Inside: Curious about our unschooling resources and plans for the 2022-2023 school year? Here’s a rough idea of what we plan on exploring over the next twelve months (with a 7th, 5th, 3rd grader and kindergartener).
It’s that time of year again: the time when all the homeschoolers are planning for the school year. And also the time when homeschool bloggers typically share their plans for the year.
Technically our school year started July 1 and goes to whenever we have fulfilled our 180 day requirement and met with our teacher evaluator at year’s end (usually around the first week of June).
Now that we have transitioned fully to unschooling, I don’t have a lot “plans” necessarily. The majority of our learning is driven by my kids’ interests, exploring their curiosity in the moment.
Some of those interests last a day, while others continue over months or even years.
Let’s be real: even when I was a relaxed homeschooler, I didn’t really plan ahead further than a month. We lived life much the same way…so really, not much has changed.
But what I do have is a list of resources we want to try this year – things we want to do, books we want to read, products we want to try. So I’m sharing with you a list of plans, ideas and unschooling resources for the 2022-2023 school year.
Related: Homeschooling vs. Unschooling – What’s the Difference?
Unschooling Resources & Plans for 2022-2023
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While I don’t really care about grade levels, the state of Pennsylvania tends to care because they have more homeschool regulations than most states. They also require testing in grades 3, 5 and 8, so this year we will have two children testing.
Speaking of standardized tests, we have used the untimed CAT for the past several years now (North Carolina required yearly testing). I highly recommend it if you are unschooling in a state that requires standardized testing.
While again, grades don’t really matter, I purposely chose kindergarten for my 6-year-old’s grade level because he is not yet reading. While he shows a lot of interest in reading, we briefly tried formal reading lessons (using THIS reading curriculum), and I quickly realized he’s not ready yet.
I’m not worried at all; when he’s ready to learn to read, he will learn to read. But choosing kindergarten gives him four whole years before we need to complete the grade 3 testing.
On to the unschooling resources we want to explore this year!
Last Year’s Plans: Relaxed Homeschool Plans & Resources for 2021-2022 (6th, 4th, & 2nd)
1. Mark Rober’s Engineering Subscription Box
If you don’t know Mark Rober, be sure to check out his Youtube channel, which my kids love! A former NASA engineer, he builds amazing inventions that kids love.
From inventing squirrel obstacle courses to showing people how to skin a watermelon (yes, really), Mark Rober makes science, math, inventing and engineering appealing and accessible to kids and adults. He used to partner with Kiwi Co., but I’m not at all surprised that he decided to create his own subscription box.
I narrowly missed getting in on this box during his launch. They are currently out of stock, so we are on a waiting list.
As soon as they restock, we will be getting in on it.
2. The Yesteryear Gazette
We discovered The Yesteryear Gazette over a year ago, and now we love it. We read 1-2 stories weekly during poetry teatime (yes, it’s history, not poetry).
Their stories from all throughout history are always interesting to my kids and sometimes lead to history rabbit trails we follow until our curiosity is satisfied.
(Note: When we are in between copies of the Gazette, we go back to picture book biographies for poetry tea time. They’re the best!)
3. Universal Yums
I’ve heard about this subscription box for years, but have never tried it. At one point, we were signed up for Little Passports, but my older ones lost interest, and my littlest ones are not yet ready for it.
Universal Yums sends you snacks and sweets from a different country every month. I plan to have them at poetry teatime once a month, find the country on the globe, and see what other discussions/questions pop up.
Related: 14 Easy Ways to Homeschool Geography Without Curriculum
My 5th and 3rd graders are signed up for soccer in the fall, and I anticipate them participating in the spring as well (although they are free to quit).
When it’s soccer season, this takes quite a bit of my energy. For better or for worse, they usually have practices on different nights of the week, so it takes four nights a week, plus Saturdays for games for about ten weeks, twice a year.
Crossing my fingers for practices on the same night this fall!
My 3-year-old has talked about playing…but for now, we are holding off until she is older and truly understands what signing up to play means.
(My 12-year-old and I enjoy volleyball. We usually play in the fall and spring in the backyard.)
Reading aloud has been a natural part of our family rhythm since my daughter’s university model school introduced it (she attended for one year when she was 4/5).
Right now, my older three are participating in our chapter book read-alouds. The younger two kids (kindergarten and three-year-old) still love picture books and graphic novels, so I read to them separately at night before bed.
Here are my tentative read-aloud choices that are, as always, subject to change:
- A Tale of Sorcery (we just finished this latest book in Chris Colfer’s new series)
- Mysterious Benedict Society Books 2-4
- The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
- Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan
We are hoping that Rick Riordan finishes his promised stand-alone novel on Nico D’Angelo by the end of the school year as well. Rick Riordan ROCKS.
