Welcome to the end of 2017! This year was… different. Also it seemed to start approximately a decade ago, and included some really heartbreaking times – but some great ones too. And as far as unschooling goes, it was also a mixed bag. We had a bunch of amazing conversations and dug deep into a few topics, but we also had less time together as a family than would have been ideal.
So this is my chance to both wrap up our December as well as our year for you. I’m hoping to find a different format for “wrapups” in 2018, as this style is both incredibly time-consuming (for me) and incredibly long to read through (for you). If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments, as I admit I’m kind of drawing a blank.
(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!)
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 Ashar’s 12th-grade year, I definitely encourage you to take a look at that too!
Mom’s broken hip
So, the big news for December was that, on Dec. 9, my mom (also Joan), fell at home and broke her hip. Thankfully Ashar and Chris were home with her; Ashar called me, and then Chris called the ambulance and my sister Linda, who lives locally, since Kaitlyn and I were an hour away at work.
How long she’d be in rehab was a huge question – but we found out just a few days before Christmas that she could come home on Christmas Eve, and it was the best possible gift.
(Side note: Her fall happened the day before Ashar, Chris, Kaitlyn and I were supposed to leave for Walker-Stalker Con New Jersey, and thankfully Ashar and Chris were still able to go and have a blast!)
Anyway, Mom still has a long road ahead of her, but she has worked AMAZINGLY hard and is making great progress. She and I are “homebound” together for most of January, thanks to the very generous folks at my job who are letting me work from home for all but a few days. We’re learning about all sorts of cool devices, like transfer benches and sock aids and walker slides, that are helping make it doable for her to be at home.
To top it off, the whole experience was a bit rough on Ashar, who is terrified of all things doctor/hospital. But we got to talk about a lot of stuff, and she amazed us all by being willing to go visit Mom regularly. She also helped Kaitlyn and I by taking over making dinners during the time when we were working in the office and Mom was at rehab, which was a huge help.
Given all that was going on, Christmas had to be more flexible and low-key than usual. When we found out Mom was coming home, Chris pointed out that we’d need to come up with a holiday meal – and then offered to make it for us. We had an amazing turkey, macaroni and cheese and salmon. Side note: Chris is vegetarian but cooks THE BEST turkeys. It’s kind of mind-blowing.
One of Mom’s favorite things to do is attend Christmas Eve service at her church, and I hated for her to miss it – so I worked with a friend who attends the same church to Facetime it to her! She even used a little battery-powered candle to do the “candlelight” part, which was Kaitlyn’s great idea. And a couple of days later, some carolers from her church came by and serenaded us.
We tried to keep a lot of our traditions intact – such as cookie-baking. Ashar made Gingerdead cookies and homemade fortune cookies with me, and she and Chris baked 8 dozen cookies for his cookie swap at work and then made a giant gingerdude filled with four kinds of chips – chocolate, mini chocolate, salted caramel and white chocolate.
My sister Carol came from New Jersey for a few days after Christmas to hang out and help Mom, so while she was here, we had our December Universal Yums snack party, which featured holiday snacks from around the world.
Oh, and Ashar and Chris made a great holiday photo.
Wrapping up 2017
Our family tradition to wrap up the year is to get out all the slips from our Good Things jar and read them. Since Kaitlyn and Ashar were leaving Dec. 29 to drive to Arizona to visit his parents for the holiday, we read them Dec. 28, and since my sister Carol was still here, she joined us! That’s easily one of my favorite family traditions.
(A note: Apparently I write a LOT of good things, and many of them are about food, especially our Universal Yums boxes. Also, every time I went kayaking with my friend Kara, I apparently put it in the jar, so she was the Good Things Featured Star this year.)
To wrap up the year on Unschool Rules, I thought I’d share some of the most-read posts of the year:
- The ultimate guide to Pennsylvania homeschooling and unschooling
- The ultimate guide to homeschooling for working moms
- The ultimate guide to creating an unschooling high school transcript
- Real world high school math: Learning algebra and geometry from life
- The ultimate guide to real world math
- It’s not all about numbers: Unschooling math
- The unschooled version of a 10th-grade-ish curriculum plan for 2015-16
- The unschooled version of a ninth-grade-ish curriculum plan for 2014-15
- The unschooled version of a seventh-grade-ish curriculum plan for 2012-13
- Top 5 real world math skills to know before graduation
- A day in the life of unschoolers, 2017 edition
- The unschooled version of an 12th-grade-ish curriculum plan for 2017-18
- Our unschooling planner system: Documenting relaxed homeschooling
- Focusing on gratitude with a Good Things Jar
- Our scrapbook: Walker-Stalker Con New Jersey
- Some thoughts on heroes after meeting Norman Reedus
I’m not yet sure what 2018 will bring on Unschool Rules. In addition to looking for a new wrapup format, Ashar will finish her mandatory reporting and “graduate” under PA law in a couple of months. Our lives are not likely to change much, and I’d love to keep sharing how we live and learn together, but I worry our day-to-day experiences may be less and less relevant even to unschooling families.
So if there’s something you’d like me to write about… please comment and let me know. I’d love to spend more time doing things like addressing specific topics or questions around unschooling, so if you have one, holler at me!
