Unschooling Voices - #6: Unschooling in action


As you click the links that take you to the different blogs and sites, I encourage you to comment on the ones that you particularly enjoy (tell 'em we sent ya!) or maybe offer some words of wisdom to someone at an unschooling crossroads. As you read, keep in mind that everyone who participated is at a different place in their unschooling journey.

If you post a link to this months installment on your blog or site, please let me know (by leaving a comment here) so I can thank you with a link back. :-)

The next edition of Unschooling Voices will be out on February 1st instead of January 1st. With the holidays being so close and some family issues that need my attention, I won't have much extra time this month. If you'd like to participate,
click here for the details. The new (and always optional) question for the month, plus past editions, can also be found there.

The question for December asked what interesting activites, projects or experiments your kids have done this past year. Personally, I've always gotten such cool ideas from other unschooling families. This month's edition was such an joy to put together. :-) I had a blast reading what everybody is doing and I can't wait to try some of them. This month we had 20 participants and 22 submissions. :-)

I posted the question to a couple of unschooling groups and I'll start with their responses first.

Robyn Coburn:

Last night Jayn and I “explored” food. It all started with a trip to the store where we found two different kinds of asparagus, something Jayn really likes. What would taste better – the skinny conventionally grown local spears or the organically grown but nonetheless imported from abroad fat ones? We resolved to engage in a taste test.

The taste test, which incidentally was inconclusive, evolved into a process of deconstructing by examining with our fingers the internal structure of steamed asparagus spears. Each with a plate we stood in the kitchen and looked and felt and tasted with analytical vigilance the tips, the soft fibrous stems, the softest center of the stalks, how they looked like tiny noodles when separated – like the glass noodles in spring rolls, Jayn noted. We ate all that I had cooked – probably ten spears each.

“Let’s explore some other food!” she cried. I steamed a goose neck squash, while Jayn did some drawing for the ten minutes. When it was ready we reconvened in the kitchen and I duly cut it in half lengthwise. Pulp, seeds, liquid, skin. Felt, tasted, observed. Why were they that shape? Look how the seeds pop out. We ate the lot.

Next we dissected a salad tomato, a food Jayn doesn’t normally like at all. We slid the tips of our fingers over the smooth inner side of the chambers making squeaks. We compared the feeling to the skin, and our own skin. Jayn used her teeth to scrape the flesh, which she was surprised to find sweet, until the skin was translucent. She announced that she like tomato now.

“What other food do we have?” The next choice was lemons. We halved two, one lengthwise, another round the equator, just to compare. We dangled the tiny pointy bags of juice. Jayn excavated until she found the stiff membranes like paper. We tasted and made identical scrunched up faces.

A quick detour to look at a pippin apple, cut around to see the pentacle star. Jayn scraped the hard seed pod parts. There was one tiny seed.

Finally the jackpot – last week I had bought a pomegranate that I suddenly remembered. Here was a wonder of visual beauty and unusual taste. How we marveled at the tiny ruby prisms, the crystals which turned out to be juicy pillows. The texture of the translucent membranes, the bumpy holes and tiny pink dots left in the pith. We counted the chambers – eight. We ate and spat out seeds. We made a fine mess of burgundy stains on our fingers and speckles on our chins, and then found like a miracle they washed right off.

James arrived home and of course had a pomegranate story from his childhood. He was carrying in the mail and there was a catalog talking briefly about pomegranates once being fertility symbol in Egypt, Greece and ancient Rome. The holiday decorations being sold were faux, and we had a discussion about the difference between the words “copy” and “replica”.

Then we were done with that particular thread, and it was two and a half hours since we had arrived home from the store with our simple plan to compare asparagus.

We're in the process of building a rat condo out of an entertainment center for our new pets. My kids are pretty young (almost 2 and almost 4), but they are helping every step of the way. We've set up an aquarium with guppies, so they will be experiencing baby guppies soon. We've also planted a vegetable garden, and they really love going to see how much the plants have grown and how they look after a rain.


My ds10 is very into weather science, especially natural disasters. He completed a project today about earthquakes. He built a city with Lego bricks and used it to illustrate the levels of damage done by different intensities of earthquakes. He used a digital camera to take the pictures, then printed them out on our printer. He created a poster that shows every level on the Richter & Mercalli scales, along with a picture of the Lego city and how much damage had been done. Last week he used the digital camera to take pictures of all his Lego buildings and made a poster like a billboard to advertise his "Lego Museum".


