page takes the Year in Pixels bullet journal concept and makes it easier for me to actually do it.

Extra features in the Flexi Planner

  • Rate Your Year page for keeping track of moods/quality of days.
  • To-Do List and Not-To-Do List pages, great for tracking long-term goals. (I plan to use these for my New Year’s goals, which I have in another notebook for 2017 but will transition into here in 2018.)
  • Budget Tracker. This is really cool, but we have a digital budget that Dan and I share, so I don’t need it written out. Plus, we track different stuff – focusing mostly on debt payoffs. But if you’re just starting with budgeting, the plan in here is a good one.
  • Bucket list, another one I’ll start using when I do my start-of-2018 planning.
  • Empty graph paper pages – I think these are there for other “modified bullet journalers.” If you do a bullet journal collection for something like books read or trips taken or steps toward a specific goal, this would be the place to do it.
  • Event stickers for birthdays, holidays, vacations, parties, lunch dates, “don’t forgets” and more – there’s a whole page of these in the back. I’m not a huge sticker person. Though I have little owls and aliens on a variety of my pages, I don’t really use them to denote anything special, but if you do, they’re cool!
  • Lovely back pocket is probably one of my most-used features. That’s where I store bills to be paid, my work to-do lists (when I’m working from home, I have to carry them with me), papers to fill out for the doctor, whatever.
Unschool Rules guide to using an unschooling planning system: The pocket in the back of the Orange Circle Studio Extra-Large Flexi Planner holds papers that need to travel with me.

The pocket in the back of the Orange Circle Studio Extra-Large Flexi Planner holds papers that need to travel with me.

End products: Monthly blog posts, our homeschool portfolio and our family scrapbooks

So this is what I consider the most important part of our unschooling planner system: It’s not the tracking or planning itself. Those are just means to an end – and in my case, the most important end is what I do with the data from the planner.

Monthly blog posts: I mentioned earlier that these are the biggest reason why I keep track of our unschooling adventures – so I can share them and encourage other families on a similar path. You can see an archive of our lives here, month-by-month, all the way back to July 2014!

As I sit down to write these posts each month, since I follow a standard template, I start with last month’s post and then go through, section by section, and scan my calendar for things that relate. And, as I share them in the roundup, I highlight them – so I know what I’ve covered and what I haven’t yet. Then I add photos – which come from my external hard drive, which is sorted by year and month, so super-easy to get the ones I need – and boom, roundup post! (OK, it’s not quite “boom,” it takes a while and usually comes way later in the month than I intended, but whatever. It’s way better than what you’d get if I was just trying to remember things.)

Our homeschool portfolio and transcript: We are very lucky to have an unschooling-friendly evaluator. We send her a short summary of topics we’ve covered at the end of the year, along with some photos, and Sarah answers some questions for her. It’s incredibly low-stress, and the only thing that takes any time at all is summing up what we do. But guess what makes it easier? The notes and the roundup posts! I can easily get a feel for our “big themes,” and use those to frame out subject descriptions for the portfolio and credit topics for Sarah’s transcript.

You can see more about how we organize our topics into credits for a transcript here. And, if you’re an Unschool Rules email subscriber, you can get a full editable transcript copy plus samples of our portfolio submissions; sign up here to get access!

Our family scrapbooks: I’ve been a dedicated scrapbooker for the past decade, and every year, I make a family album with photos from the year, ephemera and souvenirs, notes about cool things we did and more. A key part of that is a short monthly calendar that includes our highlights, which helps reflect the things we do that don’t have photos. Guess what? The things in pink in the daily log in my planner… those are what goes on those calendars! It’s a super-simple way to manage that at the beginning of the following year when I sit down to scrapbook.

Unschool Rules guide to an unschooling planner system: When I work on my scrapbook for a particular year, I look back through my planner for special events (usually written in pink) to add to calendars like these.

When I work on my scrapbook for a particular year, I look back through my planner for special events (usually written in pink) to add to calendars like these.

Final thoughts

Like I said when I started out, my goal isn’t that anyone would say, “OH. This is perfect! I’ll just do exactly this thing that Joan does!” That would be weird.

My hope is that by seeing how I think about planning – what I keep track of, what I don’t worry about, and most importantly, what I do with the info I track. No one needs to document for the sake of documenting; make sure you have a use for what you’re tracking.

Do you have any other planner questions, unschooling or otherwise? Feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll be glad to help if I can!

