The unschooled version of a 10th-grade-ish curriculum plan for 2015-16

This school year would be Ashar’s sophomore year if she were in public school, and it marks an interesting halfway point. We’ve homeschooled for three full school years (plus part of the year before), and now, as we start unschooling 10th grade, we have three full years to go before Ashar can graduate by Pennsylvania law.

And for the fourth year in a row, I’m joining the iHomeschool Network’s Not Back to School Blog Hop for “curriculum week,” once again sharing our family’s radical unschooling take, this time showing what unschooling 10th grade-style might look like, mostly courtesy of Ashar, who has a seriously fun plan about homeschooling through high school and what she wants out of the next few years.

Each year, I’ve heard from people literally around the world who loved seeing how an “un-plan” comes together. If you haven’t already, I invite you to check out some later ideas, the unschooled version of a 12th-grade-ish curriculum plan (2017-18) and the unschooled version of an 11th-grade-ish curriculum plan (2016-17), and our previous ideas, the unschooled version of a ninth-grade-ish curriculum plan (2014-15), the unschooled version of an eighth-grade-ish curriculum plan (2013-14) and the unschooled version of a seventh-grade-ish curriculum plan (2012-13).


Most days, we have no idea what we’re going to learn about until it happens. We make plans – of sorts – but the best opportunities always seem to be those that just arise naturally.

But I see great value in joining the “curriculum week” blog hop, mostly because I want to show other not-exactly-planning, not-exactly-at-a-grade-level, not-exactly-textbook people – and I know you’re out there – that you CAN make this homeschooling thing work!

So with that, here is…

The Conciliottoman family’s unschooling 10th grade plan

We like books.

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 like philosophy.

We like video games.

We like taking trips – to well-known destinations and, uh, some crazy out-of-the-way ones, too.

We like movies.

We don’t like quizzes, tests, requirements and reports.

We love going with the flow.

So how does this turn into “curriculum” – and what else will we be mixing in?

As well as I can, I’m going to try to do a subject-by-subject look; that’s NOT how we learn, and most of what we do is what would in my state documentation be called cross-curricular, but this way, if you’re using a planned curriculum in some subjects and want to mix in something we’re using in another, you can see how it might fit.

History, social studies and geography

Midway through last year, Ashar developed a passionate interest in World War II. In fact, as you’ll see in a post in the coming week where I share our ninth-grade unschooling transcript, she earned two full history credits last year, studying British history as well as World War II.

This year, her plan is to dive even deeper into World War II, and that will frame out a lot of her study across several areas. Some of what we’re hoping to do/see/explore:

  • Our biggest plan is to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
  • Ashar and her dad, Chris, are planning to watch all of Band of Brothers.
  • Ashar decided to read several primary texts on the war, including Mein Kampf (which will be a challenging read for sure), Hiroshima and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
  • We also have some overall reference-type books that we hope will help give an overview of the period. Interestingly, one of the things Ashar has found most helpful is part of the Lifepac “curriculum in a box” series of worktexts; these are normally 10-plus-volume sets of miniature textbook/workbook combos, but instead of getting the whole thing, we bought just one unit, Lifepac History & Geography, Grade 10, Unit 8: Two World Wars, which is a 50-ish-page overview to the causes and key points of both wars. Unschooling doesn’t mean we pretend textbooks don’t exist, but for us, they’re just another way to get the info we need.
  • We have a few other World War II movies to watch, like Saving Private Ryan, Grave of the Fireflies (which I HIGHLY recommend) and several others.


This year’s key topic for Ashar is epidemiology – studying disease and how it spreads.

The cool thing here? It all started with Plague, an app where Ashar has tried to wipe out the world with both real-style and, shall we say, more fictionalized diseases.

But here’s what awesome: We’ve learned a ton together about everything from bioterrorism to non-contagious diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

And coming in the spring, I’ll hopefully be starting a master’s degree program in homeland security with a public health preparedness concentration. It’s going to take a lot of my time, and since it’s entirely online, I’m glad that I can share this interest with Ashar and more or less “double-dip,” with her picking up material from my classes as well!

One of her goals this year related to the topic is to start reading some realistic fiction about epidemics, watching movies like Outbreak, which are fictionalized treatments of real diseases, as well as ones like 28 Days Later that deal with “zombie diseases,” which, while not real, can be great conversation pieces!

