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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......

Friday, January 27, 2006

Experiment days

Sierra asked me last week, about what food dye would do if dropped into salted water vs. tap water. I told her we could go pick up some supplies and find out, and she might want to play with hot vs. cold too.
Our trip to Ingles yielded two tubs of salt, a package of food dye and some cheap shaving cream for her "experiments", plus a container of cream, to be shaken into butter. She'd been curious about how cream becomes butter and wanted to make some. She and Jalen spent hours playing with glasses of dyed water (who needs a color wheel?), colorful shaving cream and dipping napkins into the dye for a colorful tie-dyed effect. The shaving cream ended up in the tub at some point, and decorated both walls and children. Talk about a CLEAN smell in the bathroom!

They decided our home-shaken butter was delicious and ate it on home-baked bread which Jalen kept sniffing and saying "it smells awesome". One of the best bread days, was after we hauled the bikes, scooters and roller blades up the street to a culd-de-sac for some safe outdoor recreation. It ended up being more windy and cold than we expected (our house is protected) and went home after just a couple of loops around. After being out in the biting wind, the house smelled SO warm and inviting. Nothing like fresh baked bread to scent your home with! They love it so much I've been instructed to bake some every day. Thank goodness for bread machines.

Markus is busy trying to find a broker to work for locally, after passing his real estate exam on Monday. One more 30 hour course and getting hired will provide him with the state license.
Hopefully he'll be faster than most at selling some homes. A Real Estate career takes time to get established , I'm a little bit nervous at this point.

Monday, January 23, 2006


I figured if I want to attract unschoolers to this region, I better start posting about what is available here and sharing photos.

To the left is a shot of downtown Jonesborough at dusk. Main street has an eclectic array of quaint shops, a few nooks for eating and the famous National Storytelling Center.

Above and to the left is a church steeple up off of main street. I thought the clouds and light were dramatic that evening.

Directly above is the view from our front yard. There is usually a herd of cattle, but they've apparently been moved for the winter, since we haven't seen them for a couple of months.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


This Hathor comic so perfectly demonstrates what many of our days have looked like, I love it! Hathor the Cow Goddess

It's hard to explain to outsiders, how our children play, enjoy life with their families and LEARN all the time. When others are schlepping their kids to school, worrying about homework and grades and checking off the boxes, we're ignoring the "necessity" of school and simply living life.
It must confound people that don't understand.

Here's one of the best summaries of why schooling does not work: The New Theory of Learning
Unschooling simply makes sense!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Buffalo Mountain

We went in search of a park today, and found a hike instead. It started out innocently enough, Jalen and Sierra wanting to get outside, and ended up with us trying to get back to the van before dark!!
Winding our way up the side of a hill, following "Buffalo mountain park" signs, landed us out in the woods where we spotted a little turn out and trail heads. After parking the van, we headed up the damp, leaf-covered trail, finding a lovely outlook after walking only a short distance. Johnson City was spread out before us, hills all around, a fabulous view. Jalen kept saying "this is awesome!"

Well, we thought a loop around would be better than just going straight back down, but that little loop turned into a hike up over the top of the mountain, where two hours later we were beginning to think we'd never get back to where we started! yikes.

I was starting to figure out where we'd sleep if I had to make a small lean-to. Not fun.
Just about the time Jalen had said "I HATE hiking" for the hundredth time, we got back to the trail head and saw our van. Phew. Overnight spontaneous camp out aborted!

They were tired, but proud that they'd climbed up over that hill we'd driven past so many times. It was a beautiful hike, next time we'll start earlier in the day. I was pretty annoyed with myself, acting like some yahoo from Florida, rather than the saavy NW hiker I used to be. Sheesh.

After arriving home, we got a phone call from Mary letting us know that she was bringing John back for the weekend (from his Dads house) and could they stop by. Of COURSE! The boys were excited that one of their favorite people in the world was coming over. He's spending the night and they're off in Jared's room discussing game strategy and all sorts of things over my head. They keep hoping he'll be back here permanently, so they can hang out with him as often as we did in Pensacola.

