Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Progress Report for This Year SO FAR

Ah. These reports always make me feel better about what we have been covering throughout the year. And WHEW-EE, Samantha sure has covered lots of art! She is an artist though, so that is her job. I have worked on her progress report since September, adding a little at a time. And at the end of the actual year, I go over it and revise it, adding things I may have forgotten. I marvel at how many pages just the big stuff takes up. (Our day to day living is detailed in her journals I keep for records.) 

We still have TWO more semesters. (We run like this September-December, January-May, and June-August, for paper work's sake. It helps me know where to begin and where to end on progress, even though we do year-round "school.") 

I jumped ahead and added some things I know she will be doing next year. I know she will start swim classes. I know we will be reading some of the Molly American Girl books. I know she wants to continue to learn some math facts with her new card games that she loves. And I know that she will be doing a project of Egypt (or possibly California) for the Geography Fair. I have this nagging feeling it will switch to California pretty soon. (She has this undying love for the way the land and weather are portrayed in that area.) I also know she wants to learn how to knit with a loom and do some more You Tube videos with real clay! 

Oh, how exciting it always is to start a new "chapter." Even though we only segment out our learning and life phases for paperwork purposes, there is always a difference we can feel and see as each new semester starts, weather it is renewed interest in old hobbies after the long Summer, new learning experiences after receiving numerous art supplies for Christmas, or a new sense of adventure rediscovered during the warm months, every part is always so exciting! And I know I can't wait for 2015. 

Samantha Anne Mays Progress Report 2014-2015

Curriculum Description: Samantha learns using a relaxed custom curriculum meant to teach her the basic concepts of each subject and allow for growth in areas that interests her most. She uses a range of learning tools and experiences from books, games, and movies to real life and hands on activities. Samantha choices her own units of study, which is then extended to include all the core subjects as well as other areas such as Bible Study, Arts, and Music.

Unit Studies

Samantha has completed a variety of unit studies (of her choosing) this year.

Dogs: Samantha really enjoys dogs and has two of her own, so she chose to complete a study on dogs. During that time everything she did was about dogs, from looking up images of dogs to consistently looking up questions about dogs.

Activities: You Tube Dog Training Videos-Zac George’s Channel, Clicker Training, Care and Observation

Books: Marley and Me, Bad Dogs, and various informational books about dog breeds, caring for dogs, and dog training and competitions

Art: Samantha main unit of study this year, has been art. She has covered various form of art from sewing and knitting to drawing and painting. She has used numerous mediums to make her creations and finds her inspiration in many different places from outdoor scenery to studying another artist’s work. She has even been inspired by classical music selections. 

Sewing: Samantha continued to hold an interest in sewing from last year and has learned many new skills. She can thread a needle and has been practicing needlepoint in order to make her sewing more precise. She can also prepare her sewing machine and use it with minimal assistance to complete a project. Some projects she has completed include a pillow, cat outfit and doll clothes.

Crocheting: Samantha also showed an interest in learning to crochet this year and went to her grandmother for assistance. She started by learning to cast on and hand placement and can now finish a complete chain. She hopes to be able to complete a dish cloth in the next few months.


You Tube Videos: Samantha has taken her art to a new level by making her own instructional videos, usually containing instructions on how to make Play-Doh figurines based on video game characters-inspired by the sweet treat You Tube channel Nerdy Nummies by Rosanna Pansino. Samantha has also made videos on cake decorating, clay making, and magic tricks. Samantha goes through the process of planning: what to make, how to make it, gathering materials, rehearsing what she will say. Then I assist her in filming the videos, sometimes taking several takes for one scene.  She has her own You Tube account and has learned to post her videos/upload, name, and type a description. (She follows a few channels such as How It’s Made, the History Channel, Zac George, and Nerdy Nummies. She also enjoys browsing the videos on You Tube for art videos and other topics of interest.) Samantha will soon learn how to edit videos on her own.

Drawing and Painting: Samantha loves drawing and painting and practices several hours a day. She loves reading How To books and looking up videos to help her understand how to make things look more realistic. She has started a few projects including several of her own books.
For her best book, she spent the day at the library looking for Children’s books about foxes to get an idea of the illustration style she wanted to use. She named her book The Fox and the Chicks. She illustrated the cover, typed the story with some assistance, and completed the pictures inside using sketch pencils and charcoals.
Her paintings have made a marked improvement over the last year. She is learning to control her brush strokes better. She can mix colors to make the colors she wants. And she knows the effects each type of paint makes. Some of the projects she completed with painting include her own interpretation of Starry Night, her favorite painting by Van Gogh and her painting interpreting The Four Seasons classical music by Vivaldi.