Unschooling: Our August 2017 adventures

Do you know what August means? It means I got to start my new planner! Yes, I’m a planner junkie, and new planner time is like the best part of the year for me. Along with that came some tweaks to how I keep track of the things our family does. So not only do I have a detailed roundup of unschooling in August to show you today, but in another few days, I’ll have a post on our planning and record-keeping system for those of you who are wondering how we “document” our family learning times.

(And as always, if you want a more frequent peek at what we do, you can always find me on Instagram and Facebook. I’m specifically trying to share more on Facebook, both from our lives and from other homeschooling blogs I’m reading, so make sure you’re following along there!)

Unschooling in Central Pennsylvania on Unschool Rules: A month in the life of radical unschoolers.

If you’re new to seeing our days recapped in this format, check out our archive of previous wrapups here for some more info on why we take this approach and some other highlights of our adventures. And if you haven’t checked out our unschooling “curriculum plan” for Sarah’s 12th-grade year, I definitely encourage you to take a look at that too!

Unschooling in August 2017 on Unschool Rules; Doesn't everyone balance penguins upon themselves while sitting on the couch?

Doesn’t everyone balance penguins upon themselves while sitting on the couch?

All things theater and Shakespeare

Last month, I talked about Sarah performing in a production of The Tempest through our local Shakespeare company, Orangemite Studios and their Dover Youth Shakespeare Academy.

Disclosure: This post has some affiliate links. I only link to things we legitimately use and recommend, so if you see such a link, it’s because we really do believe in the book or item!

This month, we kept up the Shakespeare vibe.

August included two theater auditions for Sarah – one for Antony and Cleopatra through our local Shakespeare company, Orangemite Studios, and the other for Frankenstein at The Belmont, another local theater, which she auditioned for with Dan. While neither of them got a part in Frankenstein, Sarah was excited to be cast with her friend Nash as Cleopatra’s attendants in Antony and Cleopatra.

Spoiler alert for September’s update, when I post it: Since August ended, she also has auditioned for and received one of the lead parts in “Macbeth of the Dead,” a Macbeth retelling with zombies. Macbeth. Zombies. Nothing could be more in Sarah’s wheelhouse. This one is through Weary Arts Group, one of the coolest groups Sarah has worked with so far.

So rehearsals for Antony and Cleopatra are well under way, and we also dug into a bunch of other cool Shakespeare stuff, such as:

  • Romeo + Juliet – This is one of our favorite Shakespeare adaptations – modern staging with original text, in a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Interestingly, Sarah memorized a new monologue (Romeo’s part from the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet) for her Antony and Cleopatra audition, and this was a huge help to her in learning it. Chris also found for us a song by Dire Straits called Romeo and Juliet, which we all thought was pretty cool. The Indigo Girls and The Killers have covered it too.
  • Julius Caesar – Since Julius Caesar is in some ways a “prequel” to Antony and Cleopatra, we watched Orangemite’s DVD production of it before Sarah’s Antony and Cleopatra audition.
  • Shakespeare Unlimited – This is a podcast series from the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Sarah and I have started listening to it as we drive to her guitar lessons each week. In August we checked out an episode called Myths about Shakespeare that was really cool!
Unschooling in August 2017 on Unschool Rules: I got a new haircut to go with my new glasses!

I got a new haircut to go with my new glasses!

4-H things

August started out with Sarah spending three days in State College, PA, home of Penn State University’s main campus, as part of 4-H State Achievement Days. She got to room with one of her best friends, learned about microbes that affect plants, and had a blast at the dance (always her favorite part).

On the day we got home, she had a 4-H Wildlife Club meeting where, to prepare for the 4-H Fair/county roundup later in the month, the group gave oral presentations on some of their projects. Sarah presented on her alpaca genetics project, which was amazing and which won a gold ribbon at Fair. She did a TON of work on this project and is hoping to continue it in even more detail next year.

There was also alpaca practice each weekend, with the club’s show taking place Aug. 19. The show at the York Fair is coming up this weekend, but Sarah will just be spectating for that one because of some allergy problems that make it not ideal for her to sit around all day in hay and fiber!

SPEAKING of animal hair, we also had practices for 4-H Clover Canines, our dog club, culminating in a show at the 4-H Fair on Sept. 13, in which Sarah took first place in the advanced/teen category. She can’t show our dog, who is too old to even get into and out of the car any more, so she shows my best friend Nina’s husky, Thor, who is awesome!

For the year ahead, we’re going to have to figure out what’s going to take precedence – 4-H or acting. This year, Sarah was president of two of her three clubs, and we just can’t manage that again for the year ahead, but it’s also nearing the end of her 4-H eligibility, so we don’t want to miss out, either. Stay tuned for updates on that!

