Unschooling: Our September 2017 adventures

Wow. September was kind of a whirlwind for us. Sarah started her performances for one play, ramped up her practice for another, and found out that she was going to get to meet her hero, Norman Reedus, on Oct. 1, which I’m counting in this roundup just because I can. And as far as unschooling days go, she had a bunch of particularly cool ones that I’m excited to share.

(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 September 2017 on Unschool Rules: Nash and Sarah, Cleopatra's two attendants, at Antony and Cleopatra.

Nash and Sarah, Cleopatra’s two attendants, at Antony and Cleopatra.

All things theater and Shakespeare

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Yep, more Shakespeare.

September was filled with practices for and then performances of Antony and Cleopatra through our local Shakespeare company, Orangemite Studios, where she and her friend Nash were cast as Cleopatra’s attendants.

We also started rehearsals for “Macbeth of the Dead,” a Macbeth retelling with zombies. As I said before, nothing could be more in Sarah’s wheelhouse than Macbeth and zombies. This one is through Weary Arts Group, one of the coolest groups Sarah has worked with so far; she’ll be one of the leads, Malcolm, the son of King Duncan (Duncan, of course, getting murdered by Macbeth early on).

Well, fun note: They didn’t have a Duncan. So after a few rehearsals, Dan said… “I could probably do that.” He went and read, did very well, and now he gets to play Sarah’s soon-to-be-murdered dad in a Shakespeare play.

Other Shakespeare stuff this month included:

  • 10 Things I Hate About You – This Taming of the Shrew adaptation is just a great movie on its own, more if you know the story behind it!
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead – Sarah’s introduction to absurdist theater came when we got to go see this at The Majestic, a theater in Gettysburg, about an hour from our house. We ended up talking a bunch about Hamlet, the play that R and G come from, as well as various styles of theater, character development, the difference between stage and movie acting (since the version we saw included Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame), and a bunch of other related stuff.
Unschooling in September 2017 on Unschool Rules: Sarah's poster on alpaca genetics won first place at the York Fair.

Sarah’s poster on alpaca genetics won first place at the York Fair.

Interesting medical things

THERE’S a heading, right?

In September, both Sarah and I were retested for various allergies. That was both an interesting experience in its own right, and then became more interesting when we found out she did not have skin reactions to ANYTHING, despite having very allergy-like symptoms based on very specific exposures. We didn’t love her allergist, so I went to a different one at a different practice, and started the process of redoing my food allergy testing, only to find out that I may not be allergic to all the foods I used to be, which would be awesome except for the fact that I had to go to the ER earlier this year for one of them, so… who knows?

If nothing else, we’ve all learned a lot about how the immune system works, and we’re happily settled in on some different allergy medications that are definitely helping the allergies we might not have, so…?

I’ve also been dealing with some knee issues, which are now putting me in physical therapy several times a week, but as part of that, Sarah got to accompany me to some different appointments and an MRI. Best unschooling moment: While scheduling me for the MRI, the clerk asks, “Any new tattoos in the past two weeks?” I just said no and wanted to get on with it, but Sarah paused to ask why that matters, given that we know there is no metal in tattoos!

Well, it turns out that the magnets are so strong that they can smear the new ink, which has not fully set into your skin, if you get an MRI with a fresh tattoo. Which we now know, thanks to Sarah’s curiosity! She also remembered to ask them whether my Nexplanon birth-control implant in my arm counted as an “implant” for their purposes, which I definitely had forgotten all about. (Pro tip: You’re fine. It’s also not metal. But good for her for thinking to ask.)

And last up in weird medical-related stories for the month, I’d been having some problems with my neck and shoulders aching, and we weren’t due to go to our chiropractor for another week. Sarah first rubbed my upper back for me and then gave me a stretch to do while laying in bed. It turns out she had absorbed some advice from her Nana, an occupational therapy assistant, for just such situations. And it worked!

Between that and my physical therapy, it has begun to occur to Sarah that being a PTA or OTA could be a career she might pursue. We’re not, like, enrolling her on the spot, but we’ve definitely been talking about options!

Unschooling in September 2017 on Unschool Rules: Apollo Pengin was proud to see some of my art win at the York Fair. Owlish, at the top left, placed first; Wormhole Continuum, at the bottom, placed second. The one at right, Awake, is by me too, but didn't win. (We think that art with words on it isn't popular with judges.)

Apollo Pengin was proud to see some of my art win at the York Fair. Owlish, at the top left, placed first; Wormhole Continuum, at the bottom, placed second. The one at right, Awake, is by me too, but didn’t win. (We think that art with words on it isn’t popular with judges.)

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!

Unschooling in September 2017 on Unschool Rules: Chris, three cats and a dog, and our awesome bright rug.

Chris, three cats and a dog, and our awesome bright rug.

Movies, TV and podcasts

Unschooling in September 2017 on Unschool Rules: One of our "scavenger hunt" goals on our road trip was to find a cemetery, which we call a "dead friends' house." We also wanted to see if we could spot wildlife. This was a two-for, with a caterpillar crawling on this gravestone.