Related: 20 Best Read-Aloud Chapter Books According to Homeschoolers
6. Educational Board Games
It should be noted that all games are educational because life is learning. But I digress…
I am hoping to increase our board game playing this year. Last school year was extremely difficult for gameschooling, as I had a 2/3-year-old who demanded a lot more of my time and attention.
My 6-year-old loves playing with math in general, so Sum Swamp and Money Bags are his favorites.
The following games are our current favorites:
- Mystic Market
- Code Names
- Sequence States & Capitals
I purchased the card game Ecologies on Etsy last year, and because of said 3-year-old, we never got around to learning this new game. I’m hoping to learn this year.
Related: 20 Best Educational Board Games (our absolute favorites)
Last year, we watched a few different documentary series, mostly found on Netflix and Disney+. In the past, we enjoyed CuriosityStream, but we haven’t used it in a while.
Here are a few I’m considering introducing, all on Netflix:
- The Who Was Show (we watched half of this last year)
- History 101
- The Mind, Explained
- Our Planet
- Human: The World Within
I also want to watch THIS documentary about financial independence with at least my oldest two kids. Again, there is always freedom for my kids to say, “I’m not interested” or “Not right now, mom”.
We did also restart our PBS Kids channel with Amazon because my younger three kids are interested in Wild Kratts again.
Have any good ones documentaries or shows to recommend? Drop them in the comments!
8. Field Trips & Outings
This year, we will be going again to the beach in Cape May, NJ in September for four days.
There is a fantastic free (donation only) zoo there that I absolutely adore. I’m pretty sure I am more excited for the zoo than the kids.
Our Adventure Aquarium membership expires in March, so we will go 1-2 more times before that expires (hopefully two times). Driving an hour and a half both ways is pretty exhausting for me personally.
In the spring, we may venture down to D.C. or up to Boston, depending on how the younger two kids are doing maturity-wise. We call them “Double Trouble” for a reason…
Or we may save those trips for the following year. However, I am acutely aware of the fact that my 12-year-old is only getting older (she turns 13 this year!).
Balancing this many kids with a wide age spread is tricky for field trips, especially given that my husband and I are both introverts and can get overwhelmed when we are out with this many kids. For that reason, I am looking into FieldTripZoom as a virtual field trip option to bridge the gap between doing things in person.
I seriously don’t know how anyone homeschools without YouTube. My kids use it every single day to explore their interests, from art to video games to physics and beyond.
Some of our favorite Youtube channels:
- Drawing Wiff Waffles
- Mark Rober
- Physics Girl
- KoraMora (Animal Crossing)
- Maizen (MineCraft)
- SciShow Kids
- Beppo (MineCraft)
I see so many negative comments online from homeschooling parents about the dangers of YouTube, how their children are “wasting time” on YouTube (or on screens in general), etc. If that’s you, hear me out for just a minute.
I had to do A LOT of inner work to stop looking at my children’s technology use judgmentally and critically. As I stepped back, I realized that they were using YouTube to explore their interests, to learn and simply for enjoyment.
Protection, I understand. We have had zero issues so far, other than many healthy discussions about curse words, but I guess it depends on what you’re trying to protect kids from.
Sometimes I wonder if we project our own self-loathing and self-judgement for our adult social media addictions and screen usage onto our kids. I’ll leave you with this example.
My husband loves TikTok. I used to hate TikTok and wrote it off as a useless platform without any proof. I never even tried it.
It started with him sending me TikToks he thought I would like, curating my feed, so to speak. And for a while, I only watched those.
Then I realized how valuable TikTok can be.
Now I appreciate TikTok a lot because the algorithm shows me things I’m interested in. I have learned SO much about the darker history of the United States that I was never taught, politics, racism, Native American wisdom and experiences, faith deconstruction and more.
TikTok can be such a powerful tool for learning (and for business). And it can make you feel less alone if you have no one in real life who is wrestling with or interested in the same things you rae.
Do I love it as much as my husband does? No, but that’s personal preference, and I don’t sit around judging him for the amount of time he spends on the platform because it brings him joy.
If you hate YouTube, maybe explore that distaste? Get curious about it, as Pam Laracchia of Living Joyfully would say. Find out what’s underneath it.
You don’t have to love Youtube…but we do.
Related: The Best Unschooling Podcasts to Listen To This Year
10. Current Events
I get a daily news recap from the New York Times and share current events with my older kids (7th, 5th, 3rd graders). We discuss how those events affect the world and look up relevant countries.
Current events touch on so many subjects! If you don’t already have a means of relaying current events to older kids, this is a great idea for rich discussions and learning.