Unschooling in August 2017 on Unschool Rules: Sarah REALLY loved reading James Patterson's Humans, Bow Down, ably assisted by stuffed monsteroo Whip.

Sarah REALLY loved reading James Patterson’s Humans, Bow Down, ably assisted by stuffed monsteroo Whip.

Books

Sarah has really gotten into reading again lately. We’ve been working on our family learning journals together, and in fact we’re all making progress on our book lists and otherwise pursuing the topics we’re interested in. If you haven’t yet read about that project, definitely check it out here!

  • The Trial by James Patterson – Sarah and I are reading this novella together after finishing another Patterson novella. She’s become a huge fan of his!
  • Humans, Bow Down by James Patterson – SO much Patterson! Sarah picked up this sci-fi novel of his at the library and started reading it on her own. She just finished it in September and loved it the whole time.
  • The Book of Useless Information by Noel Botham – This is a great family “browsing book” – you know, one you can pick up, read a selection from, put back down, and not need to worry about continuity. Sarah read a bunch of excerpts to me while I was laying on her bed one afternoon and it was great! It tied right into the history topic from our learning journals, too.
  • Alchemy and Mysticism by Alexander Roob and Alchemy, the Great Secret by Andrea Aromatico – Alchemy is one of the topics on both Sarah’s learning journal list and mine, and we are actually in the process of scoping out a place to get matching tattoos of the ouroboros, which is Sarah’s personal symbol and also the official name of our homeschool (Ouroboros Academy)! So we spent one day looking through her alchemy books and reading as much as we could about the various components of the things often pictured with it.
  • Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 – Sarah’s latest comic book reads. She’s almost always got comic books going!
Unschooling in August 2017 on Unschool Rules: Dan took me to see one of my longtime favorite bands, Live, who come from my town, in concert in Bethlehem, PA.

Dan took me to see one of my longtime favorite bands, Live, who come from my town, in concert in Bethlehem, PA.

Movies, TV and more podcasts

  • Wonder Woman – Sarah got to have a theater double-feature day; first, she and Chris went to see Wonder Woman, which she liked…
  • Spider Man: Homecoming – … and then Chris, Sarah, Dan and I went to see the new Spider Man. We all enjoyed it, and I ended up liking it a LOT more than I thought I would. Also, I cried. (I cry at everything.)
  • Game Show Network – Doesn’t every family binge-watch Family Feud with Steve Harvey? No? Just us?
  • Liar, Liar – We’ve all seen this before, but we needed a nice, relaxing laughfest one night, so we put it on again. I really have a soft spot for Jim Carrey. (Also, did you know he is an amazing artist? You should check out the video of his work below.)
  • Trolls and Sing – Are we dorks who like music and animated movies? Yes, yes we are.
  • Invincible – Chris and Sarah were channel-surfing and caught large parts of this one.
  • Forrest Gump – This has long been one of Sarah’s favorite movies. This time around, I managed to catch about 15 minutes of it, and cry for about 14.5 of them. #alwayscrying
  • Les Misérables – SPEAKING of musicals (and classics), this is another one we all like but hadn’t seen for a while. (Sarah and I actually like this so much we wrote a whole blog post about it back in 2014.)
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class – This is another podcast series we all like to listen to. This month, Sarah and I listened to one on the Count of St. Germain and another on Charles VI of France, the Mad King.
  • The Strange and Unusual Podcast – This month, we listened to The Tell-Tale Heart and Murder in Salem, and we’re looking forward to future episodes in this series.

This month in rabbit trails

I keep saying that our rabbit trails are one of the best parts of unschooling. I want to make sure I’m intentional about focusing on some of the best ones each month, because I think these are really what shows what our unschooling life is like.

While driving to an event, we pulled over to make way for a state trooper with lights and sirens on. That got us talking about the appropriate thing to do when you’re driving (HINT: PULL OVER, PEOPLE – this is a serious pet peeve of mine!) as well as, among other things, how police jurisdictions work, what is covered by the state police, who investigates the police themselves, and a bunch more cool stuff.

Another day, my sister, her husband and their dog, Katie were visiting, and we ended up babysitting Katie, who is having some anxiety issues. We started talking about one possible option, a pheromone collar, and that got Sarah and I into looking up more about how pheromones work in general and what the vomeronasal organ is.

