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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......

Sunday, April 30, 2006

"But how will they learn.....

....how to read? " Funny how people worry about children learning the "basics" like reading, writing and math if they're unschooled, when it's all around us in society. How can they NOT learn it? I adore this photo of Jalen, happily exploring his A,B,C soup and trying to make sense of the letters therein.

Everytime I look at this I smile. A bowl of alphabet soup, a curious boy and some free time and VOILA! Another moment of many that will help him decipher the English language. He'll learn it in his own time and way, he'll learn it because he's curious and it's meaningful for his life, he'll learn it because it's in soup and on signs and in books and on computers....
He'll learn because he's a human being designed to do just that.
He'll learn, just as we all do.

That day, it was soup. Tomorrow it might be mud or insects or plants or video games or paint or ice or??? What matters is he owned the experience, he enjoyed himself and best of all, I got a photo of the moment!!:)

Work days

This is where I spend my work days, putting makeup on people and advising them about skincare. Lancome is definitely a world away from MAC....I look forward to the day I can get back to focusing on artistry.

Sierra wasn't feeling well yesterday. Medicine kept her perked up until after we shopped for several outfits and shoes, but going out to eat sounded overwhelming to her so we headed back home.
Stopped at Stanley's produce on the way home. It's a MOST amazing place with home canned goods, bulk dry goods and fresh local produce everywhere. It's on my list of favorite places now.:) It's family run, just my kinda store.

Built a few garden beds last night as the wind picked up. The starts Mary gave me are crying for more soil, need to hurry up and get them in the beds. I'll try to get pics up soon.....they're not fancy but anything with soil and plants looks great to me!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Silence after the whirlwind

It's been a strangely quiet couple of days. LeaAnn's family and the Snavleys all left the same day, with my kids crying and theirs not much happier about the parting. During their visit we did a Ghostwalk in downtown Erwin, which was a lifechanging experience. Being led around town late at night by lantern is quite unique. That's all I'll say about it for now, my skeptics mind is still trying to process everything we've seen and felt this week.:)
It was great fun and the boys are signed up for the official class in May.
They all enjoyed it so much that Aaron/Brandon (LeaAnn's boys) and Heidi/Martin/Kevin are all stopping back for the brief weekend to take the class also. I haven't seen my guys this excited about anything since W.O.W.

Sierra is 9 years old today. We already had a small family party for her, but today we're taking her shopping and out to lunch. She's digging through my closet trying to find a special shirt to wear....makeup and hair are next on the agenda.

Monday, April 24, 2006

LeaAnn is here!!

And Brandon and Tori and Aaron.......:)

My kids are SO happy. We had a busy first day, visiting Bays Mountain (Tori was enamored with the wolves, as we knew she would be) getting lost and then going to dinner at a friends house. Crazy and busy for a first day.....and this morning is Park Day with our local homeschool group so hopefully we aren't going to burn them out.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Writing 4 sanity

I write in a corner of "Cow and Coffee" these days, on my lunch break. I write while standing at the Lancome counter about things that irritate me (breast augmentation, circumcision and school talk today). I write ideas, bands to look up and try to add ideas for articles and stories.

Then I talk about skin care and makeup, maybe do a makeover and then some cleaning. But there's always the writing to keep me sane. I decided that if I didn't start taking a notebook with me I was going to go completely over the edge. That .97 notepad is my best friend right now.

LeaAnn and family got up here today. The kids were already pretty loud and exciteable today, it has now become total cacaphony and mayhem. I'm ready to build a second house to get some quiet while they play. It's SO great to see them all though. My kids have missed them terribly. I really, really hope they move up here.

John and Kevin are staying the night, Jalen is over with Auntie and Uncle again (WAH! I miss my nighttime cuddles so much) but Sierra is here at least. It's like playing musical kids or something. You never know where they're going to land on any given night.:)

We got Trevor's room finished enough for him to move into it, but now something in the basement is giving him allergies. Poor guy. We may have to get an air filter....all the boys spend most of their time down in that room now. It's the new hangout and gaming room.

The air is cool and clean tonight, after some rain yesterday. It's good to have family, friends, plans and some days off....looking forward to some connecting time.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Post Easter...

Heidi and family spent Easter over here, the kids had a blast searching for the 120-some plastic eggs hidden all over the yard. There were a few missing at the end, but Jalen discovered one of them this morning....with a dollar bill inside! He's a happy camper right now.

Yesterday, he woke up and promptly slipped his puddle stompers on and traipsed outside without a word. I watched from the kitchen window as he hung from a branch on the Dogwood tree that we inherited by purchasing this house. It's very large and positively exploding with blossoms right now....quite a dramatic site in our otherwise mundane backyard. He wandered over to the firepit area, swinging on a dead vine hanging from a black lotus tree. After a bit I saw him laying in the tall grass below our deck, at one with nature. Caught him on film too.