I’m also hoping to get her interested in reading some of my favorite nonfiction virology and epidemiology books, like The Hot Zone.

And finally, another interesting angle for us will be studying the spread of radiation from the atomic bombs during World War II, tying both these topics together.

(And, while written almost as an aside but clearly not one: Ashar is going to continue to take part in the 4-H Alpaca Club she’s been a member of for several years now, and she’s definitely going to continue to learn more about her favorite camelids!)


What I’ve said in previous years about math bears repeating: To be very clear, we don’t require any “book work” for math. We are huge fans of how math appears in the real world, and we firmly believe that learning through math-in-life is how Ashar will succeed.

Any resources we use above and beyond that are only if Ashar is interested, and not anything we do “formally.”

But Ashar has long enjoyed the Life of Fred series, and this year, she requested that we read Life of Fred: Geometry, in which Fred becomes the owner of a llama. (Which is related to an alpaca, which is thus interesting.)

Fred’s author, Dr. Stan Schmidt, recommends having both beginning algebra and advanced algebra before geometry, and so far Ashar has had what I’m guessing equates to about three-quarters of a year of Algebra I, so I know we’ll have some questions and some gaps to fill in. But I’d much rather tackle things like that around what she’s interested in, than force something she isn’t into and take the joy out of it! I will note that Life of Fred is described as a Christian series, but we are a secular homeschooling family and haven’t had any problems using the fairly few spiritual references we’ve found as talking points about what different people believe, which we like to do anyway.

Ashar has also shown some interest in Khan Academy, so we may use that as a way to hit any “missing pieces” we encounter! (And I’m using it to brush up on everything from algebra to calculus myself before grad school!)

Language arts

Ashar’s goal this year is to read – a lot. She’s got all sorts of interests, and again, they’re essentially based on other topics of interest.

Our reading will focus on the topics mentioned above – World War II, epidemiology, and Llama Geometry. When we can, we’re going to continue something that has worked incredibly well for us, which is reading something and then watching any movie or TV portrayal of it we can find and comparing and contrasting.

Ashar also has her own long-form fiction story she’s working on writing – one set in England, featuring an army fighting not only an enemy army but also possible zombies. (She’s been working on this piece, in epistolary format, for more than a year!)

And her biggest goal is a project she wants to present at the 4-H speech competition, a discussion of how a zombie apocalypse might happen based on real virus or bacteria types – how it might spread, how many people could get infected, and so on. That’s going to be our math/science/history/writing/reading “capstone,” I’m sure!


Ashar actually earned 1.5 credits studying philosophy last year, and she wants to continue to dig further this year!

She’s going to finish More Matrix and Philosophy: Revolutions and Reloaded Decoded, and then dive into Batman and Philosophy, along with Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant. These are dense reads, and if she can get through all 2.5 of them, she’ll have easily earned more than another credit in philosophy.

In addition to Ashar’s reading, we’re continuing to try to be overt about talking about The Big Questions in the world and how different people have tried to answer them. A huge part of that comes from the way we watch movies and discuss them – SO MUCH PHILOSOPHY comes from that!


This is another area that has broken out from “the extras” into “a class of its own,” whatever that means, unschooling-style.

Ashar is passionate about the particular style of art – acrylic ink on Yupo synthetic paper – that we do together, and this year, she plans to continue to build her portfolio of work. She’s already got a piece chosen for the annual Yorkfest fine arts competition and has others planned to enter in the county fair, and she’ll continue to both work on this on her own and share workshops and classes with artist friends of ours.

A specific project she has in mind this year is to create a large-scale abstract painting in the style of the Terminator’s eye. Nothing like sci-fi/art mashups!


This is another offshoot of Ashar’s interest in World War II. She’s fascinated at the idea of learning the German language, in part to better understand some of the less-easily-translated parts of Mein Kampf.

To do this, she’s been using the Duolingo app on her iPod Touch. We also picked up a cool German vocabulary quick-reference guide to help.

Music, technology, physical education and other good stuff

It’s funny: I always lump this stuff together, but all in all it is probably the largest part of our learning, because it’s everything that happens in the real world that doesn’t fit neatly into a “subject” box, and that’s, uh, most of it!

