Unschooling Mythology

Many people over the years have asked me about unschooling. How does it work? What does it look like in every day life? How will your kids experience a breadth of learning? etc. It is sometimes difficult to answer these questions, due to preconceived notions of education (mine and others!) and because each of us bring our own lenses to every experience. Sometimes, though, there are amazingly easy examples to point to.

Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 2.38.51 PM

Today, we were driving to Boston and both the girls pointed to this logo on the back of a shipping container. “Hippocamps!” they yelled! Having never heard that word, I asked them what they were referring to and they enlightened me on all things Hippocampoi. Where did this knowledge of Greek Mythology come from?

To answer that, we must back up to earlier this summer. We had visited the Little Free Library near my parents house looking for kids books. The only one in the collection at the time was “Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan. I showed it to Catherine who promptly told me, “I will NEVER read that book. Don’t even try.” Dejected, I almost put it back, but I have heard great things about the Percy Jackson books and thought she’d like it. No more was said on the topic, but later that day I tossed it on her bed while I was cleaning out our beach bag.

The next morning, she came to me with bleary eyes. “Mama,” she said hesitantly. “I have finished this book [Lightning Thief]…and here at the back it says that it is part of a series. Do you think the library has book two?” I have no idea how late she stayed up reading that night, but I was definitely game for a trip to the library. We picked up books two and three and she devoured them. I also grabbed a couple of books on the Greek Gods and mythology to have on hand when questions arose.

And questions did arise. From Catherine, but now also from Esme, who was latching onto every word from her sister and poring through the nonfiction books. While Catherine kept requesting the next (and the next) Percy Jackson books, Esme found the series of “Goddess Girls” books and dove into them.

Since then, we’ve been noticing references to Greek (and Roman) mythology all over the place. They point it out in non-related books, movies and art have new meaning to them and E and I have done some indepth research on ancient Greek clothing. Peter has introduced them to “The Planets” By Gustav Holst and they’ve discussed how the music relates to the planets and to their corresponding deity. We’ve talked genealogy and family relationships and myth as a genre. They’ve picked out references in some of the minecraft youtube videos they watch and have used the gods and goddesses as characters in their pretend play.

And today we saw a Hippocamps on the back of a truck in traffic and I learned something new. In August, Esme suggested the idea that “this is the summer of Greek Mythology” and I had to agree. More traditional educators might call this a unit study, but for us is is all part of the rhythm of our lives together. One person’s interests inspiring and driving another’s. Our conversations weaving in and out of different topics and building on interests and themes that we’ve loved before. The love of Greek mythology will likely wane, but I know this summer of the gods will be referenced many many times going forward.


With the end of Downton Abbey upon us here in the States many of us may find ourselves with a Sunday evening television void. I’ve compiled a list of somewhat similar movies, series and mini serieses that those who loved Downton might also enjoy. Several of these can be found on Netflix, but if you don’t see them there, check the dvd selection at your local library!

This is certainly not an exclusive list of interesting shows, but they are all mostly similar to Downton in style and period. I have come back to many of these time and time again and I hope others enjoy them as much as I do! (I haven’t provided any links to the shows, as many of the sites contain spoilers- and I would never do that to you!)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Gosford Park– Written by Downton’s creator, Julian Fellowes. It is very similar to Downton in that it deals with the changing times and the Upstairs/Downstairs interactions. This is a feature film with lots of familiar faces and follows a Murder Mystery Weekend format (like Clue).

Lark Rise to Candleford– Beautifully set and filmed series based on a series of novels. Main themes are the push and pull of country vs. town life in a changing era (the onset of the industrial revolution) and the coming of age of a young woman. You’ll love Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) in his sweet and paternal role. Fairly light and has a number of quirky characters.

North & South– Dark, romantic mini series set in a 19th century mill city. You’ll see Mr Bates again in this one, as a rabble rousing union leader, but the main story plays out more in the vein of Pride and Prejudice. Wonderful costumes and withering glances own the day, with a respectable pinch of illness and death. Perfect for a rainy weekend!

Cranford– While based on stories by the same author as North & South, Cranford has a much lighter tone. It follows the stories and interactions of the residents of Cranford. The entire cast is fantastic- look out for Dame Judy Dench, Jim Carter among many other notable actors.

Bleak House (2005)- Long, meaty mini series based on Dicken’s novel of the same name. It is as complicated as it is dark and it’s characters as ridiculously named as you would expect from Dickens. You may want a cheat sheet to keep track of the hundreds of main players, but the effort will be worth it!

Little Dorrit– Another complex Dickens story, this one however, takes a brief holiday in nineteenth century Venice. Debtor’s prison, family secrets, misunderstandings and the flux between poverty and riches keep the story moving along, with a bit of both requited and unrequited love. Of particular note is the visually perfect and mentally infuriating scene in the Circumlocution Office.

Death Comes to Pemberley– If you liked Pride and Prejudice you should love this. Haunting and beautiful, I appreciate the way the characters stay so perfectly in character, despite being penned by a modern author. And as someone who has always loved Lizzie Bennet it is so wonderful to see her grow from an awesome young adult into a confident wife and mother and detective.

The Forsyte Saga– Follow the Forsyte family through several generations of exile, betrayal, love, murder and other intrigue as they negotiate the changing times between the 1870s and the 1920s. Not for the kiddies or the faint of heart, but deep and complex and beautiful. And a nice treat for any other Detective Lestrade fans out there.

When Calls the Heart– This is Canadian, but don’t count it out! It’s a clean cut pioneer story of a wealthy city girl gone to find herself teaching in a wilderness town. The episode plots lean a little towards the saccharine, but they’re a pleasant way to pass the time.

Selfridges– I like to think that maybe Lady Mary (but more likely Lady Sybil) might have popped in for a stroll around the shop while spending the Season in London. In any case, the newest season is coming back to PBS at the end of the month, so it’s a great time to catch up on DVD if you haven’t seen this, based on real life- ish, department store drama.

Murdoch Mysteries– Another, mostly family friendly, Canadian show. Set at the turn of the 20th century, the costumes, sets and storylines are perfectly period in this police, murder mystery series. It took me a few episodes to acclimate to the squeaky clean persona of Murdoch, but I have grown to love him and his Newfie sidekick, Crabtree.

Miss Fisher’s Detective Agency– Fascinating, upbeat murder mystery series straight from 1920s Australia. Amazing costumes, interesting characters and a strong confident female lead. I can’t seem to get enough of Phryne Fisher!

Christmas Eve

Only second to Easter Sunday, there’s no church service that I enjoy more than Christmas Eve.

“What can I give Him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb, If I were a wise man I would do my part, Yet what I can I give Him, Give my heart.”