.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
Unschooling Blogs
Previous | Next
Live and Learn Blogs
Join | List | Previous | Next

Visit Radical Unschooler's Network

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......

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Our little friend

Ever since moving into this house, we've had glimpses of a smallish creature that is living nearby. At first we thought it was a beaver, but no flat, wide tail. Instead, it had a flat, narrow, fur-covered tail! None of us had ever seen anything quite like it.
Everytime it wandered through the yard, one of us would yell and everyone went running to the window to check out our wee mystery.
I think it was Kelly Lovejoy that suggested it may be a woodchuck, so I got online to look at images, and there was our little friend! Yep, he/she is a woodchuck, more commonly known as a groundhog. I never would have guessed, I thought groundhogs were much smaller. Turns out, they're about the size of a largish cat. This one certainly is anyway.

I hope it comes out on Jalen's Birthday, he's often been referred to as our "little groundhog" baby due to his Feb. 2nd Birthday. Maybe we'll get lucky and shoot a pic of it one day...in the meantime I borrowed this one from the web.

They're really cool to watch, but I'm nervous about gardening and how to keep it from being desroyed. They're vegetarians, so I may have to plant a special bed of food just for Mr. Groundhog. Maybe he'll leave the cucumbers alone if I plant his favorite grasses. It'll be an interesting experiment.


How much about our friends do we really know? How much do WE keep buried, afraid to really expose ourselves? Everyone should have a few secrets, that's a given. Everyone needs a safe place to hide.
I've been thinking a lot about authenticity lately. Trying to sort out all my meandering thoughts so that I can write an article on the topic which has led to some interesting conversations. Talking helps me sort through what I am really trying to say. Markus is good at being my sounding board.
Anyway, in thinking about authenticity and how much of it is tied to societal trappings vs. being true to oneself, I started thinking about secrets. Maybe part of being authentic is trusting certain things need to stay within, that some knowledge belongs to you alone.

There is a really cool blog where people write their secrets on a postcard and mail them in; http://postsecret.blogspot.com/
I guess telling your secret anonymously feels really good because they get thousands of entries.
I read there and get chills down my spine, these secrets are so intimate and vulnerable and bold all at once. They've even bound a bunch of them into a book.

An aquaintance of mine has shared some of the really dark parts of her past with me. It makes me wonder how well I know anyone, how many of their secrets deeply affect who they are today and how much of a mask I'm seeing.
All of this has been swirling through my mind with art desires and projects waiting unfinished. Being authentic is a more complicated topic than I previously believed. Where are the delineations between other voices and your own? Does it even matter in the end?

Obviously I believe it does, or I wouldn't spend days thinking about this stuff. More on authenticity later.......I need to learn how to shut off my brain so I can sleep more. sheesh.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


These pictures were taken sometime after this next entry. It was the first snow that stuck long enough to play with for a while.

Today started out grey and cloudy, both outside and in. Jalen and Sierra were at odds all morning, pushing each other's buttons and seeming to seek out negative interactions. I worked out a compromise over computer use, got Sierra started. and took Jalen into the living room for some cuddles and Mommy time.

His entire mood shifted after some cuddles and "I love you's", and pretty soon Sierra joined us. They wanted to go for a walk. A walk? But it's COLD out there.
Alright, it really sounds pretty good to bundle up in a warm coat and go exploring....so off we go, into the monochromatic day. A breathe of the appalachian air felt so clean and crisp, I decided I really didn't miss Pensacola after all. We walked, or rather, Sierra and I walked and Jalen ran ahead. Sierra said "wouldn't it be cool if it snowed while we were walking?" Yep.

They had seen a few wispy bits come floating down earlier this morning, it disapated after a while, but not before igniting a few imaginations. I told her that would be pretty cool to have a walk in the snow.

Well, wishes must have been fishes today, because on our way back to the house, it started to SNOW. I'm thinking she might want to buy a lottery ticket this week.
At first, it came down like little bits of salt, not so dramatic. But after we got back to the house the flakes got really BIG. They got big and blowy, swirling this way and that, hitting us in the face and making them jump up and down screaming with pure joy!

Jalen picked up a leaf in the yard and carried it up to the back deck..."There's my leafy, he was losted" he exclaimed very matter-of-factly. After showing us the leaf's arms and legs and holding it for a while he said "ok, it needs to go home to it's mommy and daddy now" and releases it over the side of the deck, where it twirls about and lands next to another leaf of the same variety.

When they were sufficiently cold, it was teatime. While lining up mugs, Markus emerged from the basement and asked for a cuppa too. Jared was happily playing "Kal" online while Trevor slept soundly. At one point, I checked on Jared, who had walked away from the computer and stood at the window, watching the scene like a shaken snow globe before him. "Hey, why don't you come outside and check it out" I implored. "nah, I like watching it from here" he replied.
Smart kid.

