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Learning in Freedom

Welcome to Learning in Freedom, a blog all about the learning adventures (and mishaps) of the Allen family. My four children are unschooled, following their interests and passions every day and living the lives of their choosing. The purpose of this blog is to share our every day lives (and my not-so-humble opinons) with anyone interested in stopping by. We hope this will give a glimpse of how natural learning unfolds from day to day......

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


This is something I wrote about a year ago. Wasn't sure I wanted to publish it anywhere, as it was an emotional piece of writing. After the challenges of tonight, I think it's a good reminder for me and something I want to read regularly. We all need to remember how precious our time is, and how lucky we are to spend time with loved ones:


Tonight you cut milkshakes out of an ad, while I read online.
They became a smoothie shop upon the top of my doumbek, silenced by your imagination.
You called, I typed. You called again "Mom, order a smoothie."
I sighed and bade your command.

Watermelon it was. All swirly and pink with a cherry on top,
in an environmentally unsound plastic blue cup.
A swirly, pink former-ad; two dimensional and very real to you.
I typed more, you sold me smoothies over and over.

I should have stopped typing. I should have drank in every detail,
for that very moment will never exist again. I should have ordered
more smoothies and laughed more and kissed that sweet cheek
a few more times.

You sleep, gently breathing in dreams and stardust,
your head rolled wearily to the side in utter abandon.
One hand lies upon the nightgown of your Grandmother,
now gone two years. The very nightgown she took to the
hospital from which she would not return.

My sweet starchild, who sang to that Grandmother
while she battled her illness, my starchild who listened
to Grandma's stories, rubbed her feet and tucked her in
each night, is now comforted by that article of clothing
that still carries her energy.

Blue-green silk swathing your cheek, a bittersweet reminder
of the journey we all must take. You see things I can't see,
you dream of things I can't touch. The very heavens seem
to swirl through your breathe and angels bend to kiss your sleeping brow.

I held the keys to life within my womb, you grew and took the secrets with you
out into the world. Such sweet agony to birth perfection
and know that death will claim you too.

I must remember each day that drinking paper smoothies
is more important than we can ever imagine,
that every moment gifted is more precious than we know.
My perfect children, my sweet starchild, you remind me to truly live.


What is it about rats in this house? We've got one up in the ceiling and it makes scrabbling sounds at night. Not worth mentioning normally, except that Jalen has this thing about our pet rat Aku, and somehow, it seems rats are the theme for tonight.
He likes to play with his little friend and takes her out of the cage, usually to forget about her after a while, leaving her on the couch or on Sierra's bed. Left to herself, she will seek the fluffiest area available, which happens to be a pile of clean laundry that is a permanent fixture on my couch. There's something ironic and humbling about pulling clean laundry off of your couch, searching for a rat, while another one makes scuffling sounds in the ceiling overhead.
One begins to question sanity at that point, especially considering how frantically I'll search for Aku to make sure she's ok, while plotting devious ways to dispose of her wild counterpart.

Tonight was an opportunity to test my ability for calm, I failed miserably.
First, I found out Sierra had taken some blankets, her sleeping bag and a pillow over to the neighbors house and left them outside. Not only had they gotten completely soaked and muddy, but the kids had been spray painting "things" for their fort and the overspray was on everything! Major ARGH. She didn't tell me about it either, so it was worse. Maybe that crazed look in my eyes and the "WHAT?" coming out at 90 decibels had something to do with her reluctance to clue me in. Sigh.
We traipsed over to their house to retrieve said items, the sleeping bag and one blanket went into the garbage. I suppose it might have been easier to let it all go, but one of the blankets was a quilt my Mom had purchased for Sierra when we (the kids and I) moved into this house. She was three at the time. Thankfully, it wasn't the one I had to throw out.
I'm a bit sensitive right now also, seeing as Mom died three years ago last week. It hit me harder than I thought it would. So the blanket wasn't just about possibly losing something...it was about possessions being tied to loved ones, those we don't want to let go of, but must one day. It was about my issues with clinging to material things as though they represent a loved one, knowing logically they don't, except to our very human selves. Love is immortal. Mud and damp and paint can't change that. Sometimes it's harder to let go than I'd like, it's really just stuff.
To top it off, Jalen opened mail that was not ours and managed to lose it...gawd, my day was all about lost STUFF. I'm sure there's some message here for me. I was a grumpy Mom tonight and I said some not-so-nice stuff. Kissing some sleeping babes made me feel a bit better, hopefully they got the message of love into their subconscious, because I certainly wasn't doing a good job of exuding it tonight.