One of our “scavenger hunt” goals on our road trip was to find a cemetery, which we call a “dead friends’ house.” We also wanted to see if we could spot wildlife. This was a two-for, with a caterpillar crawling on this gravestone.

Road trip time

On Sept. 24, Dan, Sarah and I took a day trip upstate in Pennsylvania. The supposed purpose was trying to do so leaf-peeping and see if we could see any color changing, but mostly, we just wanted to take our large stuffed-animal friends for a ride in our SUV.

Things we saw included:

  • Our friend Tracey, very randomly, at a Starbucks not particularly close to where either of us lives
  • Our favorite cat bookstore in Enola, where we talked about Siamese and Persian cats
  • The tiny Statue of Liberty in the Susquehanna River
  • All Dressed chips, basically the food I would eat every day for the rest of my life, at a Sheetz in Selinsgrove
  • A variety of thrift stores
  • A real-estate open house outside Shamokin Dam in Lewisburg
  • Shikellamy State Park near Lewisburg, where we let the stuffed friends play on a swing
  • A cemetery with a monarch caterpillar crawling on a headstone
  • The Harrisburg Capitol building

It was just a great day of exploring and sight-seeing and just talking – one of our favorites kinds of days.

Unschooling in September 2017 on Unschool Rules: Sarah and her new pet tarantula, Horus, made a great team at an Italian restaurant in the Selinsgrove area on our September road trip.

Sarah and her new pet tarantula, Horus, made a great team at an Italian restaurant in the Selinsgrove area on our September road trip.

This month in rabbit trails

I mentioned in September’s post on our unschooling planner system that our “rabbit trails” are the most fun we have in unschooling.

The best example of those this month actually came during the day Chris documented for our Day in the Life of Unschoolers post.

Chris also noted, “Sarah has an interest in collecting Stephen King paperbacks, spurred by her interest in It. She was proud that she didn’t cover her eyes once during the movie. I have been keeping her up to date on Rhys Hoskins record start as a rookie with the Philadelphia Phillies. He hit 18 home runs in his first 36 games, which Sarah finds greatly impressive. At the York Fair, we went and saw the ‘Headless Woman,’ which Sarah correctly determined to be a fraud. She was also asking questions about the Mechanical Man and what kind of muscles he must need to do what he does.”

Unschooling in September 2017 on Unschool Rules: Coby helped with the fall decorating in the yard. Sadly, he passed away in early October after almost 14 years with us.

Coby helped with the fall decorating in the yard. Sadly, he passed away in early October after almost 14 years with us.

Some of our other rabbit trails included:

  • Why dogs can sense storms (when we had tornadoes come through our area and had to shelter in our basement briefly)
  • Reading all about Rob Zombie after hearing one of his songs on The Matrix’s soundtrack
  • The meaning of Dan’s brother Dave’s tattoos and what Dan and I did in high school English classes (this was, somehow, all one conversation
  • How hot air balloons fly and how calories work
  • The situation with North Korea
  • A very long, rambling conversation in a local Target about British succession, whether spanking is abuse, and families where women can’t go to college or work
  • How snakes and spiders are different as pets than dogs and cats (including things like desire to please their owners, etc.)
Unschooling in September 2017 on Unschool Rules: Selfie with friends at Shikellamy State Park. That was a LARGE swing.

Selfie with friends at Shikellamy State Park. That was a LARGE swing.

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 continued working on our nonprofit filing, and we shipped 11 more of the little dudes in mid-September..

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 September 2017 on Unschool Rules: Chris and Sarah went to a local farm/orchard for their fall decor, and he grabbed this photo of her on some hay.

Chris and Sarah went to a local farm/orchard for their fall decor, and he grabbed this photo of her on some hay.

Games

This month, Sarah played a bunch of FIFA 17, and she also used some GameStop giftcards to buy Grand Theft Auto V. One of her favorite things to do (in fact, she’s doing it as we write this) is take turns driving cars off cliffs with her dad. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I’m glad it makes them happy!

Unschooling in September 2017 on Unschool Rules: Sarah loves guitar lessons! (Photo by Rod Goelz)

Sarah loves guitar lessons! (Photo by Rod Goelz)

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!

Enjoying our neighborhood: Our new neighborhood is MUCH cooler than our old one. We get to take lots of walks, with more variety in places to go, and most importantly, we have really great neighbors. We like them so much that we actually socialize with them for fun – we hosted a Labor Day cookout and marshmallow roast that the neighbors and my sister and her husband came over for, and then they invited us over for a couple of bonfires at their house. Sarah is the only teen at these things but loves to go!

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.” In addition to the one they documented this month, they also had one where they bought a graveyard (more about this in a future post) and attended a birthday dinner for Chris’ nephew, one where they went to the York Fair and hung out in the 4-H petting zoo with Sarah’s friend Abby and her baby goats, and one where they acquired some awesome fall decor for our yard and arranged it.

The tub: OK, this is going to sound a little weird, but we don’t take baths. My mom and I can’t for various health-related reasons, and in our last house, we actually had four full bathrooms but none with a usable bathtub, just showers. So Sarah hadn’t taken a tub bath since she was, like, 4? But our new house has this huge soaking whirlpool tub, and a good friend of mine is a photographer who needed to use such a tub for a maternity photo shoot. So we cleaned it all up for her, made sure it worked, and somehow, this ended up with Sarah putting on her swimsuit to try it out!