But my favorite by far this month was the day we were sitting at lunch on the porch of a local restaurant, watching the ducks in a little creek, and talking about Hurricane Harvey and its impact on people we know. This led to a huge discussion about socialism and how it relates to disaster response, Norway (which has a much more socialized care system), Nigeria (which doesn’t even have government-provided emergency services), the bank crash preceding the Great Depression (including how FDIC insurance works), what happens when a state of emergency is declared, how disasters often hurt people of color and people of lower economic status more than upper-middle-class white people, why people can’t just move out of disaster-prone areas, why someone might not want to evacuate and a bunch more. All of these are topics that NO ONE, adults included, has a full grasp of, but Sarah did an admirable job of asking good questions and putting forth smart ideas.

Unschooling in August 2017 on Unschool Rules: Shipping stuffed penguins by the dozens requires something of an assembly line. Here, I'm handling shipping labels and updating our online map; Mom is putting their little gift tags around their fat little necks with ribbon. Dan assembled the boxes and was taping them shut.

Shipping stuffed penguins by the dozens requires something of an assembly line. Here, I’m handling shipping labels and updating our online map; Mom is putting their little gift tags around their fat little necks with ribbon. Dan assembled the boxes and was taping them shut.

Those stuffed penguins

I’ve talked before about Pengins for Everyone, our family’s mildly crazy project to give away stuffed penguins – or, as we say, pengins – to anyone who requests one.

This month’s pengin update is that we had a bunch of amazing professional photos taken by CM&M Photography, which we’ll be using in a bunch of publicity materials. We also started the process of filing to incorporate as an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which we hope will make a big difference in our fundraising ability. Oh, and we shipped about 50 of the little dudes (and dudettes) to new homes.

If you want to learn more about this project, follow the Pengins for Everyone Facebook page. We share photos and videos of our crew hard at work trying to fulfill some of the 21,000 total requests on hand.

Unschooling in August 2017 on Unschool Rules: Isn't it great to think about getting a nice stuffed penguin in the mail? That's what Pengins for Everyone is all about. (Photo by CM&M Photography)

Isn’t it great to think about getting a nice stuffed penguin in the mail? That’s what Pengins for Everyone is all about. (Photo by CM&M Photography)

Games

Even though she already beat it, Sarah spent some time this month playing Uncharted 4 on PS4.

She also plays a bunch of FIFA 17, and she and Dan spent some time gaming together this month on his computer, playing a couple of new-to-us games like Pyre and Kerbal Space Program.

She’s also been playing more basketball outside lately, including a couple of rounds with Dan as well as one day when she and I went out and shot around in the rain, then came up to sit on our new porch rockers once it started storming in earnest. That was pretty awesome!

Unschooling in August 2017 on Unschool Rules: My best friend got married in August, and Sarah got to see some friends in my friend's family, which is basically like our extended family.

My best friend got married in August, and Sarah got to see some friends in my friend’s family, which is basically like our extended family.

Unschooling places, projects and odds and ends

Guitar lessons: Sarah continues to take weekly guitar lessons from the amazing Rod Goelz, also at Weary Arts. He’s amazing!

My best friend’s wedding: No, not the movie; my best friend got married to her high school sweetheart during a beautiful wedding on his dad’s farm earlier in August. Sarah is friends with lots of the teens in her family, so she got to hang out with some cool people, including one situation that involved three people sharing a set of suspenders. As you do.

Daddy-daughter days: As a newspaper sports editor, Chris has a really terrible work schedule starting in August. He gets, like, Wednesdays and Thursdays off (sometimes, if he’s lucky), and he works 14+ hour days most other days to cover all the high school stuff plus college and pro sports. So when he does have a free day, he often dedicates it to “Daddy-Daughter Day.” Like one day in August, the day he and Sarah double-featured movies at the theater, he also took her to the York Emporium, our favorite used book store, to the Timeline Arcade in downtown York, out to lunch at the White Rose (a super-cool downtown restaurant) and to the comic store.

Celtic Thunder: Celtic Thunder is cool – a band that Sarah, me and my mom all love. We spent one day just listening to a bunch of their songs at home, and in exciting news, we got our tickets for their show in Hershey, PA, just before my birthday in November. This will be our fourth year of all three of us attending, and my mom and I went one or two years before that too!

Homeschooling Outside the Box: I was invited to speak as part of a panel on a local seminar about non-boxed-curriculum homeschooling. If you’re into more relaxed, nontraditional homeschooling (as I assume you might be, since you’re reading this), you should check out our Homeschooling Outside the Box Facebook group. Make sure you mention you heard about it on Unschool Rules in the membership questions; we are trying to be pretty judicious about approving people! Anyway, one of the coolest parts of speaking at the seminar was that Dan and Sarah both attended, and afterward, Sarah spent some time talking to a few families – kids and parents alike – about our unschooling experiences and what she finds valuable about them. It was pretty sweet! Then, Sarah helped me come up with our 12th-grade curriculum un-plan post, so we got a lot of chances this month to kind of “learn about learning” by talking about unschooling and how our lives might be different from some other people’s.