My oldest really loved our free trial of The Juice Learning – the quizzes were really fun for her! I still need to ask her if she would like to get a paid monthly subscription, but this is on the table as well.
Related: The Juice Learning Subscription Review – Curated, Unbiased News for Kids
11. The Story of US
My 3rd grader is still interested in reading history aloud together, which I love!
We discovered The Story of US by Joy Hakim last year, and it’s been a great fit for us so far. I’m honestly learning so much history that I did not learn in my white-washed elementary history, which is good and challenging at the same time.
I’ll share some random tidbits with my older kids, and sometimes my 12-year-old will listen in as well.
My kindergartener just recently asked again about working on reading together. We tried a couple months ago, and he said he wasn’t ready yet.
We’ll see where it goes! He may decide to wait again, or he might truly be ready.
As with all of my kids, I will start out with THESE super simple “learn to read” books. I wonder if this one will need something different, so I’m keeping these homeschool reading curriculums in the back of my mind just in case.
Related: Learning to Read Is a Natural Process…If You’re Willing to Be Patient
13. Homeschool Meet-Ups
This has been a thorn in my side for a while. Moving rurally has one major downside: everything is FAR.
We have tried a few different homeschool groups since moving to Pennsylvania. We tried different activities, exchanging numbers, and trying to build community.
Making new friends is HARD, y’all, especially with such a wide spread of ages and stages in our family. Plus, I can only handle so much driving and energy on trying new things that may or may not turn into quality relationships.
We will likely continue to dip our toes in several different groups, including a local weekly park meet-up and a Wild & Free group. We will periodically meet up with the few friends we’ve made so far.
In the meantime, two kids have sports, and my strong extroverts who like to be out and about more frequently come to the grocery store, the library, and the park far more often than my two introverts.
Unschooling Is Living Life As Though School Does Not Exist
As you can tell, there is no curriculum in this list. While I may continue reading a series of history books with my third grader because he was interested last year, I have no plans right now to use curriculum.
We spend a lot of time learning about things we are interested in the time.
For my 7th grader, that looks like art – both written and digital art – and story development in films and shows.
For my 5th grader, that currently looks like learning about glitches in video games and how to buy, sell and trade commodities on Animal Crossing (with the occasional deep dive into STEM and physics videos on YouTube).
For my 3rd grader, that currently looks like watching every Wild Kratts from all 18 seasons and learning how to build cool inventions and buildings in Minecraft. When it’s not summer, he enjoys “baking experiments” with his younger brother (no recipes).
For my kindergartener, that currently looks like asking questions such as, “How is paint made? How are clothes made? How are fireworks made?”. Then, we watch Youtube videos to answer those questions.
My kindergartener loves playing with math, doing addition problems in his head and asking for more questions. He also seems to be working hard to piece together reading and letters. I’ll be curious to see when he takes off with reading.
When they aren’t following their interests, they are living life: watching shows, listening to audiobooks, learning to cook, doing their daily chore, watching me handle bank fraud claims and get a broken window fixed (#reallife), playing games together.
So here’s to living a rich life full of learning every single day!
Im a new subscriber in my 4th year of homeschooling, I also have 5 kids (11,10,8,5,2). Ive been moving slowly away from regular homeschooling to relaxed style. Im curious with unschooling, how do they learn math/language arts? Thank you for your free resources on here! I also live in a rural place and making friends is so hard!
Hi Grace! For math, it’s everywhere: baking, measuring a room, video games, money. You can also play educational board games and make sure to invite them into your own math (measuring the area of a room to know how much paint to buy, investing money in the stock market, doubling a recipe, etc.). Invite all the time, but they can feel free to say no. For language arts, see THIS article. Written language is everywhere, but I have also always read aloud to my kids. 3/5 readers so far, with my younger two very curious about reading. They learn a lot through writing words (with my help) and me reading aloud to them picture books and graphic novels. They also learn so much through captions on videos.
Tell me more about the Mark Rober thing. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the youtubers my son follows….
Hi Carol! For a while, Mark Rober partnered with KiwiCrate and had a few specific boxes that were his design – the domino setter upper (for lack of a better description) is his most well-known one. He is a former NASA engineer and has a very large Youtube following. He decided to start his own subscription box (because his did so well on KiwiCrate). We are looking forward to getting them! Hopefully they will be available in November.
As far as “screen time” is concerned, in our house, I have found simply switching the vocabulary to “media access” has helped me personally more than anything else. I grew up practically a wildling in the woods, but we had books and a ton of library time, what silliness would it have been if my parents had restricted THAT media?
I love that phrase! Thanks for sharing.