I’ll try to list a few highlights here.

  • Technology: Our biggest areas of technology education are still focusing on how to do “good research” online. When we do posts in our learning guides about famous people series, Ashar’s pretty much been tasked with finding sources. That’s great – and we don’t rule out things like Wikipedia and IMDB for background – but it’s cool to see her start to dig deeper, too.
  • Home economics: We cook, we clean, we shop. In our family, those things aren’t “chores,” they’re just ways we interact together as a family, and we’ll keep doing that. Personal finance is another part we lump into this (and it’s also heavily mathematical)!
  • Physical education: Our biggest source of exercise continues to actually be part of our science “curriculum” – walking alpacas, maneuvering them through obstacles and otherwise putting in the hard work required on a farm! We also regularly play household games of baseball, basketball and soccer, hike A LOT, and generally try to stay active as much as we can.
  • Travel: This is last, but definitely not least; it’s really one of the biggest parts of our learning each year. We have a bunch of trips planned for the coming months and actually just had a fun one earlier this month, visiting Lake Tobias, a safari park about an hour and a half from our home. Our biggest excursion, though, will be a two-week road trip this fall to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Free to Be Unschooling Conference hosted by the family of Ashar’s best friend! We hope to hit a huge number of both well-known and out-of-the-way points of interest on the way there and back.

So how and when do we “do” all this stuff?

I’ve mentioned before that the one thing we can count on almost every day is our family time before bed.

How to homeschool at nightFor night owls like us, this time might start anywhere from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. and go for a few hours!

This is our time to be together and be even more intentional than we try to be the rest of the day about doing stuff as a family.

We read together.

We watch movies and TV shows on Netflix.

We play board games and draw pictures and talk and laugh and pet cats.

It’s funny, because our days are often filled with work (for our house adults) and online gaming (for Sarah). We see a lot of benefits to that too, but people who only know us during the daylight hours probably think we don’t do much together! We’re proud of our approach, though – because we spend our “prime time,” the hours we’re most alert, together!

Meanwhile, we also love to travel, and that’s a big part of our lifestyle. I mentioned some of our upcoming trips earlier in today’s post, and we have dozens more that we’d like to fit in.

Read more about our unschooling approach

If you’re newer to Unschool RULES, maybe you’re wondering about this radical unschooling thing we do.

Here are a few posts that tell more about our lives!

Join the NOT Back-to-School Party!

nbts-blog-hop-calendar-2015Want to see what my fellow iHomeschool Network bloggers are learning this year?

Check out the rest of Curriculum Week 2015 at the Not-Back-To-School Blog Hop here (and you can link up your posts, too!)

This post is also part of the How to Teach Without a Curriculum linkup through the iHomeschool Network. Click the image below to read more posts on teaching without formal curriculum!


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24 thoughts on “The unschooled version of a 10th-grade-ish curriculum plan for 2015-16

  1. I’m a recent subscriber to your newsletter and am enjoying it very much! Two quick suggestions to consider for the WWII interest: The WWII Museum in New Orleans is absolutely fantastic. I know it’s quite a hike from PA but wow — it was so good. Closer to home, the Heinz History Center here in Pittsburgh recently opened a specific exhibit on WWII that runs until January 2016.

    • Oh, that’s awesome! We may actually go by New Orleans on the way to or from Phoenix this fall, so that is totally possible (and we go to Pittsburgh regularly). I had no idea they had that at Heinz, either! Thank you again for the tips!

  2. Its great to see an unschooled high schooler. My kids are 7 and 12. The 12 year old will be doing an online course through Explore Astronomy, reading lots of historical fiction and fantasy, learning about the 1900’s especially reform movements, use Cover Story and continue to use Christian Light Education for math. The 7 year old will use the apps The Spelling Bee and Math Planet and read large amounts of nonfiction about animals and the geography of Africa. 2 very different courses for 2 very different kids.

  3. Thank you for your description, my son has decided he wants to unschool as he starts high school and this will be helpful to go over and see what all he wants to study.

    Also, since you like board games, I recommend a couple: Pandemic deals with global diseases and Memoir ’44 recreates battles from 1944 and lets two players play them out, using a book of actual battle scenarios!

    • Carmel, I hope you and your son have a great start to high school together! I will definitely look into those games, too; Pandemic is already on our wishlist but I had not heard of Memoir ’44 at all!

