Unschooling: Our October 2017 adventures

October… went fast. And also seems like it was like, a year ago, now that I’m finishing this post in mid-November. How is it almost Thanksgiving, and thus almost Christmas, and thus almost 2018? I can’t deal. As far as unschooling goes, October had some good times, but also some less-good ones, though it both started and ended on a good note.

(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 Ashar’s 12th-grade year, I definitely encourage you to take a look at that too!

Unschooling in October 2017 on Unschool Rules: Ashar and Bast the Mummy had a nice dinner out with Chris at the White Rose, a local restaurant they frequent.

Ashar and Bast the Mummy had a nice dinner out with Chris at the White Rose, a local restaurant they frequent.

Theater disappointments

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!
So, theater has been a huge part of Ashar’s life for the past year. Once Antony and Cleopatra wrapped up (and that was NOT a disappointment, but super-fun), she was focusing most heavily on her role as Malcolm in Macbeth of the Dead. But, less than two weeks before the play was set to perform, it was cancelled.

She started looking at other shows in the area, but found that most of the winter ones have performances during the weekend in early December when we’ll be in northern New Jersey for Walker-Stalker Con NJ, so she couldn’t audition for them. The next one that’s possible for her to try out for is Jane Eyre at DreamWrights, with auditions in mid-December. So we’ll see.

Unschooling in October 2017 on Unschool Rules: Ashar and Coby in 2015, at our old house.

Ashar and Coby in 2015, at our old house.

Saying goodbye

The worst thing, by far, to happen in October was that we had to say goodbye to our dog, Coby, an amazing goldendoodle who would have turned 14 later in the month, and who we had since Ashar was 2 or 3 years old.

He was having a lot of trouble walking and some other progressive health problems, some of which had been going on for a few years, and by the end of September we were realizing that his pain was no longer under control with all the medications he was taking and his quality of life was pretty bad. So, on Oct. 4, we took him for one last (very short) walk around the neighborhood, with Kaitlyn, Chris, Ashar and I all taking turns leading him for a few feet; we invited friends over to say goodbye; and on Oct. 5, we had the in-home euthanasia veterinarian come and put him to sleep. Mom, Chris, Kaitlyn, Ashar and I were all there, sitting around him, when he passed. As far as those things go, it was a great experience; if you’re local to PA, I can highly recommend Peaceful Pet Passage, who did a great job.

Then, less than a week later, my oldest sister, Linda, and her husband, Mike, had to have their dog, Katie, put to sleep. It was a ROUGH week. We ended up having dinner all together the night after Katie passed away, because we were all just too upset to do much of anything.

Unschooling in October 2017 on Unschool Rules: Ashar wrote this amazing tribute to Coby, which was posted on the Peaceful Pet Passage website.

Ashar wrote this amazing tribute to Coby, which was posted on the Peaceful Pet Passage website.


Ashar 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 October 2017 on Unschool Rules: Tiny Ashar and Tiny Coby in approximately 2003. They were so little!

Tiny Ashar and Tiny Coby in approximately 2003. They were so little!