So we get the tea going. Sierra chooses Chammomile, but isn't sure she'll like it. While I'm heating water, she tears the tag off her teabag and starts chewing it. "why are you chewing on paper?" I ask. "It's a good way to see if you like the taste of the tea Mom"
OH. Interesting new way to try a new flavor, I'll have to remember that.

Little man says "We are on the earth. Houses don't fall off the earth-they jus' stick to it."
Yep. Funny thing, that gravity.
He's been really interested in all things celestial lately. From reading the Magic School Bus, to standing at our window at night asking about all those lovely points of light (especially Mars, he loves talking about Mars) . "Nobody has been to Mars" he says. Not yet, but maybe in your lifetime Kaibo.
"Feeling alive is a weird feeling" Sierra adds. She didn't want to elaborate further, but I'm sure it would have made an interesting conversation.
She starts pulling a variety of screwdrivers out of the drawer while her and Jalen have a talk about the sizes, colors and names. Tools are always engaging.

Tea is incredibly warming after you've been in the snow. I hadn't remembered just how warming...I've spent almost 8 years in the sun. I've missed the magic of the hills.

Later, Sierra and I schlepped about picking up supplies and groceries for the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Mary, John and Molly Sither are coming over this year, I'm really glad we have someone to celebrate with.

We've been reading Roald Dahl books lately...just finished "Matilda" and now working on "The BFG". I'd forgotten just how many lovely, bizarre and unusual words he used in that one! Talk about creative language use. Sierra could NOT stop giggling over the "whizpoppers" (aka; farts) last night.

I couldn't help but think of Trevor, when he was a wee boy, saying "I know why we're called human beans Grandpa....cuz we eat BEANS" (he was eating beans at the time) when I read this part:

~'You is trying to change the subject,' the Giant said sternly. 'We is having an interesting babblement about the taste of the human bean. The human bean is not a vegetable.'
'Oh, but the bean IS a vegetable,' Sophie said.
'Not the HUMAN bean,' the Giant said. 'The human bean has two legs and a vegetable has no legs at all.'

One of my favorite lines is:
~'Dreams,' he said, 'is very mysterious things. They is floating around in the air like little wispy-misty bubbles. And all the time they is searching for sleeping people.'

'Sometimes, on a very clear night,' the BFG said, 'and if I is swiggling my ears in the right direction, if I is swiggling them like this and the night is very clear, I is sometimes hearing far away music coming from the stars in the sky.'

I still have a Roald Dahl cookbook packed away somewhere in the basement...I think it's high time I pulled it out. Some frobscottle sounds just about right (let the music begin!). Just please don't feed me any Snozzcumbers. Yuck!

Note: For you Dahl fans..I found a Frobscottle recipe a teacher posted. She took Cream soda, added green dye and bottled it with her own "made in Giant Country" labels. Fun!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Alaska '05

I just realized that I posted nothing of our trip to Alaska this summer (June), so rather than try to write about an entire month of connections, travel and fun, I'll just post a couple images.

This is a visit to Pioneer Park (formerly known as Alaskaland) where we rode the carousel and perused the very Alaskan flavored gift shops.

Heidi, Martin and I hiked the butte in Palmer...it was an incredible view from the top.

We also found our first letterbox in Palmer, but almost got eaten alive by the mosquitoes!

I finally got to visit the Cheryl Bidwell Storygarden in Fairbanks, where we enjoyed a family picnic and paid tribute to my mother's memory. The sign says; " Welcome to the Cheryl Bidwell Storygarden. This garden was the dream of Cheryl Bidwell, a librarian who believed in the magic of wonder and the power of imagination."

We also spent a week in Seattle WA and Portland OR, our old stomping grounds. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven being able to shop at Trader Joe's again! A day at Saturday's Market in Portland with some old friends was awesome. I really miss all that eclectic, artsy activity.

Throughout the trip, we saw ALL of the grandparents and great-grandparents, plus uncle Terry who came to eat dinner at Grandpa Tom and Grandma Faye's house. It was a really incredible month that way, seeing so much family that we really miss. On the down side, we all got very sick while staying with Grandma Sally in Fairbanks. It was pretty gross having several people puking at the same time. Not an experience any of us wish to repeat. Ugh.
Grandma handled everything so well...from mud fights on the river bank behind her house, to an army of puking kids and adults, she never flinched once.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Mountain view

I am surrounded by hills once again. No flat city-scape, no beaches, no more dull colored trees in the fall. I sit here typing at an open window with gold, green and red as the background wash. A neighbors cat runs across the yard in search of prey as a hawk cirlces lazily overhead. Across the street, a field of cows contentedly grazes...surrounded by hills that comfort my soul.