The fun parts....
Took Jalen with me to price ceramics supplies for an upcoming class I'll be doing. We stopped at "Educare" on the way home, a small bakery where they grind your grains while you wait. They were finishing up a Spiderman cake as we were checking out. Jalen was intensely excited about it of course. I promised to order one for next week.
Sierra and Jared wanted to stay home. They've been in the woods for days now, working on their "forts". I'm not sure how they do it, most of that area is so swampy and muddy! I have kids streaked with mud coming and going all day lately, big smiles and cries of "come see what we did now".
I remember that magic. Encouraged by their outdoor creations, I researched some of the "discovery gardens" across the country for new ideas. These were the inspiration for my Mom's idea of a "story garden" at the Noel Wein library in Fairbanks. I have yet to see any pictures of it, but the Cheryl Bidwell story garden became a reality after her death.
I plan to make that area by the pond as magical as I can for them! Hiding spots, special trees for sitting under, fairy houses and stepping stones to begin with.

I picked up a book about Leonardo da Vinci at the bookstore tonight (before all the mayhem) while Markus was playing monopoly with the boys. Jared was devouring it when I got back, sparked by our recent viewing of "Cracking the Da Vinci Code". He recognized several paintings that were discussed in the film. We had a great talk about how some of their conclusions seem far fetched and others offered a lot to ponder. The part that fascinated both Trevor and Jared the most, were his drawings of contraptions and potential inventions. Some of these have been made into models that are in museums today..the big question for Jared was "did it really work?" One of the models put hydraulics to use. I mentioned how advanced that type of thinking was for the 1400's and Trevor pipes in "yeah, but over in China they'd been using forms of hydraulics since BC times!" He described an ancient form of hydraulics involving a spiral design. Where does he learn this stuff anyway?

I really have to laugh when uninformed people ask me how I think I'm qualified to teach my children. I DON'T teach them, they teach ME!!!
When it gets right down to it, thank goodness their learning doesn't consist of what I know, but rather what they want to know. I just try to bring the whole wide world to them (as much as humanly possible in one little corner of the world) and they sort through and find what sparks their interest. When they have so many options, how could I possibly be their teacher? I'm not. I'm their chauffeur, their guide, their looker-upper, their secretary...but their teacher I am not. We all learn from each other, we all are deeply influenced by each other. Children especially learn much from their parents, but I don't actively try to put information into them. They get that from life. It's beautiful. I just wish more people could hear these children spouting off facts about various bits of history, places, cultures and politics before they judged whether unschooling "works" or not!
Passing some silly test designed to only gauge specific (and often useless) bits of knowledge seems so trivial when compared to the vast amounts of interesting, real life knowledge kids will naturally pick up when allowed to explore the world in their own way with people of all ages.

Tomorrow is Sierra's first theatre class, since she missed last week due to being a bit under the weather. Jalen has been hinting (ok demanding) that we visit the beach so maybe it's time to swirl some sand and ocean into our day. He pulled out a beach umbrella and opened it up saying "we go to the beach Mom and take our umbwella."
He's been saying the most hilarious things lately, must be the four year old coming out. :)
Something spilled on his hand yesterday. He indignantly tells me "It SPILLED on my little hand!!"
He tells me about ghosts he sees, tonight it was a "bunny ghost" that went up our fireplace. With the way all of our cars keep breaking down, I'm beginning to wonder about his "ghosts"!

Trevor informed me that he's bored with everything he's doing lately, so we need to brainstorm some new activities. He doesn't have as much time, now that he's working. I think he needs a new challenge about now. He's made more money than he's ever had in his life, he's mastered quite a few interests (at least enough to satisfy him for now) and all of his siblings are at totally different development stages....I can understand why he's feeling a bit restless.
Building forts in the woods doesn't hold as much allure as before.
Whenever I've tried to help him through "stuck" places in the past, he's not liked any of the options, but it always got him out of the stuck place. It's like having someone to bounce ideas back and forth gets him sparked and he's off in a new direction again. It's not the ideas he needs so much, as it is support. Whatever unfolds, I have no doubt he'll be learning new and useful things for his life's journey and making the connections he needs.