Movies and TV

  • Friends – One of Ashar’s favorite shows, which she and Chris watched in its entirety. Kaitlyn has also seen the whole thing, so I am the left-out one. But as she rewatches, I catch some of the funny ones.
  • Stranger Things – Kaitlyn, Ashar, Chris and I finished watching Part 1 together in October, but we haven’t yet started Part 2 because we have so few times when we’re all home together. So no spoilers!
  • Wayne’s World, Down Periscope and Space Jam – Kaitlyn and Ashar had a mini comedy marathon one Tuesday night, all of including these.
  • The Tempest – We watched the DVD version of Ashar’s summer performance of The Tempest after the last Antony and Cleopatra show, so that my mom, who hadn’t been able to attend, could see it. It was great!
  • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein – A comedy classic.
  • Comedy of Terrors – One of Ashar’s Vincent Price favorites.
  • Necessary Roughness – This was one of our family comedy go-tos when I was growing up, but Ashar didn’t remember ever having seen it. She loved it too!
  • Spongebob Squarepants – Who doesn’t like the occasional talking sponge in a pineapple?
  • The Shining – Chris and Ashar watched this. In the daytime. Which made it a little less terrifying. And then Ashar made a “REDRUM” sign for her bedroom door, which was more terrifying.
  • The Music Man – We love musicals and we love Matthew Broderick.
  • Grease – Always a favorite of Ashar’s.
  • Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil – Sort of funny, sort of zombie-ish. Right up Ashar’s alley.
  • Jaws – Ashar and Chris rewatched this one afternoon.
  • The World Series – Ashar was rooting for the Astros as we have friends who live outside Houston. She thought given the flooding, etc., it was a good time for them to have a win.
  • We Bare Bears – Of all the shows I watch with Ashar and Kaitlyn and Mom and Chris, this is probably the only one where I say “Hey, let’s watch THIS” and actually pick something. I love this show. It’s a must-watch, I think.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation – Probably Ashar’s favorite series of all time. When she gets super-busy and tired, she puts on one of her two or three favorite episodes and just chills. She was also watching some episodes of Star Trek: Voyager in October.
  • 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. Actually a SUPER interesting way to learn about various places and their culture. He opened this season in Barcelona, then was in South Carolina in the next episode.
  • Tropic Thunder – Not exactly my style, but Kaitlyn and Ashar liked it.
  • Mean Girls – Would you believe I’ve still never seen this? Kaitlyn and Ashar and Mom watched it while I was doing grad school work.
  • Ed Wood – I forgot how much I loved this movie until Chris suggested we all watch it again.
  • Groundhog Day – We probably watch this every few months. It never gets old. Is that irony?
  • Young Frankenstein – “Whose brain was it?” “Abi somebody? Abi – Normal?”
  • Hocus Pocus – This is our Halloween-season tradition. We always love it.
Unschooling in October 2017 on Unschool Rules: Kara and I were very brave, kayaking on the huge Susquehanna River instead of the lakes that we're used to. (Now I'm singing TLC's "Waterfalls" in my head...) It was a beautiful day and even included a picnic!

Kara and I were very brave, kayaking on the huge Susquehanna River instead of the lakes that we’re used to. (Now I’m singing TLC’s “Waterfalls” in my head…) It was a beautiful day and even included a picnic!

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.

One of the biggest ones this month was about how cancer works, after hearing that one of my sisters has early-stage breast cancer. She’s scheduled for surgery in a few days, but Ashar wanted to know how cancer cells work and how it affects your body (and why). So we spent a whole dinner one night trying to answer as many questions as we could.

The other HUGE one we dug into was, of all things, seahorses.

We started out by watching a video about a seahorse rescued by Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Then we watched a video showing how a seahorse gives birth. (Surprise: It’s the male, not the female, that does this!) Then we started digging into various pages full of interesting seahorse facts, all while trying to answer questions we had, like whether they needed to live in pairs or not. Somehow this also led to us talking about giraffes, though I can’t remember how we got there.

Some of our other rabbit trails included:

  • How Duck Donuts are made
  • The theater careers of Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen
  • How many World Series there have been vs. how many Super Bowls


This month, Ashar played a bunch of FIFA 17 and Grand Theft Auto V, which both Kaitlyn and Chris will play with her.

In physical gaming, we also played Apples to Apples (our way of cheering up on the night the dog passed away), and Ashar learned to play Battlesheep during the Antony and Cleopatra cast party.

Unschooling places, projects and odds and ends

Guitar lessons: Ashar continues to take weekly guitar lessons from the amazing Rod Goelz.

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 who regularly invite us to bonfires and who, on Halloween, had a big neighborhood fire where lots of people gathered to hand out candy. I find those gatherings fun, but Ashar REALLY loves them, often staying after I go home!

Dude-and-daughter days: This month, Chris and Ashar spent their daddy-daughter days working on plans for their model train setup, as well as going to the comic store and to one of their favorite restaurants. And in addition to the aforementioned comedy movie marathon, Kaitlyn and Ashar had a cool day out where they went to Masa, our favorite Japanese restaurant, as well as the model train show.

The Walking Dead fandom: Ashar kept up her work on her Instagram fan account full of amazing photo edits of Norman Reedus (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. She’s also just started working on video editing, which I’ll share more about at the end of this month!

Other odds and ends this month: Talking about the difference between various breeds of dogs. Visiting the SPCA to donate the dog supplies we no longer needed. Listening to White Zombie. Making multiple trips to Spirit Halloween. Reading Harley Quinn comic books. Eating Universal Yums boxes from both Pakistan and Belgium. (Note: Belgium makes REALLY GOOD CHOCOLATE.) Ashar and my mom delivering a meal to one of my mom’s friends who had surgery. Rescuing a stuffed bear from Goodwill, who Ashar named Rivers and got VERY attached to. Seeing a great version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream staged at York College.