Road trip kickoff
I mentioned that Kaitlyn and Ashar are heading to Arizona. As I finish this post on New Year’s Day, they’re on the last leg. So far, their days were:
- Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky
- Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri (including the St. Louis arch), Oklahoma
- Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico
In one cool story from their travels, while in Lexington, Kentucky, they found a bag of clothes and a blanket, probably left out for someone homeless. But no one was around, and the weather was bad, and they didn’t want it all to get wet. So they put it in the car, and then, when they made it to St. Louis, Missouri, they found a man asking for help on a median near a Starbucks and were able to give it all to him. So, if you’re reading this and you left such a gift in Lexington, know that it still helped, many miles away!
- Plato’s Euthyphro – We went on a four-bookstore adventure one day and this was the book Ashar went around looking for. We’d read part of it during a Coursera philosophy class a couple years ago and it really stuck with her, I guess.
- Uncle Wiggily’s Woodland Games by Howard Garis – So, I was a HUGE Uncle Wiggily fan as a kid, and as an adult I’ve started collecting the hard-to-find books of those stories. Chris got me some for Christmas, so I read this one aloud to the whole family.
- The Sun’s Coming Up Like a Big Bald Head by Norman Reedus – Ah, a Norman Reedus photo book. That was one of Ashar’s Christmas presents (perhaps one of her favorites).
- The Walking Dead: The Rise of the Governor – Ashar has owned this book for a while but never got around to reading it; so she and Kaitlyn listened to the audiobook version on the first couple of days of their drive.
Movies and TV
- Friends – One of Ashar’s favorite shows and a frequent “rewatch” for her if she doesn’t have a current series in the works.
- The Walking Dead – Which is, of course, immediately followed by an hour of The Talking Dead.
- Ride – In which Norman Reedus (of The Walking Dead) rides his motorcycle in various places, including New York City.
- Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics – Continuing our Sunday- and Monday-night AMC dedication is this new show from TWD comic author Robert Kirkman.
- Full House – Ashar and Mom’s current show to watch together.
- It – The original (she saw the remake at the theater).
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
- The Goonies
- Meet the Robinsons
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- Die Hard – Only the best Christmas movie ever.
- Marvel’s The Punisher – Netflix series.
- Stranger Things 2 – We haven’t got very far into the second season, but I’m hoping to change that when Kaitlyn and Ashar return.
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle
- Daddy Day Care
– An oldie but goodie that’s free to stream if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
- Trolls Holiday Special – Yes, really.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas – The Jim Carrey version.
- The Santa Clause
- Bright – Will Smith, police, aliens…
right up Ashar’s alley.
- The Boss Baby
- Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
- The Search For Santa Paws
- Kiss Me Kate – An adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers – Actually a truly disturbing movie if you think about the plot at all.
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.
This month’s included a bunch of neat stuff, most notably a conversation that spanned a few days that started with how the “value” of cell phones worked and expanded to include how mortgages and taxes and pensions work, casino regulations to avoid money-laundering, marginal utility, alimony, and somehow veered into genetics, sports performance, generational identity, racial identity and human physical and mental capacity. I wish I had recorded it, because it was amazing.
Kaitlyn and Ashar also got to talk about property taxes and the morality of Freddy Krueger on their drive.
All of these are just things that come up through our day-to-day life but lead us down a path of talking and looking stuff up and asking more questions.
Updates from around the family
Since our “curriculum plan” for this year featured not just Ashar 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 (though I already updated you on Mom’s month, so this is just the others of us.)
Me, Joan: Well, my big news is I finished my semester of grad school with As in both classes and registered for two more that start next week. I also somehow read a whopping 17 books, which was pretty amazing even considering a few were graphic novels. The best was by far Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory (whose other book of short stories, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, you should also check out). I also got wrapped up in Mental: Lithium, Love and Losing My Mind by Jaime Lowe, an amazing and very personally relevant memoir of life with bipolar disorder. (Personally relevant because I started new medications this month for my bipolar after having to go without meds for several months, and BOY are they helping.)
Kaitlyn: Kaitlyn checks in with this update: “I have been devouring Rainbow Rowell books, only stopping myself from reading all of them because I don’t want to end up with having none left to look forward to. This month was Attachments and Fangirl. I finished Blood, Sweat and Pixels, an OK book by Jason Schreier about videogame development, but it was already done better in Masters of Doom by David Kushner. Similarly, The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak is a poor-man’s Ready Player One — in both cases fine books to read, but only after you’ve read the better one. Ashar and I listened to The Walking Dead: The Rise of the Governor, which was a decent story but heavily weighed by down by a writer who got paid extra for every adjective and metaphor crammed in, and an editor who forgot that a book is a coherent miniseries, not a 10-episode season with a dozen different story arcs.
Chris: Chris says, “I recently finished Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly, a wonderful graphic-novel memoir of growing up in Iraq in the middle of the 20th century, and Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins, a non-fiction book about Hay-on-Wye that ended up not being my cup of tea, despite its subject matter.
So what’s new with your family this month? How did your 2017 turn out? Drop me a comment! I love hearing from all my “blog friends!”