Thursday, September 8, 2016

Some Thoughts on the Year to Come

As I am inundated with back-to-school sales and back-to-school photos I am reminded that our family truly does things differently.  For us "school" and "schooling" doesn't exist within the confines of a particular building or a particular timeframe.  Our "school" is the world and our "schooling" is living life, living our lives.  It is not contrived, it just flows.

There are some conventionalities that I adhere to in some form or fashion.  For record-keeping purposes I have declared our academic year to go from June 1 through May 31.  Also, we tell folks that the boys are in the grade that they would be in if they were in public school.  Contrary to what some may think, saying that Maceo is a junior in high school doesn't reveal anything about what type of courses he is taking but it is useful when interacting with the larger community.

Otherwise, we are following personal pursuits day-to-day and we take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
We go with the flow.
However, inspired by Joan on Unschool Rules I have decided to post our plans, as we see them presently.  In part this will allow me to organize my thoughts which is always important but more so now that I have to start assembling the boys high school transcripts.  Also, I hope it helps others envision how this approach to education might look.

Maceo's unschooling 11th grade plan:

Maceo's primary area of study is performance (think music conservatory; we're a boarding school :).  He will focus on musical theatre performance, vocal performance and acting.

Musical Theatre Performance:  He auditioned for and was accepted into a youth performance troupe at our community theatre.  The commitment is a two-hour a week rehearsal and he has to be available for community performances.  The troupe has already performed at a children's event at the zoo.

He intends on auditioning for several musical theatre productions this year.  He has already auditioned for and was cast as a pirate in a production of Peter Pan.  He has been in rehearsal for a month and heads in to tech week next week.

In the past he has been part of a touring company and if the company resumes this year he will participate in it again.

He recently earned his Equity Membership Candidacy and is looking for opportunities to audition for more professional jobs.

He will maintain current headshots and resume.

And, of course, he will continue to see as many musical productions and listen to as many musical scores as possible.

Vocal Performance:  Maceo will continue to take private vocal instruction.  He will actually be working with two different instructors this year.  He will begin working with an opera instructor next week.

He will look for opportunities to perform publicly, will continue to research music, and, if he so desires, he will make further progress on his vocal pedagogy book.

Acting:  Maceo auditioned for and was accepted into a youth acting troupe.  The commitment is a one-hour a week rehearsal and he has to be available for community performances.

He will take pre-professional training acting classes which meet twice a week.

He will also take opportunities to audition for straight plays.  He has already auditioned for Of Mice and Men.  He had callbacks with some very experienced men which is such a great learning experience.

Social Studies -  History, Geography, Sociology, Psychology, Civics and Government:

As this is the year of the next presidential election it is the perfect time to have a special emphasis on civics and government.  It is very much a part of our family culture to follow current events and the current political goings-on.  We talk and debate.  We watch the televised debates and discuss our opinions.  We are also doing a course on constitutional literacy.

Sociological issues and topics are something that are conversed about in our family as well.  I am certain that this will continue.

Maceo has a strong interest in psychology.  He has started reading a psychology textbook and has been reading two other psychology-related books.  I am certain that studies in this area will continue throughout the year.

History and geography are areas that we, as a family, cover consistently through field trips and road trips and such.  We visit museums and other historic sites.  We travel and take note of the changing landscape and dialects.  And we try all sorts of different foods.  This will continue.


For Maceo this primarily involves reading plays.  He is presently reading Annie Baker's new play, "John."  For Teen Players he is reading and analyzing Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." And recently he read the script for "Of Mice and Men."  He auditioned for a role in this play which meant that he had to do analysis of it.  This will continue throughout the year.

Teen Players is also working on "The Giver" and, quite possibly, as a family we will focus on some other pieces of dystopian literature.

Teen Players is also working on "The Hiding Place" which will allow him to make more connections in regards to history.

Maceo watches a lot of films and stage performances based off of classic pieces of literature.  This year he will have the opportunity to see a stage production of "A Raisin in the Sun" and "Of Mice and Men" and will surely see even more than that.

In the past Maceo and I have utilized the book "The Art of Writing" and we may continue working on it.


I am guessing that personal finance will be his primary mathematical focus.  I do want each of the boys to read "Your Money or Your Life" before they leave home and maybe Maceo will do that this year.


I have to be honest, I don't know what Maceo's intentions are in the area of science.  He has primarily been interested in space and physics and it will be interesting to see if this interest remains.

He does intend on taking the GED within the next two years as his college of choice, Boston Conservatory, requires it for all homeschooled applicants so he will be studying the necessary science (and, for that matter, math, social studies and english as well).