Field Trips: One of Samantha’s big field trips this year was to the Downtown Chattanooga Bluff View Art District. Samantha took a walk through Downtown Chattanooga, an art focused area. As she walked to the Art District she saw many statues, some that were abstract and others that were merely statues of people. She read about each one and talked about it, what she liked, what she didn’t like, what it could mean. Once she entered Bluff View, she visited the River Cress Art Gallery where there were many different styles of art. Each medium of art was in in a separate room. There was a glass room, a room with pottery, yard art, wood, paintings, drawings, etc. (Samantha found inspiration in an oil painting on wood and was determined to learn to use oil paints. She received a set of oil paints for Christmas and has been experimenting with them ever since.) After the art gallery she discussed what it must be like being an artist, starting out as an artist, how to get displayed in an art gallery, the prices of art, art styles, mediums, and interpretations.


Samantha started the year being able to read simple sentences without having to stop and sound out each word. Most of her reading has evolved into recognition more than phonics. By December Samantha was able to read storybooks on her own and intermediate elementary chapter books (8+) with some assistance. She even practices her reading throughout the day without being prompted by challenging herself to read road signs, text messages, instruction manuals, game boards, etc. She also challenges herself to spell out the word she is trying to convey when she talks as opposed to saying the word. Her reading has become so fluent that she rarely stops to sound out a word. Her spelling has become just as second nature as her reading. Although there is still room for improvement, Samantha ended the Fall semester “a reader.”

Samantha has read a variety of texts including those listed above in her unit study topics, hundreds of easy reader books, children’s classics, cookbooks, poetry books, historical fiction, and books about topics she is interested in such as books about horses and gymnastics.

She listened to and assisted in reading chapter books such as Marley and Me, The Samantha American Girl series including Meet Samantha, Samantha Learns a Lesson, Samantha’s Surprise, Happy Birthday, Samantha, Samantha Saves the Day, and Changes for Samantha as well as the Samantha Mystery series including The Curse of Ravens Court, The Case of the Stolen Sapphire, and The Call of the Loon.

The second semester she focused on the Molly American Girl books about World War II (See History).

Grammar and Punctuation: Samantha has a firm grasp on tenses as well as a beginning understanding of punctuation. She knows what periods, exclamation points, question marks, and quotation marks are for. She is beginning to use capitalization and punctuation in her writing when she writes letters to friends, notes in her diary, or when writing her own stories.

Activities: Samantha takes bi-weekly trips to the Library. Each visit she checks out 20+ books, some related to her unit studies and others not. Some she reads individually and others are read to her in a variety of environments such as the Library, home, outside, and in the store or car.


Samantha began the school year true counting to 100. By December she was able to true count to 1,000 by 1s and 10s. And can, although does not when prompted, count by 2s and 5s. She has continued to work on her addition and subtraction fact memorization and by December knew all her addition facts from 1 to 10. She also started working with double and triple digit addition, including “carrying the 1.” To help her better understand the concept, we covered place value by learning expanded form and using an “underlining method” on the marker board.

At the beginning of the 2015 year Samantha started covering the same areas with subtraction…

Samantha has continued to be exposed to and learn a little about fractions. However, by December, she still has limited understanding of what a fraction is. For example, she understands that if the pizza is cut in half, we both get one piece. But she does not understand how to complete word problems with fractions or divide out more complex fractions.

Samantha continued working with money this year by becoming more familiar with the value of each coin, how to add totals in columns, and how to skip count to add aloud-beginning. She is around money daily whether she is making a purchase herself and receiving change, watching others make a purchase, going to the bank, and watching budgets be made.

Activities: Samantha learns math through playing board/card games such as Go to the Dump by Right Start Math, Smath, Math War, Math Mat, and Race to a Quarter. She frequently plays computer games such as funbrain.com, fun4the brain.com, powermylearning.com, and cool-mathgames.com.