The Walking Dead fandom: So, one of Sarah’s biggest interests is The Walking Dead, especially Norman Reedus and his character Daryl. She has an Instagram fan account full of amazing photo edits (usually with accompanying song lyrics). She would love your follows if you like TWD! Photo editing is a big pastime of hers, using a huge variety of apps. She even saved up $700 and bought a VIP ticket to Walker-Stalker Con New Jersey so that she could meet Norman… except then he canceled. Cancelled. After she spent $700. Heartbroken doesn’t even begin to describe it. We’re still going (Dan, Chris and I have low-end day passes, too), but we’re trying to figure out what’s next in the “Meet Norman” plan. If anyone has any ideas, we’re all for them. I couldn’t believe it!

Places we went: September heralds the opening of Sarah’s favorite store ever, Spirit Halloween, so of course we went there. We finally visited the mini golf place a half-mile from our house, and Mom, Dan, Sarah and I had a fun round of golf that included Mom getting a hole in one with a bounce off Sarah’s shoe. Sarah went grocery-shopping with Dan and me, which led to her saying “I think we should try a new fruit,” which resulted in our tasting a papaya for the first time. She and I got new haircuts. And, because why not, we went “back-to-school clothes shopping” and Sarah got some new jeans, sneakers and shirts.

Unschooling in August 2017 on Unschool Rules: Family portrait. With pengins. (Photo by CM&M Photography)

Family portrait. With pengins. (Photo by CM&M Photography)

Updates from around the family

Since our “curriculum plan” for this year featured not just Sarah but the other house adults, I figure I should start giving monthly updates on our progress too. So here’s a look at what’s new with the rest of us!

Me, Joan: I took and passed my second-degree black belt test at Dover Dragons Tae Kwon Do on Aug. 19! What’s below is a video from my test, a five-board breaking combo. That was most of my focus in my free time in August, though I also finished reading 10 books, including two about prison issues (Incarceration Nations by Baz Dreisinger and Hard Time by Shaun Attwood, which is free on Prime Reading this month if you have Amazon Prime), plus some focused on my idea of understanding other cultures. Oh, I also vended at an art market (see my art here) and Dan and I traded in one of our two Honda Civics for a Subaru Forester SUV.

Dan: Dan contributed his update as follows: “I got a little sidetracked in my reading and went off on a ‘Greek gods are real and computers are actual magic’ tangent, but I also managed to get through my Python book. Well, actually, my other Python book because the first one was a little too didactic for me. But I’m well on my way to barely understanding what I screw up, which is a lot better than where I was, which was completely not understanding where I screwed up. Always progress!” He has since used his Python programming knowledge to run some simple scripts that helped us sort music for our car’s flash drive and sort photos for a work project, so I can confirm he knows what he’s doing at least somewhat.

Chris: Chris says: “In August I finished Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation, by Garbology author Edward Humes. And I also finished My Favorite Thing is Monsters, a graphic novel that represents the first book ever published by 55-year-old Chicago native Emil Ferris, who spent years working on the book while recovering from paralysis caused by West Nile Virus. I have also been listening to many podcasts, including Stuff You Missed in History Class, Imaginary Worlds, Retronauts, Stuff You Should Know, Lore and 70s Trek.” (I told you we all liked Stuff You Missed in History!)

My mom, also Joan, aka Mommom: As I talked about in our roundup, Mom is really active in her church. That makes her the only one of us… the rest of us fall somewhere on the spectrum of Unitarian Universalist to agnostic to lazy lapsed Methodist, and we are fully secular in our homeschooling. That said, it’s really important to Mom, and we are proud to support her! In August, her next group of Stephen Ministers – a program she co-leads – graduated, and she joined a new Bible study group. Outside of church, she worked on her charcoal sketching, including a really cool one of a man’s face. She’s already made me some great drawings of Sarah, which I’ll post some other time if she OKs it!

Unschooling in August 2017 on Unschool Rules: Hoogerheide!!! (Photo by CM&M Photography)

Hoogerheide!!! (Photo by CM&M Photography)

So what’s new with your family this month? Drop me a comment! I love hearing from all my “blog friends!”o