Time to go rest some tired legs...and maybe look up some new trails to explore.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


We awoke to white ground and small flakes blowing about. It didn't matter that there was only two inches (if that), it didn't matter that dirt and weeds were poking through the thin blanket of snow....all that mattered is it SNOWED! Sierra was the first to test out a sled this morning.
I was teasing her and saying "it will be fun to watch you just sitting on that sled" thinking it couldn't possibly slide very well. Next thing I know, she's flying past the window, whooping it up!

She ran inside elated and found Jared getting ready. Jalen heard the commotion and woke up, grinning when he saw white outside. They've been in and out of the house all day. Sledding, building a snow man and having some snow/mud fights.

Markus and I ran some errands and left Jared in charge while Trevor slept. We came home to them flinging snow at each other in the front yard, attacking the van with snowballs as we pulled in with groceries. All of their faces were beet red with huge smiles. They helped with the groceries, warmed up and headed back out. I think the only time they came in while we were gone was to eat some Cream of Wheat that Jared cooked. Jalen gave up a few minutes ago and came in to watch television.

"You like that snow, don't you?" I asked as we pulled off wet shoes and socks (for what seemed like the tenth time). "Yeeeaaaaah" he says slowly with a smile. From beach to mountains, what a change. I think I'm the only one missing the beach right now. If only I could have both within a close proximity!

We finished off the outdoor time with snow ice cream...the kids thought it was awesome and kept sending me out for more clean snow. Too fun!

Snow Ice Cream:

Fresh, clean snow (of course!)
vanilla (or experiment with other extracts)
1/2 and 1/2

Mix to taste and enjoy!! Yum.....

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dying Trees

I don't consider myself all that New Age or anything, being the skeptic that I am, but I do love nature and feel strongly about protecting it. A friend emailed me a short video today, that had me crying and wondering about my connection to nature, since I feel so incredibly emotional when trees die.
The video depicts a construction site in England, where they are removing huge, old oaks to make a road. I don't know if it was the sight of huge, beautiful trees being felled, trees that were probably worshipped by Druids, or the horses that seemed to mourn their loss that touched me the deepest. I guess I'm a tree hugger after all. I keep thinking about all the studies on plant and tree communication, and it seemed these trees were screaming while the humans stood by oblivious.
I've been trying to save a few trees in my backyard....they're not that big, but there aren't that many trees on our property (thanks to modern building practices) and I am picturing my Zen garden nestled in a stand of about 5 trees. Vines have all but choked them, so I battled the vines, not sure who won yet. I have scrapes and bruises for my struggle, but I think the trees will survive. I just hope they know I'm killing the vines for a good reason...:)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Running away

Well, it finally happened. I had a child run away. After saying there just wouldn't be any reason for a radically unschooled child to run away...it happened.
Sierra packed her bags yesterday morning, took some food and ran away....to the van.:)
I was watching the whole process with interest. She informed me "I'm leaving now" and with her little brother in tow, left the house. I wasn't sure what it was all about, since nothing had happened to anger her that I knew of, but I simply smiled and asked her to call often.

Apparently it was just the idea of trying something new, maybe prompted by a television show. I guess the whole idea is intriguing to her, since she's never had a reason to run away!
Jalen and Sierra set up camp in the van, running into the house every so often for food or bathroom breaks. They spent almost the entire day out there, inviting me to see new things they'd set up, even promising to sleep out there (yeah right!).

I asked her about it later, if she was upset when she informed me she was running away. She giggled and said "No, I just wanted to try it."

It was like camping she said, and they vow to do it again soon. I really think we need to build a playhouse or fort! My deprived children have to use the van for a fort. Too funny.

Later, they took the sled in the tub during bathtime, to see if it would float. After Jalen got out, it did indeed float with Sierra on it. She had about 1/4 inch of clearance on either side!

Markus brought home some rocks for my Zen Garden and pond areas, and today on a walk we noticed more good specimens in a neighbors yard. We saw someone outside and asked about taking them, he agreed readily. We hauled two loads home before he could change his mind. Jared and Sierra helped me load them up, checking out all sorts of interesting bugs, (including one huge spider ) that we turned up with each rock.