Unschooling in October 2017 on Unschool Rules: A selection of books that Chris gave out to our trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Also pictured: Mr. Angelino, aka Mystery, the cat, who did not get given away.

A selection of books that Chris gave out to our trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Also pictured: Mr. Angelino, aka Mystery, the cat, who did not get given away.

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!

This month, when I emailed everyone for their updates, I told them if I didn’t get a response, “I’ll make something up and you may find yourself the winner of a jazz dance competition or something.”

Kaitlyn said, “I only came in second place in the jazz dance competition. It’s not right to lie.”

To that, my mom replied, “Kaitlyn only came in second in the jazz dance contest because I was better, I won!!!”

So there you have it, jazz dancing in the Conciliottoman household.

Me, Joan: I am still holding on to high As in both my graduate classes this semester, and I registered for two more classes for spring.

In September, I finished seven books, including The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Becoming Ms. Burton by Susan Burton, both related to my interest in prison reform, and a funny fiction read called Fitness Junkie by an author whose previous book I’d loved.

In less exciting news, I spent a lot of time in physical therapy for my knee (but now I’m finished!) and didn’t get to tae kwon do as much as I would like because of it.

But in fun news, I did take part in a wood-breaking event called Break-Fest at my tae kwon do school, and that was a ton of fun! I also crashed a wedding with two friends, went kayaking on a river for the first time, made schnitz and knepp, did some scrapbooking, and worked a lot on Kaitlyn’s and my side project, which I will leave it to him to tell you about.

Kaitlyn: Kaitlyn says, “My month was mostly spent on our new initiative, TechnicalPenguins.com. But I did manage to sneak a little science with Soonish, by the authors of one of my favorite webcomics, about some possible scientific advances to keep an eye out for. I also finished the audiobook version of Slobberknocker, by Jim Ross, an old wrasslin’ vet who’s very good at storytelling. A bit of an oddity was A Lot Like Christmas, a collection of short stories whose central theme was Christmas (but not in the traditional Ebenezer Scrooge style [although wait one was definitely a reboot of A Christmas Carol so who knows]).”

I just want to add that Technical Penguins was a HUGE undertaking for both of us. We have long done freelance web development and support work (first separately, more recently together) but had never made a website to promote our work, in an obvious case of the shoemaker’s children going barefoot. So we finally decided to make it a priority and put a HUGE amount of effort into it. So if you need website help… let us know!

Chris: Chris checks in with, “Books I have been reading in October include Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Sixpence House by Paul Collins, The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu. Some of the comics I read were Mister Miracle by Tom King, Spell on Wheels by Kate Leth and Royal City by Jeff Lemire.”

Chris also added that he:

Also of note: Chris, dressed as a “book wizard,” handed out BOOKS to our trick-or-treaters this Halloween. He had an amazing selection, and many kids got to go home with more than one new book.

My mom, also Joan, aka Mommom: Mom says, “All I accomplished was getting through Fall without any major asthma problems. I am involved in two Bible studies (Ephesians and Philippians) and Stephen Ministry is going well. Also rereading Psalms, slowly.” She says that it’s nothing exciting, but I’m super-thrilled at all she does every week. She and I also went with some people from her church to a program on the opioid epidemic in the area and what we can do about it, and that was incredibly eye-opening and interesting.

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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4 thoughts on “Unschooling: Our October 2017 adventures

  1. My condolences on the loss of your furry family member. What a good looking doggie!! We have have had to make that tough decision for three old lady kitties over the years, and it’s excruciating. But it does feel better when they aren’t suffering any more and you know they are frolicking in kitty/doggie heaven instead. Any plans to get another dog? The last time one of our kitties passed away (in 2015), we lasted only a week before we had to go to the shelter and find another one. The house was just too empty without a kitty. (We adopted a 7 year old cat because we like to rescue ones who are older, past the full-on rumpus stage but still up for hanging out and snuggling.) Hugs to you all.

    • Lilypad, thank you so much for the kind words! We have talked about getting another dog, but there are some things going on in our life right now – not the least of which is that my mom is rehabbing from a broken hip and basically relearning how to get around the house, which is hard enough with 3 cats underfoot! But I’m sure we will have another when the time is right; we just love our pets too much to let any sit in a shelter when they have a sad enough story, you know?

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