For Science this year, Samantha has been focusing on Earth (Geology) and Life (plants and animals) Science through camping and hiking. She has been to many different parks and trails in the southeastern part of the United States. Samantha is familiar with some of the plants and animals in the parks. She has learned about which insects are poisonous and which are safe. She has learned about some of Earth’s formations and how to find them on the map. (Beginners Map Reading) She has learned about weather patterns and causes for specific patterns, while being stuck in the rain many times. She has also learned to start predicting the weather. She has watched and assisted in building fires, giving her better understanding of its properties and uses.

Samantha has covered some Medicinal Science, holistic form. Throughout the year Samantha has learned more on how to make and measure the PPM of colloidal silver. She has also begun learning about essential and carrier oils and how to mix or diffuse them to help with illness or injury.

Samantha has completed several Nature Studies every month. She has a nature journal and art set with pencils, colored pencils, pastels, and water colored paints, any of which she can use in her portraits. She has used each of these individually as well a mixture of them together. Topics range from unit study related, such as dogs, based on what she has heard, or seen in pictures and videos, to nature related topics based on close observation such as the top of the clouds from the Chimney Tops Trail in Gatlinburg.

Samantha has also used a variety tools throughout the year. She has used measurement tools such as a ruler, scale, and measuring cups/spoons, as well as observation tools like a magnifying glass and microscope. She is learning more in depth how to use these tools and why we use them.



       Nature Sketch Book
       Caring for Pets
       Fishing Trips
       Camping Trips
       Everyday Questions


Civil War: Samantha’s carried her focus on the Civil War through the first part of the school year.

Activities: She continued to look through non-fiction books, watch documentaries online, and visit local sites. (Our area is full of Civil War History including the local Battle Field which has many statues with inscribed histories and stories on display as well as a museum where they show a historically based film, put models on display along with several gun cases full of era guns, and put on reenactments.)

Field Trips: Samantha took a trip to a local reenactment at the Western Atlantic Railroad Tunnels. She was able to visit several tents set up to tell about popular sports and hobbies of the time such as archery and quilting. She sat through an outdoor reenactment and asked questions about the battle. She also was able to tour the WAR Tunnels museum, which included Civil War relics such as guns, bullets, and old letters, and even walked through the actual tunnels.

Early 1900s: Once Samantha completed her Civil War study, she started started studying the Victorian time period, starting in 1904. She read several of the American Girl Samantha books, which tell the story of a little girl growing up in the Victorian era. We made the study come to life while looking through a book that discussed all aspects of the Victorian era: hobbies, clothes, toys, etc. She also cooked recipes from a Victorian recipes book.

World War II:


·      Timeline


Activities: See Unit Studies: Egypt

Samantha continued to get familiar with the US and World maps this year. Both are on display in the hall and Samantha enjoys looking over them in her free time. She focused mainly on Map Reading skills this year. She learned to use grids for location-introduction to longitude and latitude. (Battleship has been a great resource for this.) She has also learned about map keys and legends, direction, and geographical feature maps. (For this we used _____ games.)

Physical Education: Samantha stays active during the day by playing outside-doing flips, running, playing games with friends, playing on the playground, learning to skate, or simply taking a nature hike. She also spends much of her time on her trampoline practicing her gymnastics.

Samantha participated in a homeschool gymnastics class for the second year through Southern Adventist University. This year, however, she only attends class once a week for an hour. She was placed in a mixed class that put emphasis on form for basic exercises including rolls, cartwheels, headstands, stall bars, trampolines, ropes, and other exercise.

For Spring semester, she continued gymnastics and also began swim classes through the University.

Music: Samantha is surrounded by a variety of different music in her everyday life including Gospel, Classical, Rock, Pop, Country, and traditional music from other countries.

Her favorite music is Classical Music, with her favorite artists being Vivaldi and Beethoven. (She enjoys Bach’s softer music.) She could sit and listen to Classical music for hours and hours. Many of the more famous pieces she has memorized and likes to create art to accompany the music.

Art: (See Unit Studies: Art)

Fine Arts:

Technology: Now that Samantha can read and spell and enjoys writing her own books, she showed interest in learning to type. She practices and plays games on http://www.freetypinggame.net/ By December she knew where her home row keys were located and knew how to place her hands and reach each key without moving her other fingers. She can type at an average of 12 words per minute, 8 words adjusted speed.


·      Playing on the Computer, Wii U, etc.