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. And, of course, when she MET NORMAN on Oct. 1, she had to make a ton of new edits of their photo together.

Other odds and ends this month: Sorting Sarah’s stamp collection, after she acquired some new ones at Hobby Lobby. A nice dinner at Red Lobster. Trying snacks from Colombia through Universal Yums. Naming the aforementioned cemetery. Playing with our robot, Cozmo. Talking about the kneeling debate.

Unschooling in September 2017 on Unschool Rules: Doesn't everyone put on their swimsuit to get in the tub, which they've had for four months but never used?

Doesn’t everyone put on their swimsuit to get in the tub, which they’ve had for four months but never used?

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 am managing to still have high As in both my graduate classes this semester, making it to tae kwon do at least once a week most weeks. (I’d love to do more, but the physical therapy takes a lot of my evening time, plus leaves me kind of sore.) But I did get to compete in a all-women’s martial-arts tournament early in the month.

In September, I finished seven books, including two more on the death penalty, which is one of my “learning journal” topics since I’m really passionate about prison reform. I also got to go kayaking twice with my awesome friend Kara, and started a pretty decent debate on social media when I shared this article about gender equality in “mental energy”, which is a huge hot-button issue for me.

Unschooling in September 2017 on Unschool Rules: Me, at the Mid-Atlantic All Female Karate Open. Second place in weapons form, fourth place in open-hand form and third place in sparring.

Me, at the Mid-Atlantic All Female Karate Open. Second place in weapons form, fourth place in open-hand form and third place in sparring.

Dan: Dan says, “I confess, I’ve been slacking in the journaling after the first week or two of September. But I have gotten through a number of the books from the original list, as well as a bunch that never made it on there. Shout-outs go to I’ll Give You The Sun (weird and depressing, but intoxicatingly written) and The Gravedigger’s Son (very mild fantasy).

Work unexpected dropped two or three projects that are much easier/faster to do in Python, so that was a pretty neat application of learning. As I suspected, I knew exactly enough to Google a bunch of stuff to cobble my way through things. I still know I’m a ways off in things as basic as “how do I structure a larger project,” but the only way to learn is to keep doing it!

The topic I probably learned the most about this month is the US government’s continuity of operations plans in the event of emergencies, thanks to Raven Rock — a 560-page doorstop that traces those plans from Truman through Obama. Suffice it to say we as a country have spent an enormous amount of time and money, almost all of which would probably fall flat on its face in the event of an actual disaster. But that’s probably true of most disaster planning, and at least we’re trying?

Chris: Chris has two summaries this month, starting with “I worked a lot and my head hurts.”

In more detail: “As far as books go, I haven’t had a ton of time for leisure reading, which is frustrating. I am finishing up Ring Around the Sun, a science-fiction book by Clifford Simak, and Restless Nights, a translated collection of short stories by Dino Buzzatti. I have started reading a bit of The Verse by the Side of the Road: the Story of the Burma-Shave Signs and Jingles by Frank Rowsome Jr. My to-read list is currently about 400 books.

I learned about Mr. ZIP and a great Pennsylvania woman named Martha Maxwell.”

My mom, also Joan, aka Mommom: Mom and Sarah had a bunch of fun this month with a cupcake-making project. Sarah originally asked her if they could make cupcakes with chocolate curls, but those turned out to be a lot more complicated than we thought, so they settled for chocolate shavings. The two un-iced ones they made were for me, because I don’t like icing. (I know, weird.)

Mom also had a group from her church over one evening, went out with friends to movies and meals, and got her doctor to adjust her medications to better keep her asthma in check during allergy season, which has given her more energy. She’s also been using an awesome light therapy treatment on her knees that’s helping them out a lot.

Unschooling in September 2017 on Unschool Rules:

Sarah and Mommom baked cupcakes with chocolate on top! (She’s wearing a favorite new hoodie procured for her by Chris at her request.)

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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6 thoughts on “Unschooling: Our September 2017 adventures

  1. Your months, like ours, are always full of a variety of things. I am very jealous of all your wonderful acting opportunities. My Quentin wants to be an actor but it is so hard to find any opportunities for him here in the sticks! He would thrive in your area. Sigh.

    • Phyllis, I’m sorry there aren’t more opportunities down your way for him! I love seeing the photos of the things he does – even the photos just showing your family’s projects show me how into things he gets and how he’d be great on the stage!

  2. Thanks for sharing your stories. What’s new at our house? My busy 17 year old who is all things engineering is balancing it with zen drawing. Cool videos online. And I’m studying Horror with my 15 year old. A little academia infusion helps him develop his interest more deeply and helps me intellectualize it and not be so freaked out. The whole family is anticipating the next release of Stranger Things.

    • Alison, that zen drawing is super cool – I have a friend who is into it and I just love it. Horror is an AWESOME thing to be pursuing together with your 15-year-old, too! Looking forward to maybe geeking out together about Stranger Things soon… we’re so excited.

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