As I hauled rocks and cut vines out of trees, they "surfed" the back hill on Tonka trucks. It made a decent substitute for sledding...

Tonight, Sierra tested out the sled on our stairs. It went flying into the laundry room loudly, but didn't toss her off. I think we need some deep snow soon, or my kids are going to kill themselves finding alternatives to sledding.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Typical day....

I'm sitting here exhausted, not sure why I can't seem to just lay down and SLEEP. But sleep won't come if there's something rattling around in my brain that wants to be written down, so here I am.
Spent today at the museum again, this time Jared joined in the fun too. Ate lunch at Barbaritos after, where Jalen was much too loud (as usual) and inquisitive (as usual) while moving constantly (as usual).
They spent most of their time at the museum in the art studio, where we met an unusually free spirited young person in charge of the studio. She read us a lovely quote about people freely expressing themselves in a unique way and the importance of that. I ended up giving her our family's website and telling her about unschooling. Not something I tell the average person...some people just have that special sparkle in the eye and attitude though.:)

We came home with an odd menagerie of popsicle stick puppets, who had interesting conversations tonight. Baked some cinnamon chip cookies at Jared's request and played an interesting game of shoot-the-rubber-bands-at-the-target-on-the-wall. Interesting, because Sierra was full of ideas for rules and points, but on the edge of meltdowns every time we didn't do it the way she wanted.
After a few quiet talks and some frustration, we leveled out enough to play a round before reading some stories and calling it a day. The targets hang on the wall, waiting for tomorrows shots.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A New Year

~2006. It sounds so futuristic to my raised-in-the-seventies mind, but here it is, like a stray dog that won't go home, but doesn't really belong.
I don't like resolutions, but I do like reflection...after all, if there is something in your life that shouldn't be there--why wait for a New Year to stop? And if something is worth doing, isn't it worth doing today? I think resolutions are mostly a set-up for failure producing more negative self-images, unfulfilled dreams and self-inflicted suffering. Maybe not.

Rather than set up some list of goals that may or may not happen, I prefer to simply make each day a glorious day, make better choices in each moment.

It's a New Year. A year for hope and joy, fulfillment and trials. Another year sifting through the annals of time has come to pass. Maybe this whole calender thing is a bit melodramatic, after all, the sun rose and set today just like any other day. I don't think the birds at my feeder care that we call this day 2006 instead of 2005. They're just getting seed, like they always do. Not a bad way to live really.

But because I'm human and I live in a country that uses the Gregorian calender, we call this the first day of the New Year. Because I've spent 36 years of a lifetime celebrating our calender's New Year I tend to reflect on what it all means and what I want for the coming year.

I want to travel to new places. I want to eat delicious food and drink good wine. I want to learn new things every day, veiw nature's beauty and see the wonder in every detail. I want to let joy wash over me, taking pleasure in each new day (because heck, I'm not six feet under pushing daisies yet!). I want to capture that lovely shine in my children's eyes, dance with them and connect with all my loved ones more deeply. I want to grow, reaching out to the world and my fellow travelers in this awesome journey called life. I want to find that still pool within my soul and dwell there even in the chaotic moments. I want to play music, hear music and listen closely to nature's music. I want to grow plants in my yard, feeling sun on my back, climb trees and meditate by a pond. I want to laugh often, love deeply, fear less, be silly more and share my gifts with the world.

All these things I want, are what I want for every day and I'm really glad I need no resolution to reach for that which is within me. I am living exactly the live of my choosing, I am where I'm meant to be and all is well.

As I grow and learn and develop as a human being this coming year, my truth can continue to reflect what really matters. Life is but a moment. A pause to the universes eternal march, a whisper of ethereal smoke across the vast deep.

Relationships, love, peace, joy---these are the eternal truths that can be mine each day. A life of passion, a life lived for this very moment, can claim these truths. I wish this for everyone.