Home Economics: Samantha is able to do a variety of housework with little or no assistance. She understands the basic concepts of cooking/baking from scratch, simple cleaning, and household errands. Samantha has ample knowledge about the health benefits of eating organic foods. She is familiar with the process of making household detergents and cleaners. Samantha goes grocery shopping on a regular basis and knows to look at the labels and ingredients and what to look for. She has been taught the benefit of buying from local farmers and is encouraged to do so. Samantha is also learning ways to be more economical with her money.

Bible Study: Samantha has a basic knowledge of the Bible and some of the stories in it. She knows who her creator is and what he sent his Son to do for us. Recently we have begun putting emphasis on reading the Bible for herself and interpreting it based on its Hebrew origins. As she begins reading more independently, she has taken over most of the reading portion herself.

Volunteer Work: Samantha assists in volunteering two places: Women’s Enrichment Center in Dalton and West Side Elementary School.

WEC: Twice a month Samantha assists me in volunteering at the Women’s Enrichment Center. This year she has been able to complete more simple office work such as making copies, licking envelopes, and placing stamps.

WES: Samantha takes bi-weekly trips to WES during the school year where she helps with clerical work such as making copies (like at WEC) or classroom assistance such as making work samples.

Special Field Trips: Ripley’s Believe it or Not Gatlinburg, TN, Cades Cove Smokey Mountain, TN Ruby Falls Chattanooga, TN, Pumpkin Patch Riceville, GA, Apple Picking Elijay, GA Pioneer Days Audubon Acres Chattanooga, TN,

Conclusion/Main Goals: Samantha is on track to meet her goals for the 2014-2015 school year. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

We recently had the amazing opportunity to take a day trip to the Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, TN. It is only a few hours from where we live and we heard word, from my friend Suzette, of a Beautiful hike up there. It does take a full tank of gas to get there, so we don't get to go very often, but we have been able to go twice in the past year and we make sure to savor every moment.

We figured we would go for the hike and stay for he lights. (Gatlinburg really does up the lights for Christmas, the whole town does.) It was definitely worth the trip. And it was a nice to get away from the dreaded "2 week wait."

We started our morning on the mountain in 30 degree weather. Weather so chilly we could see our breath. But it wasn't a stinging cold, so once we bundled up, we didn't have an issue. It was actually quite cozy. I think we may begin Winter hiking. :) We had warned S it was a rigorous hike and made her promise not to complain if she wanted to go with us. She promised, but I didn't see her holding to it...However, to my surprise, she did! She is a strong. She made it all the way up, only breaking about twice. (Which we required the breaks also!) While the hike itself is only 2 miles, you gain almost 1,000 feet of elevation over the last mile. Lots of stairs and rock climbing. There was one point where we all thought we were going to pass out from lack of oxygen. But we barreled through and made it there, all the way to the top. It was good family time. We talked about the nature and the hikes we want to take next Spring, and maybe even this Winter. We talked about Christmastime. And Samantha's (Hopefully) future sibling. At the point Samantha became too enthralled with the scenery to care what we were talking about, we discussed marriage and future goals. And then some petty, lighter things like Rugers and couches and what color to paint the bathrooms next year.

Once we reached the top, the Beauty that we experienced left all 3 of us speechless. Whereas it was damp and cold at the bottom, we were now above the clouds where it was sunny and warm. The clouds surrounded us from every direction. You could hear the snow melting off the trees, quickly. And faintly, in the distance, the water rushing below. It was nice. So we sat for awhile. Until we all got so hungry that we weren't sure we would make it back to the bottom, which by the way too half as much time to get down as it did to get up.

We were able to enjoy dinner at Calhoun's, doughnuts at Krispy Kreme-which by the way, I have the sweetest Husband ever. He surprised me with doughnuts because he knows how much that KK means to me. Every time we talk about Gatlinburg, I can remember when my parent would take my brother and I to see lights at Christmastime and we would stop to buy doughnuts. The tiny shack of a building hasn't changed a bit. Afterward, we drove around to see the lights and stopped at Pigeon Island to walk around and see all the festive decorations as well as stay for the musical water and lights show.

Such simple things we did, but by far my best memories of us as a family. I am a very Blessed woman to have a family of people like them. Even if it is small, they fill me with enough happiness to last the rest of my life.