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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......

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cat Stevens is back........

.......or rather Yusuf Islam made a CD, since he doesn't go by Cat Stevens since he converted to Islam many years ago. He found his answers in religion, which is unfortunate, but hey it worked for him. Markus heard the soundtrack and said it's pretty good quality. I can't help but wish he was still singing hippy songs, but it's nice that he's decided to make music again.

Ironically, he was turned away in 2004 from entering the US because he was on the "no fly" list. The guy goes on to win a peace award, yeah, he's a big threat eh? sheesh.
You can read about it in the Herald Tribune online.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Great feet!

I've had a lot of fun over at Flickr sharing pics with some of my groups. This was for the "foot task" at the "What's in a picture? Document this" group. We already posted several foot pics, but couldn't resist taking a few more tonight.

Sierra has the photo bug in a BIG way! She needs her own camera because she's down asking Markus for his every hour or so. Sometimes we ask her what she's going to shoot and she shrugs because she doesn't know....she just goes looking for inspiration and finds it somehow.:)

I've baked a pumpkin pie and mashed the potatoes. We're having chicken breasts (the meat eaters) rather than a turkey because I didn't want to face the grocery store crowds. Waited too long and decided we have plenty for a feast, anything is better than the anxiety of facing a huge crowd and long lines.

While I was cooking tonight, we pulled out a bunch of art supplies and the kids made some turkey decorations for tomorrow. Our turkeys have colorful, pastel feathers of course. Hey, that's what I had in the art room people! It's surprising they don't have glitter too.

Jalen has had a few really GREAT days this week. Still high energy, still intense, but without all the angry melt-downs. I may have to re-think food issues because we've been eating nothing but homemade, healthy meals lately and it seems to be affecting him for the better. The boys pointed out our huge screaming melt-down in the van after dropping John off, but that was the only one in three days and it lasted all of 10 minutes. A record in many ways.:)

So after weeks of having a really rough time, he's being extra-happy and extremely reasonable. Either we hit a huge development spurt or we rid ourselves of the foods that bother him (or a bit of both probably). Something to watch anyway.

Our house is warm and smells all pumpkin-spice-bread-kinda-yummy. Our handmade decorations are placed and everyone is starting to get tired. Happy Thanksgiving everyone......life is good.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Campfire cooking

Ok, not really a campfire, but a homefire.
I purchased a cast iron tripod last week in order to cook over open fire with more ease. We tested it out tonight with a chili and cornbread meal, eaten in the cool mountain air as the sun went down.

Got the coals too hot under the cornbread pan but it was fine if you cut the bottom crust off first. Food tastes better eaten outside, I swear it does! Our bellies are warm and full and we smell like smoke. Off to Barnes and Noble for the other end of the spectrum, some yuppie coffee and books.:)


Historical note for today:

Today was the day that Peter Zenger was arrested in 1773, for "seditious libel". He had published unflattering information about the Governor of New York, William Cosby. He was jailed on this day and spent 8 months in prison. This case is so significant, because in spite of the jury being chosen by Governor Cosby he was found "not guilty", in large part because the jury decided that if a person spoke the truth it couldn't be considered libelous. It has had huge impact on our freedom of speech.

Here's to Peter Zenger and all who stand up to oppression by exposing the truth through their writing.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My "non-artistic" husband

These are photos taken by my husband who has never considered himself an artist. I've told him for years that he IS an artist, to which he replies "yeah, but not the kind that makes art anyone wants to hang up".
Well ok, he has a warped sense of humor which is lovely. Most of his art has been childlike creations that are mostly humorous and quirky, which makes them most appealing in my eyes because they're unique.

But he's decided to explore his abstract side with his new camera. Having always been one that notices color and design, a person with an eye for art, he takes to it like a duck to water. Just wanted to share his first attempts at really playing with that side of his artistic genius.


Had some experiences this week that have reminded me that life is exactly what you make of it. If you see everything as negative and awful, it IS. The universe will not be able to open doors, or help you reach your hearts desire if you can't FEEL the abundance and gratitude first.

Living a life of abundance is possible whether we have material wealth or not.
It's an attitude. If you think your life sucks, if you think your kid sucks, they do. If you see your child as the greatest blessing and joy, regardless of the package they came in, they will be. Choosing to see the wealth and beauty of our lives is a CHOICE.

Whatever state your life is in, is a CHOICE. Yep, even when things don't go as planned, you can always make a different choice. It's all about what we do with what we've got. Looking at other people, thinking they've got it made doesn't help us see all the good we've got right in front of us.

My blessings today?
~After some crying and frustration upon reaching park day, Jalen actually played happily with a group of children without one melt down.
~Sierra met a new friend at park day
~Food and friends
~Handmade pasta and tortillas
~baked apples with cream....omg, heavenly!
~I received my bottle capper in the mail, we are set to make homemade root beer.
~Cuddling with Markus on the couch and realizing once again what an amazing human being he is and how beautiful his eyes are :)
~A new thesaurus, the ability to write (however poorly it is at times!), the tools for self expression and friends to share it with.
~Realizing once again, how my life is exactly what I make it and the universe opens up to a heart filled with gratitude and abundance no matter how rough things get.:)

Blessings are everywhere.............may mercury in retrograde pass quickly.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Great parenting site!