And everything else:

I know there will be some P.E. in the form of lots of dancing, some hiking and some laser tag and he has taken to using dumbbells and more.
And there will be living skills to be honed.
There will be continued film studies and analysis.
I am certain he will continue researching music beyond that which he uses for performance and fashion is also of interest.
And, I know, he will continue expanding his interest in sports - NBA, NCAA, MLB, and NFL.  In fact, fantasy football and weekly pick 'ems have begun.

Bishop's unschooling 10th grade plan:

Bishop's interests are fairly diverse but he has a prevailing interest in the culinary arts.  He intends on focusing intensely on developing his culinary skills this year.  

We have visions of he and dad working their way through the book "The Professional Chef," a textbook for the Culinary Institute of America.

He will be doing an internship with a dear friend who is a caterer and baker.

He is contemplating venues for selling his baklava.

And as a family we will be working on some concepts for food trucks and restaurants.  Ideally, we will help Bishop get a food truck up and running before he finishes high school.

Social Studies - History, Geography, Sociology, Civics and Government:

Again, as this is the year of the presidential election we will have a special emphasis on civics and government.  It is very much a part of our family culture to follow current events and politics.  We talk and debate.  We watch televised debates and discuss our opinions.  We will be doing lots of this and we will be doing a constitutional literacy course together.  And Bishop intends on completing the Citizenship in the World and Citizenship in the Community merit badges.

Sociological issues also have great interest to our family and I am certain that we will be logging many hours discussing these issues.  In fact, Bishop and I love to watch shows created by Viceland.  These shows prompt a lot of discussions regarding sociological issues.

History is a strong area of interest for Bishop.  He studies it independently.  And history and geography are areas that we, as a family, cover consistently through field trips and road trips and such.  We visit museums and historic sites.  We read historical road markers.  We travel and take note of the changing landscapes and dialects.  And we try all sorts of different foods.  This will continue.  In fact, Bishop will be going on an epic trip at the end of this month.  He will be going to Seoul, South Korea with his sister to visit his older brother.  Truly the best way to cover geography, history, sociology, anthropology, etc.!!!

And, speaking of food, Bishop loves to research and try to recreate foods from all regions of America and from all over the world.


Bishop is actively working on his research skills, persuasive writing, and debating skills as he debates others online.  Just the other night he was having a conversation with someone online who had contended that we owe a debt of gratitude to one particular ethnic group for having created all of the great things in the world.  He conversed with the person for hours making sure to document his sources, etc.

He also hopes to complete the communication merit badge for scouts.


Bishop intends on learning arduino this year and will be doing an astronomy and astrophysics course that will be math heavy.

As we move forward on the food truck idea we will be crunching a LOT of numbers!

He will also be studying personal finance and intends on completing the Personal Management merit badge for scouts.


This is another strong area of interest for Bishop.  He is naturally curious about all things to do with science and pursues it seemingly effortlessly.  In the past this has led us to Audubon Society meetings and lectures on fungus.  I look forward to seeing where this will lead us this year.  I will try to keep up with him!

Last year we began studying geology with a couple of other families.  We went to some special courses and visited a couple of caves.  We intend on continuing that this year. 

Also, last year Bishop participated in a science group - several families that banded together to study human anatomy and physiology.  This year we will do astronomy together.  Additionally, Bishop and another guy will work their way through an astronomy and astrophysics curriculum.

He will also be trying his hand at arduino which is cross-curricular (as is most everything) with math.

And all the other goodies:

Bishop is still taking pottery lessons,  Pottery is definitely one of his major passions.  He is looking for opportunities to show his work publicly and continues to do extensive research on pottery throughout place and time.
He expands his knowledge of art by routinely going to art museums and galleries.
Bishop will continue with scouts which offers him opportunities in many subject areas and helps him with his leadership skills.
For Bishop, physical education comes in the form of hiking and kayaking and using kettlebells and more.  He will also complete his personal fitness merit badge.
He is contemplating taking drawing lessons.
He has a strong interest in fashion and design.  He has many, many ideas and hopes to move forward on some of these ideas this year.
He is interested in taking sewing lessons.
He researches and listens to a wide variety of genres of music.
He is interested in learning music theory, playing some instruments, and making and collecting sounds.
And, finally, Bishop will continue with his various service projects - food pantry, Operation Christmas Child, Sole Food, his Eagle Scout project and more.

So, there you have it - a plan for the year to come but who knows where we will actually end up going, it is our grand adventure after all!!

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