I feel like I've come home. This isn't a feeling I expected to have upon coming to Tennessee...but it's there all the same. The pull that I felt to this area may have some deeper meaning I haven't discovered yet. Perhaps my Cherokee roots are calling me? In spite of missing dear friends, we all feel a sense of belonging here, even the children are glad we've moved. Jonesborough is such a quaint, small town with a rich heritage of storytelling that weaves it's way through the streets, shops and people of this appalachian community.

Our visit to St. Louis was overwhelming, exhausting and awesome! I left with a greater appreciation for the creative, mindful people that seek out this unschooling lifestyle and many new connections and learning experiences. I'm so grateful that Kelly and Ben Lovejoy are willing to put so much energy and time into this event year after year, it's been a lifechanging event for so many of us. As a speaker this year, I saw the entire thing from a slightly different angle. It was a most rewarding and empowering experience...one I hope to repeat in Albuquerque next year. The Live and Learn conference is not to be missed!!

One of my talks was with Sandra Dodd, someone I've admired for her clear thinking and direct words. Her book "Moving a Puddle" was finally available for the first time at the conference.

I wish I could capture all the poignant moments, all the personal connections and sweet memories...but it's just not possible. Not with a camera, not with words, it simply has to live in your heart. Some of the friendships my kids have made will be for life I'm fairly sure. Trevor has spent most of his days online since we moved here, wishing for the friends he left in Pensacola and the ones he met at the conference. I'm really glad technology can give him a link to their world each day. Jared's feeling a bit left out, since he doesn't have a computer right now.
Sierra and I learned how to weave on a round loom from Rue and Dagny Kream, and now have many hats and other oddities to show for it. We've had a ball selecting various yarns and experimenting with combinations. Speaking of Rue, she also has a book available now. "Parenting a Free Child" is a sweet and gentle source of information and inspiration.

Another activity we enjoyed more than we ever expected, was the ATC trade. It was fabulous to sit and create these miniature works of art, amidst the chaos of packing and moving, but the trading was even better. Getting to see and share with other people is a huge part of the fun of Art Trading Cards . We're now planning a mail trade with my Imagination Tribe email list. I can't wait to see all the cool art creations. Sierra loves sorting and looking at her small collection frequently.

My sister Heidi, has some fabulous pics of the conference here: 5 Free Birds

A really incredible woman named Pegge, has some at her site: Free Range Family
After visiting the City Museum in St. Louis, she said it looked like it was designed "by a psychopath on crack." It's a very accurate description! I needed a week to explore the whole thing. My kids were enchanted and did NOT want to leave even though we were ready to pass out from exhaustion.
It was really hard to get decent photos of it though, since there was SO much to take in. The best photos I've ever seen are here: Photo Gallery
They really show a lot of the artsy elements and amazing, climbable sculptures.

My good friend LeaAnn got some shots here: Kodak Gallery
including a couple of my white, aqua and black hair. I've gone to white and purple recently. No photos of that yet.:)

A cache of conference photos, plus information about the Albuquerque event next year can be found at Sandra's site : Sandradodd.com

Amy wrote a great article, titled; "Slaying the Monsters", about the whole experience, and about venturing away from the methods our own parents use.

Something a lot of us notice at the conference is the layers of growth that happen, not only for the adults, but the children. Many of these kids have no other unschoolers in their area. The lucky ones have a handful of families that understand and embrace this lifestyle. At the conference, they are surrounded by respectful, mindful adults that honor them for who they are. It's a safe feeling, being surrounded by your tribe, and in that safe environment, they can express themselves in a whole new way. It's one thing to have your own family honor you for exactly who you are today...it's a whole different thing to have hundreds of peopled that "get it".

We're especially fortunate. Not only did we have several good friends from Pensacola attend, we also had family! Heidi and Martin live the freedom of natural learning and managed to make the conference this year, PLUS my Dad and stepmom showed their support by making it there over the weekend. We had a great time hanging out with them in the short time we had. I also got to meet my stepbro Kenny and his girlfriend Sherry. Great people!! I wish they all lived closer.

While I was traipsing around, collecting fine memories and having fun, Markus was back home doing all the grungy work of buying and selling houses. I'm eternally grateful for the support of a partner that understands the value of these experiences for his children, and wants to see me follow my own dreams. He's a rare breed and a truly incredible spirit...I appreciate him more every day.

My wee, little man made a great friend at the conference; Holly Dodd. She understands him and speaks his language.:) I think he'd follow her just about anywhere at this point. How many teens will roll on the floor and talk silly with a four year old? When he woke up on Sunday morning, the first question out of his mouth was "where's my fwiend Mom?"

Through all the new friendships, connections and learning moments, we left feeling so enriched and thankful. I'm not sure how we're going to make Albuquerque, but I know we have to figure out a way, it's just too good to miss!