That pile of laundry is trying to guilt me into folding it...I can just feel it. I'd rather go work on my mandala. Oh well.
Goodnight sweet children, goodnight dirty and clean laundry, goodnight dishes, goodnight dust, goodnight rats. Oh, and goodnight moon. I bless each and every bit of dirt, I bless those cobwebs in the corner, I bless all those stains on my refrigerator, floor and walls (which I didn't notice until my chocolate breakdown while sitting in the kitchen) I bless those sticky fingerprints covering every window and mirror in this house, I bless you all because it means I have a busy, interesting life filled with happy, healthy children.
I will continue to chant this over and over until my absolute despair over ever having a clean house subsides.....oh, and bless that sinkful of dirty dishes, because it will surely drive Markus to buying a dishwasher soon!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Jalen's fourth Birthday

Jalen's Birthday! We took him shopping this afternoon and let him pick out his own presents. Sounds strange, but he really loved doing it this way. He's watched Power Rangers, played with hot wheels tracks (thanks to Trevors set-up skills) and shot everyone with his new gun that covers his arm up to the elbow. He decorated a small ice cream cake with Kit-Kat bites, then added the candles and let us sing to him, giggling all the while. As I was leaving for work, the Armstrong's stopped by with another gift for him. I came home to a pop up tent being carried around the house and figured out what they bought. I was searching around the internet tonight to find out what was going on at Unity and Unitarian churches this Sunday, as Sharon and I plan to attend one and then go out to eat. I found a little article at the Unitarian site about the MLK parade that Trevor and Jared marched in while we shivered on the sidelines. Thought I'd save it here for the scrapbook one day:

Martin Luther King Parade Follow Up, Thanks to Many

" Thanks to all who contributed time, energy, and equipment to UUCP’s participation in the King Parade. The circle is wide. Hugh Ed Turner lugged materials down from and back up to the attic. Our friend Sheldon Seuzeneau lent the pick up truck; neighbors, Orrin and Carol Clement lent the trailer; and Cerex Company supplied extensive fabric from, free, by way of Albert Ortega, my brother-in-law. Kate Wolverton dyed the material in multiple colors, to reflect our theme, “We all help weave the human rainbow.” Ron Berthelot built a wooden framework on both truck bed and trailer, to hold the decorations on and the people safely in! Many helping hands put decorations together Sunday (and took some of it apart Monday after the parade and a shared lunch). In the parade, Jack, Steve, and Eleanor livened us up with drumming while Nathan and Ian Wolverton and their friends kept the puppets moving, all to the crowd’s delight. Although we missed some of the past MLK Parade “regulars” (out of town, no longing living here, still coping with Ivan, or otherwise unavailable), it was great to involve many newcomers. A nice mix of people walked and rode in the parade, from 20-year members to more recent members and friends, young children and teens through retirees. We are grateful to every one. UUCP was well represented and Dr. King was appropriately honored. "
By Dolly Berthelot

The Woverton's are good friends....Kate is the one that we do our tie dye with every year and Nathan plays D&D with the boys. We met them four years ago at the Harry Potter fan club that Books-A-Million sponsored. I remember liking them right away. I'm hoping my Dad gets to meet Jack on a visit one day..they both play steel drums, I think they'd enjoy each others company.
Sierra has discovered a video game that she loves. I think mostly because her and Jared enjoy playing it together. She's finally been accepted as an equal in the video gaming world in the basement. I'm seeing less of her upstairs though.

So Jalen turned four today. My little Groundhog baby is not going to be a toddler much longer...sigh. He created a lovely...hmmmm...I'm not sure what it is....a water bottle filled with an assortment of pens and crayons tonight. It's stacked artfully atop two cups. It's up there with the orange/soda bottle sculpture he kept building last week. He carried it around for a while, shaking it and showing it off to me several times before stacking it up with the cups. There it sits, a reminder of my creative, energetic boy that brings both smiles and frustration to his family.
It was a perfectly wonderful way to celebrate his day today...just doing the things he wanted to, buying the gifts he chose.
Happy Birthday little Groundhog..don't grow up too fast, I need to kiss those chubby cheeks and smell that sweet breath a bit longer.
I'm not sure I know how to let go of this stage, knowing another toddler won't be coming along to hold my cheeks with grubby hands and drape a leg over my belly at night. I think I shall miss our nighttime snuggles the very most. But Happy Birthday for now...I'll tuck this day, this very moment into my assortment of sweet memories.