A simple family newsletter can capture so many parts of your lives. It’s something you can create just for your own family to enjoy or for sharing with extended family and friends. You can work on it alone or with the whole family. You can make it really simple so it’s a fun project for now as well as for the future. It’s a fun way to remember the details of our unschooling lives.
How I started our family newsletters
Early on, similar to a personal journal, I started typing up little daily anecdotes about our lives that I wanted to remember. I did this whenever I felt like it, or whenever there was something fun to write down. I wrote lists of our favorite activities, games, and books. I wrote down cute and memorable quotes of things Ben said when he was little. I did this just for myself, as a mom, so I could look back on these sweet memories at some later date.
Then, after a year or so of keeping these notes for myself, someone showed me a simple newsletter template I could use to make my little typed notes look all pretty. That seemed fun, so I tried it. I was hooked. I started creating newsletters for our family every month to keep track of all the wonderful experiences we were enjoying together. At first, I never considered sharing these with anyone else. Then it occurred to me that Ben’s grandparents might like to read about our adventures, too. It was a simple way to keep them in the loop and answer the question: “What do you do all day?”
A few things you might want to include:
- family, friends, projects, and events
- special or ordinary activities, either at home or in the community
- classes, workshops, park days, family events
- favorite games, books, films, TV shows
- excursions or travel of any kind
Short descriptions or examples of:
- conversations, big and small
- new words, expressions, and expanding vocabulary
- mathematical thinking
- scientific reasoning
- historical connections
- artistic expressions
- poetry, stories, or any other type of writing
I think it’s important to keep it simple and easy to keep up with, and remember to add your own personal touches that make it relevant for your family. I loved using short lists and photos to give examples of what our days looked like and the adventures we enjoyed each month or season. Every now and then, I’d write brief descriptions of things we would do together, something important or meaningful for that time period. I think if I had tried to do that too often, though, I wouldn’t have had time to do it.
Some months I would write just one page, other months three or four. Some years it was easier to just write about things seasonally, with everything collected in one newsletter every few months. This made a lot of sense for us since our activities varied from season to season; autumn activities were often different from winter, spring and summer activities, and the months all blended together.
If you categorize things using non-school terms, you’ll start to notice how everything overlaps and learning doesn’t need to be separated into individual subjects. Doing it this way also helps you focus on your child instead of some arbitrary set of subjects. It allows you to focus on what your child IS doing and learning instead of what he might not be doing or learning during a given period of time. If you separate everything by school subjects, you’ll often feel compelled to fill in the gaps and subtly pressure yourself and your child to do more of this or that instead of helping him pursue his passions.
As I look back at our family newsletters, I can see how I sometimes separated things by subjects, and sometimes I didn’t. There were times when I felt it might be helpful to account for a variety of subjects, both for myself or as a type of record keeping to help with annual assessments. I think it’s more interesting reading when everything is overlapping, and now I wish I had always blended everything together to show the beauty and spontaneity of natural learning.
I’ve included a couple examples of our newsletters so you can get a sense of what they looked like. They’re listed according to month or season as well as by Ben’s age. Our newsletters, quite appropriately, were titled, Benjamin’s News, and then later, Ben’s News. Enjoy!