Unschooling: Our August and September 2015 adventures

With other amazing humans at the Agricultural and Industrial Museum during Yorkfest. We need more of these kind of people in our lives.

With other amazing humans at the Agricultural and Industrial Museum during Yorkfest. We need more of these kind of people in our lives.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated here, and a ton has been going on. (Don’t forget you can always get up-to-the-minute, or at least up-to-the-week, updates on Facebook.)

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!

In big news, Sarah, Dan and I leave this weekend for a two-week road trip to Phoenix, Arizona, where we’re excited to be part of the Free to Be Unschooling Conference. I’ll do a separate roundup of our trip (as well as the aforementioned Facebook updates) but I wanted to be sure to round up some of the great projects we’ve been doing before then!

(If this is your first time catching our month-in-review posts, welcome! Check out our archive of previous wrapups here for some more info on why we take this approach to documenting some of our unschooling learning adventures.)

Books

Spike, the tobacco hornworm, is seen before being beset with wasp eggs.

Spike, the tobacco hornworm, is seen before being beset with wasp eggs.

  • Maphead – We’ll talk more about this later, but it’s been a huge part of our learning adventures for the past couple of months.
  • Total Recall – Ah, Ahhhnold. Sarah is a huge Schwarzenegger fan, and we found a cheap copy of his (gigantic hardcover) autobiography, which she has been ardently plowing through. She has slept with this book. She makes sure it’s in a safe place at all times. It’s a treasured possession.
  • The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith – This is a collection of Vietnamese folk and fairy tales that Chris and Sarah have been reading.
One project I don't think I otherwise mentioned: Sarah wanted to make homemade orange/lemonade, complete with fancy straws and glasses, so we did. Tasted great, and was a fun experience too!

One project I don’t think I otherwise mentioned: Sarah wanted to make homemade orange/lemonade, complete with fancy straws and glasses, so we did. Tasted great, and was a fun experience too!

Movies and TV

He's just a Poe boy, from a Poe family. (At the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.)

He’s just a Poe boy, from a Poe family. (At the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.)

Video, board and card games

Team Coal: Sarah, Chris, and the eponymous alpaca.

Team Coal: Sarah, Chris, and the eponymous alpaca.

Our big project: Geography

This update comes from Unschool Dad Extraordinaire Chris, who comes home from work after midnight each night and has “book time” with Sarah. This night-owl homeschooling has always been great for us, but their current project has just been so amazing that I asked Chris to sum it up. He says:

Sarah and I have been reading 2011’s Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks, written by former Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, for the past six or seven weeks.

We’re about three-quarters of the way through the book and have been greatly enjoying it. In a broad look at maps and the people who love them, Jennings touches on historic maps, the Library of Congress cartographic archives, imaginary maps, “road geeks,” the National Geographic Bee, map collectors and much more.

We’re learning a lot and the book has given us a springboard to a lot of tangental topics or other multimedia learning.

Just a sampling of the things we’ve learned and discovered:

  • The word “topophilia” comes from the Greek. “Topos” means place and “philia” means love. So topophilia means “love of place.” (And we also then discussed how Philadelphia is the “City of Brotherly Love.”)
  • We went a learned a bit about the Zhou Dynasty – which was mentioned in passing in “Maphead.”
  • We read about the Welsh village of Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch. I had to prepare in advance so that I could give a good try at pronouncing it when we read that part. Later, coincidentally, we came across this video of a weatherman nonchalantly pronouncing the name.
  • We were reading about Mount McKinley/Denali and how the U.S. government goes about officially renaming things at almost the exact same time that President Obama finally, and officially, renamed Alaska’s Mount McKinley as Denali.
  • We learned that Breezewood, Pennsylvania, where we have been often on our adventur,es is a very special place for road geeks, because of the short gap on I-70 that is not built to Interstate standards and features traffic lights. There’s a whole Wikipedia page for this, probably put together by road geeks.
  • Finally, Maphead alerted us to this amazing video of Lilly the Map Master.

And that really just touches the surface of all the facts, discussions and further learning that has been launched via Maphead.

No, YOUR alpaca is getting ready to drop his latest hip-hop album.

No, YOUR alpaca is getting ready to drop his latest hip-hop album.

Straight Outta Camelid: The 2015 Alpaca Competition Season

Meet LL Coal J.

He’s the hottest new rapper on the East Coast. He and his homie S.O. Fresh (real name: Sarah Otto) have been dropping beats and scratching records together in the barn for years.

Now they’ve moved to a new town, met some new people and started entering hip-hop obstacle contests together.

Their latest single, “Halter Hater,” has rocketed to the top of the Agricultural Alternative charts. They just launched their own clothing line, HuacayaWear.

Here comes the Lamborghini limousine to pick up LL Coal J and S.O. Fresh now. Of course it’s a convertible – because otherwise Coal’s neck wouldn’t fit.

So if you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out their debut album, Cria-tion, and catch up with them at the club later!

That story won Sarah a Grand Champion award (and first in the advanced division) for the alpaca costume contest at the 2015 York Fair. She also placed fourth in obstacles and fifth in showmanship there; earlier, at the county 4-H show, she tied for third in obstacles and third in showmanship.

You haven’t lived until you’ve sewed boxers into another pair of shorts with a tail-hole cut into them. I’m just saying.

Other places, projects and odds and ends

Sarah designed this herself and made it into a bookmark for Arnold Schwarzenegger's autobiography, Total Recall.

Sarah designed this herself and made it into a bookmark for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography, Total Recall.

  • The USA “Ghost Army” of World War II, which worked to deceive the Germans with inflatable tanks and other tricks.
  • Sarah wondered “What project is the president working on right now?”, which got us started on the candidates for the coming election.
  • Sarah attempted to raise a tobacco hornworm, but it turned out he’d been infested with parasitic wasps before we got him, and we had to put him out of his misery. We were bummed but plan our next hornworm-raising from lab stock, with its resultant lack of wasps.
  • Using her Photoshop skills, Sarah made herself an Arnold Schwarzenegger-themed bookmark, which you can see here. It’s amazing.
  • We went to our town’s “Foodstruck” food truck festival with new friends, and after spending the day with them, they talked Sarah into attending a free stage combat class at a local arts studio. It was awesome!
  • We found out about a new animated collection of Poe tales.
  • A painting of Sarah’s placed third at the Yorkfest arts festival, which we attended, and we also got to tour the Agricultural and Industrial Museum where it was on display.
  • We spent the day in Washington, D.C., where we went to the Crime Museum (closing Sept. 30 permanently, sadly!) and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
  • We bought a new fridge. This is exciting for me. It also resulted in a major garage cleaning.

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

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2 thoughts on “Unschooling: Our August and September 2015 adventures

    • We have some great times just talking – that’s for sure! Right now we’re on the road and one of the things I can’t wait to do is get caught up on everyone ELSE’S adventures (including yours!!)

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