Markus took this picture just before leaving for Columbia over a week ago. Autumn is a beautiful time up here in the mountains!

My good friend Mary Gold posted about Scott of the "Enjoy Parenting" website. He will be speaking at her Life is good unschooling conference in the NorthWest in the spring.

I encourage you to check out his website for really great information and encouragement. Yes, his family are unschoolers!:)

I dropped in at LeaAnn's blog today and read about their visit from her perspective. It was so great to relive some days with our "created family". She's got a great post about the idea of "caging" children in schools and the mindset of a prisoner that it can create.

I'm on day 4 of my* 37 day journey and gotten a lot accomplished already. Action DOES have a special magic to it. Perpetuating that motion today.....

*originally posted about the 37 days project over at my Tea With Ren blog.

I'm A Liberal

In case you don't know it, I'm a liberal.:) Big surprise right?

And no, I don't think there exists a truly liberal party today. The Democrats aren't the answer but they sure beat the other non-choice. argh.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Live and Learn conference video

Check out this awesome video of the 2006 Live and Learn conference in Albuquerque NM.
Live and Learn conference video
It was created by Craig Mayer up in Canada. The Mayer's kindly sent the speakers a copy of the DVD as a thank you, but I was unable to get it uploaded to share with everyone. Dan Vilter has it up at his site for your viewing pleasure. It really captures the essence of joyful learning and connections that is Live and Learn.

Side note: I had to uninstall my Quicktime player and reinstall it in order to get the video to work online. Also, there's a funny picture of me on there in my pink cowboy hat and a quick shot of Trevor in the middle of the "duck, duck, goose" group (minus the spiked mohawk, he didn't glue it that day).

The Vilter's also have their photo album posted here:
Live and Learn photo gallery


Monday, November 06, 2006

Day of the Dead

We had our Day of the Dead party on November 2nd, as planned. Several families were here, including LeaAnn's crew from Pensacola and the Kuipers from South Carolina. The kids helped collect scrap lumber from the construction next door so we had ourselves a nice fire in the firepit. It's a good thing as the weather was a bit chilly.

As it grew dark, we gathered around Hannah's willow tree. I scooped some of the earth into an envelope and mixed her ashes with it. We each said a few words about Hannah and threw a handful of the dirt/ashes mix onto a rosebush planted under her tree.
I shared the memory of Hannah and some other little girls playing with Bratz at the post-conference picnic in St. Louis last year.
The kids that didn't even know Hannah said some really sweet things about her. They talked about pictures they've seen online and how Hannah is a reminder to them about how short life can be and to enjoy every moment that we have.

It was exactly as it was meant to be. A gathering of friends around her tree. Shared thoughts. A fire burning behind us at the firepit. Darkness descending. Spirits visiting.

It was a looooong party. We started around 3pm and Teri and I finally quit talking after 1am. We ate all night, wandered from the house to the trampoline to the firepit....a happy swirl of people and talk. Got the Chai and Mojitos going around 10pm or so. After everyone left I was absolutely exhausted, and after a warm bath I was ready to pass out.

As I lay down to sleep (boy did my bed feel GREAT) a sentence popped into my mind. It was something that was not going to leave me alone unless I wrote it down. So I grab my bedside notebook and write in the dim of a nightlight. Now I can sleep.
Another sentence, whole and complete in my mind again. I scrawl it wherever there seems to be space on the page, no order in mind. This happened a third time and so I wrote a bit more until the voice in my head was quiet.
Then I slept deeply.

The next morning, I figured the poem (or whatever it was) would be a jumbled mass of words that didn't make much sense. To my surprise it was actually in an order that worked. I'm not sure who sent the words, but I thanked them.

It's written from Diana Jenner's point of view. I knew that much when I was writing.
Being a vessel for someone elses words is a bit strange. But here it is:

Time can not erase the ache
The ache of empty arms

Cold, clutching empty arms
The embrace not returned

This creature of light
sprung forth from my womb
Soul of the world--in her eyes.

Silent wings of night
swept her into death's hold

My empty arms reach
graspingly across dark chasms
Insatiable void
only empty
only aching
always longing

Her song echoes across the ether
Her power?
To draw together.
Remember you may not always hold them

She whispers in sunlight
and laughs at the serious moon
dancing in limbs of trees
bowing gracefully at her passing.

Never to be held again.
Free to be.
Spirit in the swirling wind.
Soul of the world
Looking straight through me.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Validation vs. praise

I've been having a post-blog discussion at another person's blog recently. The post was about a reliance on external validation and how damaging that can be. I agree that a dependance on external sources of validation can be harmful, but what really causes that? There's no doubt in my mind that praise and punishment cause lasting harm. It shuts of the child's ability to trust themselves and creates a dependance on external modes of control.

But is validation in and of itself harmful? I don't believe so!!
Validation is a necessary and useful communication tool. When we respond to another human with empathy and true listening, we are validating their feelings. If my spouse said "oh, you don't really feel that" or "you're just overreacting" that invalidates my feelings and it is really annoying. Not that he does this, just using a rhetorical example.