I joined him outside, working on various planting projects. As I worked on planting my gorgeous semi-dwarf apple tree, a wee man quietly stood next to me and asked "what will this grow into?" He helped pat the dirt around the base and we discussed all the yummy apples, blueberries, blackberries, brocolli (what is it with "b" plants?) and such that we'd be eating one day. It really gets him excited to grow things we can eat.

Later, he found a plant tag that had blown out into the yard. He took my hand and said "I need you Mom, come with me". We walked to a cluster of potted plants Markus has up by the house and he pointed to the Yucca plant and the tag and said "Is this going to grow into this?", correctly matching them! It surprised me because the Yucca plant is just a tiny thing and the tag shows a huge plant in full blossom. But he knew exactly which one it was.
He LOVES matching plants to tags and talking about what the plant with "grow into".

We had a perfectly timed rain shower pass through, negating the need to haul buckets of water up the hill. Thank you mother nature!

Tried to take a crew of kids to the Hands-On Museum yesterday but it was closed. We did a run by the health food store, Barnes and Noble, a park and Sonic (for some greasy snacks) instead. Jared stayed over at John's house, thrilled to get away from all the noise and hang out with one of his best friends. They can hardly WAIT for LeaAnn's tribe to get up here next weekend. They're family to my kids and moving away from them has been torture!

Mary sent me home with more plant starts than I know what to do with! Planning to visit Lowe's tonight for garden bed supplies. We're going to have zucchini and pumpkins and peppers and tomatoes this year...YIPPEEEE!! Thanks Mary.:)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Trust birth

This was shared at one of the lists tonight. The "Trust Birth" initiative sounds like something I'd love to support. I wish all of my children were born at home the way Jalen was. He and I were snuggled up talking about missing our old house last night. I said "you were born in that house Jalen."
"yeah, I know" he sighs. Such a sweet and peaceful place to enter the world, such a safe and nurturing environment for the mother.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

And now for a happy moment

Ok, I feel better now that I vented my rotten stuff.

We had a wonderful Monday hanging out with our homeschool group. It was sunny and we headed up to Rock Creek campground again after park day. After the kids mucked about in the water, we drove up to Beauty Spot which was open this time, and enjoyed the view and a short walk.

Loren and Diana had some firewood and S'mores materials with them, we enjoyed them for the second day in a row. She blogged about our day and posted pics at her Blog.

Came home tired and happy. I love it up in the Cherokee National Forest....can't wait to do some serious camping and hiking up that way. Beauty Spot is right on the Appalachian trail. Made me want to wander further, but we weren't really prepared for any long hiking. We left before sunset, but Diana made sure to show us what we missed!:)

Vent...and some spewing

Yeah, I'm belligerant sometimes. Yeah, I can be argumentative. But when I said you're acting insecure because you want a picture of your butt to see what it looks like to others...it IS insecure dammit! Especially when you want to look at other women all the time and ask "do I look like that?" Argh.
And I may not be a ding-dang heating expert, but heat pumps DO pull BTU's from the air just like I said...and I let that one go. Didn't try to get the last word, just let the "expert" have the last say even though I was RIGHT (google; "heat pumps extract heat" if you really want the answers). Didn't think that was "argumentative" but whatever.

I have strong opinions. Sometimes I could state them just as clearly in a more gentle manner....I can swallow that pill. But if I annoy and irritate someone often, I really can't do much about THAT. I am what I am. And I'm ok with that. Perfectly imperfect. Yep.

Bill Cosby is an asshole to say that someone working at WalMart with seven kids is hurting the black population. I stand by that one too. I just need to learn to spew alone more often I guess.
Sorry. Yes, I love you. Yes, I feel like a heel for stating my goldarn opinions at the wrong moment, but sometimes life feels a bit loose and wobbly. All the bits are flying around and not being very workable right now. Time to refocus. Time to breathe deep and be happy with me for who I AM right now. Whether anyone else likes it or not.

I very often feel alone in this universe....and I'm ok with that. Not because I really am alone, nope, not ever...but feelings don't always root themselves in reality do they? There are days we celebrate self and loved ones and there are days we feel that no one in the world really knows us. This has been one (and a half) of them. Vent over.

Monday, April 10, 2006


I want to blog all about yesterday, but I can't!!:) I have a secret and soon will be able to post about it, but until then, yesterday was a whirl of interesting activity right here at home. We met a person that had lotsa questions about unschooling and such, and the rest I will tell later.

After the "secret" portion of the day, the kids were working on their chalk mansions. They've been covering the driveway with chalk drawings of their property and mansions, complete with large screen televisions, pools, art and stores. Their stores yesterday, were a flurry of buying and trading. With wads of monopoly money in hand, piles of grass, flowers and roots (mostly weeds pulled up from the yard) they haggled intently.
We hung out in downtown Jonesborough in the late afternoon and as we walked they found more weeds for their shops. They got REALLY excited about the gum tree pods covering the ground near the Salt House and gathered quite a few; "this one is $1,000!!!" and "No, I won't pay THAT much for it!" were the conversations we heard.