For writing prompts, we took a few years worth of old magazines and cut out the pictures. Pick out one you like and write about what you think happens in the picture. It was great fine motor for the little guy and great inspiration for the big one.

DS goes through spurts of what animal he prefers to learn about. For a while, he was majorly into dinosaurs. So...we have a huge round dirt patch in the backyard. I took apart his glow dinosaur puzzle (one of those skeleton deals) and buried all the pieces in the dirt. We had a grand time learning what its like to be an archeologist and uncover the remnants of the past.

Another fun over the summer project was frying eggs on the sidewalk. At least we got some use out of those hundred degree days!

We have also created rainstorms indoors using boiling water and a cold plate. Created our own tornado in a bottle, detroyed Pompeii, and tried to recreate a hurricane, but that one didn't work out too well.

Simple Living Mama:
Our latest thing is stop animation. We purchased a Macintosh laptop and a program called istopmotion which we are now in the process of learning. It is so fun and easy. Today we are making clay figures to animate. This week I will rent some Wallace and Gromit and Nightmare before Christmas for ideas and inspiration.

Some other fun things we've done this past year is made homemade bumper stickers and sold them at the farmers market. It was a real learning experience on color and design. Also learning about nitch markets and what kinds of sayings (on the stickers) sell and don't sell.

We all learned how to knit on round looms which is super easy and would make an excellent present for anybody looking for easy projects for their kids.

We just purchased a composting bin so we are learning about turning scraps in to compost.

JoVE had this to say about her submission:
Last winter, my daughter and I decided to look at a cross-section of the snowdrifts in our yard. This was a great idea and in the first post, there are some thoughts on being more systematic about weather patterns and their effects. I’m not that organized but if folks are keeping track of weather, this would be a good activity to add. You could then talk about how scientists look at glaciers for evidence of what the weather has been like in previous years. For the ambitious this could link into a whole study of climate change. Lots of possibilities. In this second post her daughter (then 8 years old) wrote a post telling of the results.

Mandy and her kids got together with some friends for a science activity on night creatures. The first submission is on
bats and the second one is on owls. She also submitted some photos of what they did. She had this to say:
My oldest daughter helped me pick out some books and dvds, and in deciding some fun activites to do. I didn't want it to be too "schooly", so I wanted it to be fun and something that would keep the kids interested. The kids all really enjoyed it. I noticed while reading stories and informative books that the children really like to interact with you while your reading. So, we would pause, and talk about what ever their questions or comments were. I don't think you would find that in a school setting. We also kept it fun and interesting by including games and crafts. I provided take home informative sheets, in case they wanted to follow up on it. But of course, nobody has any homework or required things to do. Basically, if I've created an interest in a subject, they can choose to(or not choose to) follow up on it.

Heather shows us what happens when you reflect sunlight off of a CD in this post.

Cher gives us a year in review! Lots of cool stuff here!

shares some interesting things her kids have been doing.

submitted a bunch of cool stuff her kids have been doing. (Geocaching sounds interesting!)

tells us about "the story-writer's society we started as a family and how it's influenced our learning, and how the writing process itself compares a bit to what we are doing in our unschooling."

Robin combined lots of interesting stuff into
this post. (I enjoyed the make-your-own-board-games link!)

Laura has this to say: "From splashing in puddles to chasing butterflies, we not only did those things this year, but a few others too". Check out her post

Kim shares a fantastic
photo essay of some of the interesting things her kids have done.

Stephanie submitted a post sharing
fun card games.

Here's my post. It's all the stuff we've done that I blogged about.

"Our family is in the process of fixing up our house, selling it, and moving permanently aboard a sailboat. A big part of this transition, naturally, is spending as much time as possible out on the water, to get the boys as comfortable as possible with sailing."

Andalee shares her suggestions for
toys that stood the test of time in her home.

There you have it! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together. :-) Happy Holidays!

Related Tags: , , , , ,


Heather said...

I posted a link from my blog. I can't wait to read all the submissions. The ones I read were interesting!


Phoebe said...

Thanks for this wonderful issue of UV, Joanne !
As usual I linked to it on my blog :

Happy holidays !

JoVE said...

I posted a link, too. Great carnival. Thanks for organizing.

kimzyn said...

Enjoying all of the december entries and also blogged about it on Chicago Homeschool Habitat. Thanks for making this happen.


Leonie said...

I've added a lin k to my blog - and can't wait to read all the submissions. Thanx once again!

Flo said...

Inspiring topic. Thanks for putting this together. I posted a link for you on my blog.