Unschooling: Our June 2017 adventures

Our unschooling in June 2017 had one huge focus – Shakespeare. But amid a hectic rehearsal schedule and several sold-out performances of The Tempest, we found time to explore some of our local parks, read some cool books and celebrate Father’s Day. (And as always, if you want a more frequent peek at what we do, you can always find me on Instagram and Facebook.)

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.

Unschool Rules - June 2017 - Sarah played Trinculo the jester in The Tempest, and her two awesome friends were Stephano the drunken butler and Caliban the octopus-monster. They all did amazing and worked so well together!

Sarah played Trinculo the jester in The Tempest, and her two awesome friends were Stephano the drunken butler and Caliban the octopus-monster. They all did amazing and worked so well together!

All things Shakespeare

Sarah had the chance to take part in a production of The Tempest through our local Shakespeare company, Orangemite Studios and their Dover Youth Shakespeare Academy. These kids – generally ranging in age from about 9 to 15 – had two weeks to learn a slightly abridged version the play, audition for parts, rehearse, create their own props, learn blocking and stage three performances, two of which were sold out! Oh, and the performances were in a converted barn with no air-conditioning, and it was over 90 degrees and humid.

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!

They worked SO HARD. And the shows – which we got to see two of – were excellent! We told Sarah that she now has more Shakespeare experience than her hero, Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead, which she got a kick out of.

She came home the first night after having done a read-through of The Tempest and said she wanted to audition for the role of Trinculo, the jester. That night, she started memorizing his introductory speech, which includes a ton of hilarious antics based on whether a sleeping creature is a man or a fish. “Smells like a fish! A very ancient and fish-like smell!” She also got to say a line about horse-pee. If you know Sarah, you know this role was made for her.

I don’t want to make it sound like it was all a walk in the park, though. She worked REALLY hard – at camp from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and practicing most of the evening at home to learn her lines and blocking. She really struggled with emoting, especially when she was tired, and at one point, she said, “I just can’t do this.” We all worked together to help her figure out how to get past the things she was struggling with, but I admit that when I sat down for the opening show, I was mostly thinking, “PLEASE let this go OK!”

It didn’t go OK. It was PHENOMENAL. She AND the rest of the cast knocked it out of the park. And, in the category of “everyday miracles,” I thought it was absolutely perfect when, just as Sarah got to a line about an islander being hit by a thunderbolt, it thundered like crazy outside – and she paused, looked up, and said her next line with perfect comedic timing – “Alas, the storm is come again!” It was THE BEST.

She’s already talking about auditioning for Orangemite’s next production, Antony and Cleopatra, and we’re going to see their performance of Sophocles’ Antigone later this week (that was rehearsing during the camp).

Oh, and Sarah also wants to audition for a musical version of Beauty and the Beast at DreamWrights with some of her friends, and we’re going to watch more of her friends in DreamWrights’ summer Shakespeare performance of The Taming of the Shrew.

I’m pretty sure our literature and theater needs will be plenty well met! (Fun note: Sarah reached our library summer reading program’s 800-minute goal just in time spent reading over The Tempest.)

Unschool Rules - June 2017 - Sarah as Trinculo, the jester, in Shakespeare's "The Tempest."

Sarah as Trinculo, the jester, in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

Books and hikes

What, you don’t think reading and hiking go together? Our library system has this really cool program called Get Outdoors York that is an add-on to the summer reading club. You get a booklet with 30 hikes listed, and at the end of each hike you find a plate with a rubbing on it. (Very similar to letterboxing or geocaching.) So far, we’ve found 11 of the 30, and even cooler, we’ve found some amazing places around our county to explore!

The best was a new-to-us swimming hole at a small park in eastern York County, complete with a rope swing so you can Tarzan your way into the creek, as well as a ton of great spots for wading! We also went to our favorite state park, Gifford Pinchot, and met a super-nice family catching fish who offered to have Sarah come fish with them.

Unschool Rules - June 2017 - Sarah and Fwoops check out a (fake) rock at Pinchot Park, one of the state parks in our county, following one of our hikes to find a letterbox.

Sarah and Fwoops check out a (fake) rock at Pinchot Park, one of the state parks in our county, following one of our hikes to find a letterbox.

In addition, we did get to do some reading. Besides All The Shakespeare, Sarah got and devoured a copy of Plato’s Republic (which she’d been looking for for quite a while), we read more of Cross Kill by James Patterson, and, most interestingly, we found a Father’s Day gift for Chris that was book-themed.

See, Sarah and Chris like to read together, especially history-type things. And Chris LOVES old books, especially old schoolbooks; in fact, one of the coolest projects he and Sarah ever did together was when they went through an old geography book and wrote a blog post about it. It’s a neat way to have conversations about what the facts were as they were known at the time vs. what has changed.

So, for Father’s Day, Sarah got Chris a two-book combo for their joint perusal – A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, and a 1903 textbook called Barnes’s School History of the United States. They dug right in, exploring

They also have been reading together from Max Brooks’ World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide, and Sarah finished Vol. 5, Vol. 6 and Vol. 7 of her Walking Dead comic book series. Pretty good for not having a lot of free time!