  4. Your plan looks great! I have a 10th grader this year too, mostly unschooled in the last couple of years,and she’s taking notes here. 🙂 One other movie you may want to consider for your history is Swing Kids, an oldie (I think early 90s) from the perspective of German teens feeling the pressure to join the Hitler Youth. Excellent!

  5. I second the recommendation to watch Swing Kids. And if you ever have a chance to see the play I Never Saw Another Butterfly, do it. It’s a beautiful, moving play and its story will stay with you forever. Warning: Bring a box of tissues!

  6. I enjoy reading about your unschooling journey. You mentioned sharing the 9th grade transcript to show giving credits and things. I can’t seem to find the post for that particular discussion or maybe you haven’t posted it yet. This site is very inspiring for our homeschool. Thank you

    • Hi wraycroft! Nice to meet you. The transcripts are actually part of our special downloads for email subscribers – if you’re an email subscriber, you should be sent a link to a page with all sorts of downloads. If you’re not and you’d like to be, you can click the link in the sidebar! (And if you’re not able to subscribe, just shoot me an email at [email protected] and I can send you that file separately!)

  7. Hi Joan! I am a mom just researching homeschooling. I am overwhelmed by the amount of information but got a tremendous amount from your homeschooling and unschooling article. I would love to hear why you chose unschooling. I think it fits my son Kellen but not sure where to begin. He is 8 and in 3rd grade in public school. Thank you for and guidance you can give me. I would also like to subscribe to your site!
    Stacey O.

  8. Hi Joan! I’m a 15 year old high school freshman, and I am really fed up with the public school environment. It just doesn’t work for my learning style and my social/psychological needs. I’m intrigued my the prospect of unschooling. The only problem is, both my parents work during the day. My dad works from home. How involved do my parents need to be during the day? Can I “unschool” myself as long as I am working with my parents on curriculum and checking in on my progress? Thank you!

    • Arielle, nice to meet you! So, it’s definitely the case that at your age, there are a LOT of homeschooling options that would not need as much direct input from your parents. (Everything from a cyberschool program to a self-developed curriculum to some level of unschooling could work.) And, there’s no law that says you have to learn during the daytime or during the week, either! It’s all about what works for your family. I know a lot of families that use some kind of planned curriculum with parental involvement, but do so at night and on the weekends. The best thing I can suggest is to talk with your parents. Describe the kinds of things you’d like to learn and how you could take charge of those topics as much as possible. Figure out what input you really do need from them – for instance, is it weekly trips to the library or a particular class or workshop you’re interested in? What is it that they would want to see? Would they prefer you to start with a program that could show “grades,” or are they all right with self-directed learning? (And, definitely feel free to point them in my direction – I’d be glad to talk with them via email if there are questions I could answer on any type of homeschooling!) You rock for trying to find an educational path that works for you!

  9. I am loving your blog as I delve into learning as much as I can about unschooling. You mentioned a couple times that your daughter received “credits” for different work she did. This is something Im trying to learn more about- did you issue the credits? How do you decide when enough work is done to earn a credit? Thank you!!

    • Melissa, we actually have written a whole post on what constitutes a credit and how we do our transcript! If you go to you can see a lot about that! Essentially 120 hours is a credit, per the Carnegie Unit system, but I delve into more about what goes into those hours and how we decide what the “course title” is and all that!

  10. If you’re ever in Texas, I highly recommend the Nimitz Museum of the Pacific War in Fredricksburg, TX. It is about the other side of WWII with the Japanese. It’s a fantastic museum with so many artifacts and things to see. It’s set up so you go in chronological order, beginning with pre-world war happenings, and ending with the surrender of Japan. It’s worth the trip and takes several hours to see it all. Well worth it!

    And if you come across a play called My Heart in a Suitcase, it’s an excellent addition to your studies. It’s about a Jewish family in 1939 Germany. We were able to see it from a traveling troupe. It’s based on a book of the same title.

    • I just realized this post was from a couple years ago, lol! Still worth the trip to see the museum though!

      • Hey, no worries about that – we are still very into WW2 and would love to get to see that if we get to Texas!! We’ve been there a few times so it’s a definite possibility.

        Thanks so much for the recommendations!

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