I validate my children by taking them seriously. I validate their feelings when I LISTEN deeply and don't try to tell them how to feel or how to act. I validate their dreams and ideas by assisting and supporting those, even when it's not something I feel passionate about.

I really love what Naomi Aldort says about validation in her article "Toddlers; to tame or to trust?". She also talks about validation in "22 alternatives to losing it".

True validation is void of judgement and manipulation. True validation is wrapped around trust in the other person and their ability to sort things out and find their way. Validation at the core of it's essence is healthy communication, trust and respect. It allows the person presenting an idea to be truly heard. It gives the child an ally, a trustworthy partner in their exploration and journey on this earth. Validation is something human beings need in their relationships and without it, healthy communication isn't happening.

Here's another article about validation and what a useful tool it is in communication: Emotional Validation

Praise and punishment on the other hand, are exactly what cause a need for external modes of control. The person learns that they are not trustworthy. They need to hear "good job" in order to feel good about something because they were taught that their own inner feelings weren't enough. They learn that to be loved, they must please the bigger, stronger adult. Not healthy.

That isn't validation, that's control. I believe we all need to be validated when communicating, I don't believe hollow praise or harsh judgement has anything to do with validation though.

The other part of this picture is human connections. We all need to feel like we matter to others. We all need to feel that we have a purpose on this earth and the gifts we have to share are worthy. Those connections to others that validate our work, that love who-we-are-this-very-moment, imperfections and all are so important. A reliance on another human's point of view isn't healthy, for sure. But warm connections with others that appreciate us is part of community, part of being human and so important for those of us that ARE community driven.

I realize there are personality types that are happier alone in the mountains meditating all day, or some (like my dh) that have a very low need for social connections. But there are those of us that love our social network and receive validation of our life's purpose through connecting with other likeminded spirits. I think it's healthy to nurture that. I think it's part of what makes life grand. You decide.:)

Test your geography knowledge

Find out how well you can place countries, regions and states at the "Test your geography knowledge" site.

I started with the U.S. and got 124 out of 150, making a few mistakes that I shouldn't but doing pretty good overall. Travel is the best way to learn geography!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Buffalo Mountain

We hiked to the lookout at Buffalo Mountain today, the kids running and laughing all the way to the top. Great view as usual. Nice stop before a rainy and dark and looooooong drive out to Kingsport to see Dad and Nancy's home on wheels (complete with a garage that holds their Harley's) and constant intensity from a certain 5 year old that was having difficulties coping today. I breathed a sigh of relief when he fell asleep tonight.

Still hearing laughter from the basement, so I assume the young men below will not be fully rested when the Kuiper's show up tomorrow morning. I'm sure Arielle will be happy to turn on the lights and proceed to wake them!

Being sleepless tonight means the house is getting cleaned up a bit before they get here and before Day of the Dead celebration. The ratties even have a clean cage and I snuck in a tv show in between. Jennifer Garner is the epitome of bad-ass in Alias. Makes me want to get in shape again.:)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Today was truly fabulous! Seeing my kids with several of their closest friends in the whole wide world made for the best Halloween I can remember.

We spent this afternoon browsing around the quaint shops in downtown Jonesborough with my Dad, Nancy, LeaAnn and some of the kids. Wandering the shops and hearing them discuss various items was fun enough, but watching them throw leaves at each other behind the storytelling center was pure joy. Jalen informed us that he is a mountain climber, after scaling a large rock in the side of a hill several times.

It was sunny today. Perfect weather really. Back at our house the kids donned costumes while I helped with makeup effects. Dad and Nancy brought pizzas and we headed back down to Jonesborough for some Halloween fun. After oohing and aahing over costumes, playing some games and wandering the haunted house (which is actually a very historic cabin that Andrew Jackson lived in while practicing law in Jonesborough in 1788-89) we drove to do the traditional trick-or-treating at some nearby neighborhoods.

It's been a big, loud, fun and crazy day. I'm stealing a few quiet moments here, they feel luxurious because Jalen is asleep and I'm not completely wiped out just yet. Still need to fetch Sierra off the couch where she fell asleep during "Ghost in the Shell". As I snugged Jalen down into my bed, he told me "waterfalls are music through my ears." I have NO idea what he was thinking about, but how adorable. He had some tough moments today, so it was nice to have some quiet time with him.

The older boys are all in the basement, John and Brandon are here tonight. Everyone is full of friendship, candy and anime. Life is grand!

I hope everyone had a marvelous Halloween. This is the first day of Los Dias de los Muertos....we're gearing up for our Day of the Dead party on Thursday. More friends from out of state show up tomorrow and LeaAnn has decided they can stay an extra day. It's been a month for visitors. Wondering if the spirit world realizes the veil between worlds is supposed to be thinner during these next couple of days. I wouldn't be surprised.:)

Here's a fun thing someone shared at our local list: Electronic Pumpkin Carver
I know it's officially over, but who can resist carving a pumpkin? Happy Halloween everyone!