Unschool Rules - June 2017 - Chris shows Sarah and Mr. Angelino some of his tacky postcards (part of his Father's Day gift).

Chris shows Sarah and Mr. Angelino some of his tacky postcards (part of his Father’s Day gift).

Movies and TV

A special note for our newer readers: I’d love for you to check out our post on learning from movies and TV shows. It really explains a lot about why we are such fans!

We didn’t have a ton of time for movie-watching this month, but we did relax a bit with some of our favorite game shows on GSN and finally got to see Moana, which was really good. And made me cry. Because all movies make me cry.

Unschool Rules - June 2017 - Chris took this awesome photo of Sarah on the climbing ropes at Cousler Park, a great spot near our house.

Chris took this awesome photo of Sarah on the climbing ropes at Cousler Park, a great spot near our house.

Games

This was another thing that had to take a backseat this month. Other than some Uno Attack and Minecraft, and Dan’s new Wii U system with Mario Kart, we didn’t have much time for any kind of gaming! That said, we did get something cool from Dan’s parents – a Diabolo, one of those cool OUTSIDE-ONLY yoyo-type things on a large string, at which we are terrible but trying hard to improve.

Unschool Rules - June 2017 - We had been planning to go to a family pool party out of state, but weren't able to make it, so Dan and I tried to make it up to Sarah by taking her to our local splash park, this super-awesome free place where you can get drenched!

We had been planning to go to a family pool party out of state, but weren’t able to make it, so Dan and I tried to make it up to Sarah by taking her to our local splash park, this super-awesome free place where you can get drenched!

Unschooling places, projects and odds and ends

Camp counselor-ing: Our 4-H program has an awesome science-themed day camp for 8- to 12-year-olds called Survivor Camp, and this year, Sarah got to be a counselor. She had to be there at 7 a.m. – a crazy-early time for our family! – but she loved it.

Made in America Days: Made in America Days is a project of our county visitors’ bureau, because we are supposedly the “Factory Tour Capital of the World.” I don’t know about that as a claim to fame, but we do have some cool tours. This year, the alpaca farm Sarah works at for 4-H and its accompanying store were part of the tours, and Sarah went over to help show people cool things about alpacas!

Unschool Rules - June 2017 - One of Sarah's 4-H clubs made bonsai juniper trees as a project - here she is with "Pricky," as she aptly named him.

One of Sarah’s 4-H clubs made bonsai juniper trees as a project – here she is with “Pricky,” as she aptly named him.

Work permit: Sarah officially has a work permit, and hopefully will be applying for some jobs soon. Her availability was pretty limited by the aforementioned Shakespeare, and because she cannot drive, we have to figure out a place that’s a good fit that is either walkable or that we can get her to around everyone else’s schedules. But the paperwork step is done!

Pengin explosion: 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. It was kind of a ridiculous idea when we had about 100 pending requests, but then, in the last week of June, it got shared on a bird-lovers’ group on Facebook with 70,000 members, and got picked up by a bunch of freebie sites. Now we have something like 21,000 requests, received $1,600 in donations, are officially filing as a nonprofit, and are working on a magazine article feature. So, you know, no big deal. Except the part where we are TOTALLY FREAKING OUT.

Unschool Rules - June 2017 - Kohl's is selling these fantastic suit jackets. Don't you want one? Sarah does!

Kohl’s is selling these fantastic suit jackets. Don’t you want one? Sarah does!

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

Unschooling: Our May 2017 adventures

Is your family ready for summer yet? While we don’t really have “summer break” because unschooling means our lives flow year-round, we love this season anyway as it seems to give us more ways to spend time living and learning together.

That’s what I blame for the lateness of May’s wrapup post – we’ve been busy exploring lots of cool stuff in our town, so I didn’t make time to sit down and write this summary until now. (As always, if you want a more frequent peek at what we do, you can always find me on Instagram and Facebook.)

Sarah, left, and her friends from the crew at DreamWrights. I can’t say enough good things about these people. Side rant: I can’t stand it when people complain about teenagers. MANY teenagers are awesome. These are some of them.

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.

Moving Update

We have a new house! We have a new house!

Unschool Rules unschooling wrapup - new house exterior

This is our new house!

We officially moved in to “Essex Manor” (because we live on a street with Essex in the name) on May 12, did some whirlwind unpacking and decorating, and celebrated with a three-day open house on Memorial Day weekend.

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!

We’re pretty much done unpacking and decorating, with just a few small projects left to go. That took up a LOT of our May, though we had a lot of help from family and friends, including Dan’s mom, JoAnne, who came to stay for two weeks and helped us a ton.

I mentioned this last month, but it bears repeating: On the unschooling front, a lot of the conversations around mortgages, escrow, commissions and more went into Sarah’s economics credit on the transcript for the year that just ended. It was a HUGE piece of learning for all of us.

I’m hoping to do a photo post showing off the new place sometime in the next month or two. I have 16 pieces of my art at a gallery show right now, so there are some big spaces that will later have art in them, and I want to wait until that’s done.

