Unschooling: Our April 2016 adventures

Happy May! This is really a busy time of year for us, hence the delay sharing our April updates about what unschooling looked like in our family.

Unschooling in April 2016 on Unschool RULES: Family photo

Dan, me and Sarah at the Plymouth Meeting mall’s fountain while visiting Dave & Buster’s to end our April.

(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.)

Unschooling in April 2016: Alpaca show

Here’s Sarah with Coal, aka S.O. Fresh and LL Coal J, after the costume contest at the MAPACA alpaca show.

Places, projects and odds and ends, part 1

  • As part of her 16th birthday, we took Sarah on a shopping trip for some new clothes. She’s got a particularly urban style that is hard to find in our part of central Pennsylvania, especially in her size, so we went to a couple of malls in the suburban Baltimore/D.C. area, which worked out great!
  • On the way to the mall, though, we hit an industrial staple and got a flat tire. Sarah had never been around for one of those before, so she learned about how changing tires works.
  • Sarah has a Taiwanese pen pal with whom she regularly exchanges postcards and emails, and early in April she decided to write her a long letter.
  • We had a huge colony of ants on our front sidewalk, and we spent more than an hour watching them, looking up facts about ants and how they live and work, what they eat, how their sense of direction works and all sorts of things.
  • Also as a birthday present, Sarah’s new custom basketball hoop was installed! We’re out there several days a week now. Her final birthday present also arrived in April: A new phone. (She’d just been using an iPod Touch for several years after deciding she didn’t want a phone.)
  • In Sarah’s 4-H Wildlife Watchers club, we dissected an owl pellet!
  • We finished our Coursera philosophy course about Plato and the pre-Socratics.
  • Somehow, we got on the topic of the various presidential desks in the White House, and read all about those.
Unschooling in April 2016: Sidewalk ants

These ants were mobbing our front sidewalk, so we talked about them!

Video, board and card games

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  • Lanterns – This is the game we tried at a bookstore that hosted a board and table games day, and it was so awesome that Sarah decided to spend her own money to buy it for the family! We’ve played it a good bit ever since.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • FIFA 16
  • Club Penguin – Sarah has played this game since she was about 9 or 10, and she still checks in on it occasionally, which makes me smile.
  • Wolfenstein – I bet no other lists of video games for one 16-year-old include these two items back-to-back.
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
  • MLB 15: The Show
Unschooling in April 2016: Letter to a Taiwanese pen pal

Sarah wrote this great letter to her Taiwanese pen pal, Christina.

Places, projects and odds and ends, part 2

  • Sarah looked up a bunch of information about D-Day and then asked us to quiz her about it. Her recent interest in quizzes cracks me up.
  • We voted! Well, our whole family except for poor Sarah, who was so disappointed she couldn’t support her favorite candidate.
  • Sarah and I did a very random, very cool art project designing a house for two aliens.
  • A friend of ours hatched some praying mantis nymphs and gave us some for our garden. We released them and haven’t seen them since, but are still hopeful!
  • While playing basketball, we got a chance to talk about what a parabola is.
  • Dan, Sarah and I regularly attend a coloring night for adults held once a month at a coworking space in our town, and at April’s, Sarah colored some of her zombie coloring book given to her by our friend Tracey.
  • Our evaluator officially reviewed Sarah’s portfolio, and as of the date I’m writing this in early May, it’s been submitted to our school district, so this year is done, documentation-wise! (Shameless plug: If you want to see copies of what we submit in our portfolio and Sarah’s unschooling transcript for high school, you should subscribe to our email updates!)
Unschooling in April 2016: Alpaca show ribbons

Here is Sarah with some more of her MAPACA alpaca show ribbons!

Books, movies, TV and podcasts

  • African Folk and Fairy Tales
  • Election College – I found this great podcast because Sarah has been so interested in the election process. We’ve had a great time and great conversations from listening to it!
  • Ulysses S. Grant (Signature Series biography) – Somehow, from reading the first couple of paragraphs of this, we ended up down a huge rabbit trail about the full titles of Prince Charles and the Queen of England and various popes, as well as what Aaron Burr did, and why people don’t always remember the names of vice presidents like Schuyler Colfax. Picking this up came from the massive post on learning from biogoraphies that we all worked together on.
  • Strong – Sarah heard about this new show on Instagram and we have all gotten into watching it! It’s a great health and fitness show.
  • The A Team
  • Safety Last! – Chris has gotten Sarah interested in watching old silent films, including this one.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Scrubs
  • Deal or No Deal and Family Feud – Sarah and Mom will watch the Game Show Network for a long time if these are on!
  • Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3
  • Earth 2
  • Spectre
  • Band of Brothers – Sarah and Chris finished watching this in April, and it was amazing. Things they talked about included shell shock, dealing with fear, “Are there always medics around during battle?”, strategy around liberating and defending key towns/roads, and what happened to the possessions (and bodies) of US soldiers who died in France, among many others.
Unschooling in April 2016: New outfit and art project

At left is one of Sarah’s new outfits from her birthday shopping trip. At right, she’s showing off the house we designed together for two aliens we named Orion and Marz.

Places, projects and odds and ends, part 3

  • With 4-H, Sarah got a chance to attend a three-day State Capital Days program in Harrisburg. She had a BLAST meeting her local legislators, touring the Capital and doing a mock debate on a bill.
  • Also thanks to 4-H, Sarah took part in the MAPACA regional alpaca show in Harrisburg with her project animal, Coal. They placed fourth in publicity and second in costume, and received honorable mentions in showmanship and obstacle. Pretty great for her first major show, and she was sick on top of it.
  • To close out the month, we took a day trip to Lititz, a small town in our neighboring county to the east, and to a Dave & Buster’s in the suburban Philadelphia area. Tons of fun! In Lititz, we hit up an independent bookstore that was celebrating National Table Games Day.
  • In family news, Dan started a new job – working with me at Penn State College of Medicine. We jointly manage all the websites for the college, which is a great fit professionally, and I now have not only the best colleague I could ask for, but also a commuting partner for my hour drive, which is great.

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 April 2016 adventures

  1. Firstly, happy birthday Sarah. Love the hair!! You’ve had a busy month, but it sounds like you had heaps of fun too 🙂 Your handwriting looks amazing 🙂 and that alien house, love it and wish I had a funky house like that to really live in. I’m one of those older adults who is still a big kid inside. Colouring in is my favourite pastime because I get to do it with my daughter, Niquitta (pronounced Nikita).

  2. Sarah might be interested to learn about the debate going on in the UK over whether 16 and 17 year olds should be allowed to vote. We just had quite a lot of local council and police & crime commissioner elections and I believe that it was the first time under 18s were able to vote in Scotland, but not in England or Wales so far.

  3. I don’t have anything to say, really, other than thank you for posting. Thank you for sharing every month. We’re homeschooling in the Pittsburgh area and it’s just nice to see and hear about what your family is doing. We’ve gotten several ideas from you and I just appreciate that you post your happenings each month.

    • Sharon, wow, thank you so much – you made my day! I am so glad your family has gotten some cool ideas from us… we will definitely keep sharing what we’re up to. It really helps ME to see it all written out too, so in the months when I’m thinking, “How am I going to make time to do this?” I will remember your comment! 🙂

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