As they bought and sold and chalked, things slowly began to deteriorate. There was a squabble about someone stealing money and Jalen started picking at them. I could see it wasn't going to get better (once Jalen is in that state, it's hard to re-direct) so I gathered up some newspaper, matches and S'mores materials and headed out. "Come on you guys, let's go build a fire." I yelled.

That's all it took....I felt like the Pied Piper. We ended up staying in the "council circle" for more than two hours. Markus joined us later and built the fire up to a more respectable size. Marshmallows were everywhere! As the fire burned and various kids told stories or sang poorly (me), they swirled around the council area gathering wild onions (those REALLY tickled Tristan because he could eat them) and small violets. Jalen had eaten a violet earlier in the day, and the rest of them were trying to figure out if they wanted to try one! Ah, wild edibles...how fun.

Night settled around us and a batch of kids went back up to the house. Jalen fell and bumped his ear on a rock seat. After crying and rubbing his ear, he settled into my lap for the remainder of firepit time. He was very snuggly, laying his head against my cheek. Moonlight lit the fields and yard...it was very peaceful. We stared at the moon together, sweet five year old cheek against mine and I thought there could be no better moment. It saddened me to think I couldn't just hold that moment forever, that the world would keep moving and growing older and time would rush forward. But I had that moment in the moonlight, with my precious, sticky, wood-smoke smelling boy.

As Heidi prepared to head back to the motor home, Jalen informs me he's going with her. He's so confident and independent at times. This child that sleeps right next to me, is spreading his wings. I miss him when he's gone with her at night! I also know this is part of his journey in life, to feel the joy of choosing to be away from me when he so desires. It's just very strange to sleep at night with no children on my floor or in my bed. Very strange indeed.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Giving birth

Birth is the single moment in which we lay ourselves open to a whole new series of pains and joys. Upon giving birth, we become an open wound for the rest of our lives. An open wound because every child that perishes, every sad thing that happens to another small person becomes more REAL for us. Because the intensity of joy and love we feel for these helpless (soon to be independent) creatures is almost more than the human spirit can bear. Becoming a parent changes us in ways that one can never imagine before we hold that wee child in our arms.
And the birthing process is different for us all.... for some it comes in the form of adoption papers and visits and waiting. For me, it came in the form of pregnancy and discomfort and kicks in the ribs. But it's a form of birthing either way.

This was at Diana Jenner's blog today:
~"Though I know desperate sadness lives in me, so does immense joy; in this life, I choose happiness over any misplaced misery."~

It made me think of some writings I love......
Kahil Gibran described our sorrow as a channel that cuts a groove within us. The deeper the groove, the more space for joy. Joy and sorrow are interwoven, the yin and yang of life.

We birth art, we birth stories, we re-birth ourselves.
I'm faltering at the birthing process here lately. There is a character and a story that is whispering to me. I hear her story weaving itself in my mind, yet struggle with how to start, how to tell it RIGHT.
A dear friend promised to be my "kick in the ass" when I need it, to help me birth this particular story. I fear I will not do it justice. The story is beautiful, the character rich and interesting. She is an important figure and her story needs to be told. I'm not sure that I'm the vessel that is capable of birthing it fully. Yet I must try.
She is with me at all times now. Reading at Diana's blog may loose some of my fears, help me embrace the story that needs to be told, help me hear her song.

A friend of Diana's lost their child once upon a time. Here is the song one of the parents of this child wrote:

_The Recall_ by Rabindinath Tagore

The night was dark when she went away, as they slept.
The night is dark now, and I call for her,
"Come back my darling. The world is asleep;
And no one would know if you came for a moment
While stars are gazing at stars."

She went away when the trees were in bud and the Spring was young.
Now, the flowers are in high bloom and I call,
"Come back my darling. The children gather and scatter flowers in reckless sport.
And if you come and take one little blossom, no one will miss it."

Those that used to play are playing still, so spendthrift is life.
I listen to their chatter and call,
"Come back my darling, for mother's heart is full to the brim with love.
And if you come to snatch only one little kiss from her,
No one will grudge it."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sweet toes

These are the toes of Jalen.
These are the toes of Jalen who sits at the computer playing a game.
These are the toes of Jalen who sits at the computer playing a game, wrapped in a towel.
These are the toes of Jalen who sits at the computer playing a game, wrapped in a towel after his bath......Sigh. Nothing like sweet little feet.