My oldest sister Linda, me, Sarah and Mom on Mother’s Day.

Books

I know I’m missing things here, but a few highlights:

  • Serial Killers and Psycopaths – OK, not the most cheerful, I admit. We were browsing through this at the bookstore and Sarah was really interested, so we bought it. She’s been into true crime since becoming interested in forensics a few years ago, and recognized many of the stories involved. One of the coolest “rabbit trails” came when we were reading some of this together and went into a two-hour tangent about, among other things, the death penalty, victim-blaming, racism and forensics. It was pretty much the quintessential unschooling rabbit trail experience.
  • Cross Kill by James Patterson – Sarah doesn’t read a lot of fiction outside of comics and classics, and this was something new we decided to try – the short “BookShots” novellas that can be read in a few sittings. We didn’t finish this one but that was more due to the busyness of moving.

I told them “Look awesome.” They said, “We’re always awesome!”

Music and theater

Sarah kept going with her Rock Band classes with Rod Goelz of Music at Metropolis, who I mentioned before is unschooling-minded guy who really clicks with Sarah. They work on the fundamentals of rhythm, harmony, vocal and instrumental performance and playing by ear together.

May was also big in the theater world, because we had the performances of the show Sarah was on crew for, Peter Pan and Mary, a locally-written play premiered at DreamWrights, our local family theater.

After putting in four or five hours a night, sometimes five nights a week, for more than a month, it was amazing to see it all come together in the shows. She had an amazing time and made some great friends, which was really cool.

Expect to hear more theater things in next month’s roundup; starting today, Sarah is spending all day every day at a two-week Shakespeare immersion camp at OrangeMite, our local Shakespearean company. They’ll put on a production of The Tempest, which I think is super-cool, and of which you can be assured pictures will follow!

Dan, Chris, Sarah, me, my mom and Plaid Pengin at one of the Peter Pan and Mary shows at DreamWrights.

Movies and TV

A special note for our newer readers: I’d love for you to check out our post on learning from movies and TV shows. It really explains a lot about why we are such fans!

We didn’t have a ton of time for movie-watching, but Sarah and Chris started watching Darkplace, a show of the “so bad it’s almost good” variety.

We also found time to go to the movies and catch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and also saw Sing, which was super-cute.

Dan and his mom, JoAnne, play cribbage on the guest bed in the rec room. Note Dudley (white dog) and Einstein (large bear) looking on.

Games

As always, we like to spend at least one night a week gaming, though with the move that’s gotten a little less frequent than we would like.

One of the coolest things about Dan’s mom visiting is that his family is big into cribbage, and on this visit, she and Dan taught Sarah to play.

We also got to do the mutating killer virus episode of Escape Room: The Game – from which we did escape!

Sarah also had fun playing a new tabletop beanbag game (think cornhole, but little) with a young friend who came to the open house, and we were excited that we got her basketball hoop set up at the new place. We weren’t sure how that would work out, because our driveway isn’t level, but we found a way to do it facing the road on our non-through-street.

More of Sarah and her DreamWrights crew.

Universal Yums

This month in our family’s Universal Yums subscription, we got to try snacks from Japan.

I particularly loved the beef-flavored cheese-puff-type things, which I fully admit is weird. Dan loved these little cookies shaped like hamburgers. Overall, though, Japanese snacks were less to our liking than some of the other countries. Next up is Mexico, so we’re hoping for a lot of chocolate and spicy snacking.

What’s really cool is that we try to make an evening out of our taste-testing. We all try a little bit of each snack, we rate them, we look up facts about the country and we have a good time.

I’m not an affiliate of Universal Yums, but I can definitely HIGHLY recommend it. You can definitely look forward to hearing more about this in our roundups as long as our subscription continues!

Sarah, Dan and Plaid unwinding at one of our nearby parks.

Unschooling places, projects and odds and ends

New computer monitor: At our old house, we had a nice but slightly older entertainment center that had a specific-sized cutout for the TV, so we were capped at about a 34″ one. We did have a bigger one, a 42″ (I know, to most people that’s not a “big” TV, but to us it’s huge!) and at the new house, we were able to mount that one above the fireplace. So we had the smaller one left, and at the new house, we were able to hook that up as Sarah’s monitor with her computer, so she has a pretty great gaming experience.

Walking: Our old neighborhood had a nice loop for walking, and our new neighborhood is even more walkable, with no through-streets and only one road entering/exiting the development. We also have a walking path from the development to a nearby elementary school, so we can walk over and play on the swings and stuff!

Playing in the rain: Right before we moved away from our old house, we had a huge downpour, and Sarah had fun going out and playing in the storm. She’s big into water lately, loving to get soaked, so it was a ton of fun and a nice way to say goodbye to the old place.

Playing in the rain on one of our last days at the old house.

Mother’s Day: What’s that? We moved on Mother’s Day weekend? Well, of course that meant we had to go out to dinner. The five of us, plus one of my sisters and her husband, all went out to hibachi, which was perfect.

So I’m making a stupid face here because I realized my Mother’s Day present said I’m graceful. This is not particularly true. As evidenced by, you know, this photo.

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