He ate all of Calista and Sierra's gum the other night. When they came out shrieking about it and proclaiming their frustration, we asked him "Why is the gum all gone?"
"Because I didn't eat it" he answers. (What did we expect for an answer anyway?)
"Well the girls are pretty upset and you were the only one in there, so maybe you could tell us about what happened."
"I wanted the gum" he says.
We explain that we could have gotten him more of his own gum (he goes through it fairly quick) and he should have asked the girls.
"But they would say NO"
Ok, I'm cracking up at this point and so are the girls. Gum emergency over momentarily. Note to self: buy dumptruck load of gum or at least some stock in BubbleYum.

Makeup artistry

I did Sierra as a Blue Fairy with lotsa glitter one day. Her blue, curly hair looked awesome with the swirly makeup. She took this photo of my eyes. The colors got washed out with the flash, but they're still fun pics.:)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Car wreck

Just found out this morning, that some good friends from Pensacola were in a car accident near Hattiesburg, MS. Aaron Jansen and his Dad were driving home to Pensacola. They're both in the hospital, fortunately nothing life threatening (Rose says "thank God for air bags and seatbelts) but Aaron has both legs and both wrists broken and more surgery to deal with.

His Dad was still in ER when I spoke with Rose, his hip and leg are hurt. It looks like she'll be dealing with two wheelchairs and a long recovery process.

Aaron is one of Trevor's good friends. He drove with us to the Live and Learn conference last fall. Our families have had a lot of fun over the years. These two pics are from the time we all spent at the conference. In the top pic, Aaron is the only kid standing on the ground, he's wearing a black and blue sweat top. In the arch picture, he's standing next to Trevor in the back (tall guy on the right).

Sending lotsa love and light to Memphis today. I know you probably won't read this Rose, but we're thinking about you and hoping for a speedy recovery for both Richard and Aaron.
Big hugs to all of you.
((((((((Richard, Rose, Michael, Aaron, Tyler)))))))))))

Images from the last 24 hours....hiking (with Heidi and crew) and hackeysack (with Cameron Lovejoy).

Art card

I actually made this card for an online aquaintance to congratulate her on the publication of "The Birth House", her first novel. It was intended for Ami McKay in Canada, but never made it. I'm glad I took a photo, because it has one of my favorite sayings on it....
"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star." ~Nietzsche

It's my mantra.

More visitors

We took the Snavley's up to Buffalo Mountain for some hiking yesterday. Got a good workout in and got separated from the guys, who went all the way to Tip Top. We had a decent view in spite of some cloudiness.

The Lovejoy's (plus their friend Stuart) got here in late afternoon. Stuart and Ben did the Natchez Trace ride all week (bicycling) and we had them for the night. Sierra and Jalen were SO excited to see Cameron. They got ready by drawing hug buttons on their arms and spraying their hair in many colors.:) Dinnertime was a chaotic feast of Taco Soup, which fed 16 people! What a crew. ~~this photo only shows about half of us~~

Markus led a bike ride this morning. Martin joined them on my bike and decided biking was a pretty cool sport. They all enjoyed the rolling hills and cool sunshine this morning. I may get inspired to get back on that bike again! My quads are groaning at the thought.....

Ben and Kelly got to peruse downtown Jonesborough even though all the shops were closed. They decided it was pretty durn cute, not sure if I can convince them to move here someday. One can hope. There is a certain irony in listening to Steve Lynch comedy while driving down the hill into a quaint town in TN, while churchgoers are walking up the street with Bibles in hand. It was an irony that hit me right between the eyes, a bullet of warped cheer.

Jalen tried his hand at hackeysack. It looked fascinating when Cameron and Stuart played! Duncan was just happy to find some gamers and technology. He was right at home with Trevor in the back room.

After the Lovejoys got back on the road, heading for Columbia (WAH!!) Sierra, Jalen and Calista had some great water play with a new funky hose device that sprays water in all directions. Between "sunbathing" (does it count when you put sunscreen on?) and water fun, they've been outside most of the day.

Markus and I snuck away for a bit this afternoon, to shop at the Lowes garden center. It was really awesome to take our time and really discuss plants, soil and trees without interuption. I got my Semi-dwarf apple tree, it's SO beautiful. He put in a bunch of flowers and shrubs around the front area and I filled in the bed that Mary gave me with brocolli, soapwort, rosemary and basil. I also filled a small bed Markus built for me many years ago (very tiny, says "Ren's Herbs" on the front) with peppermint, spearmint and chives.

As night closed in, a storm moved across the area. We had a short-lived, but brilliant lightning show which we all enjoyed immensely. It's always fun to have some small storms, I do miss the dramatic rain in Pensacola. It was fun watching the kids huddled at dark windows, ooohing and aaahing whenever a streak broke through the darkness.

It is now midnight, Heidi is finishing up with the tinkering of her website and the guys just came up from watching a movie. I can hear the sounds of gaming all around me, while Sierra rests on my bed. It's been a very busy day....busy, with lots of sweet memories (and even an argument or two).