.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, March 31, 2007

Vote for Julie (not Pedro!)

An unschooling mama has one of the most amazing blogs I've ever seen. I'm not sure if it's the amazingly gorgeous (thank you Jayn Coburn for that phrase) photos she posts or her witty and poetic commentary, but Julie Persons is utterly charming.

She's been nominated by Theologians Cafe for "most engaging site" and you can vote for her (off to the left side) if you think her blog is as amazing as I do. Go read through it, then vote for Julie! K? Really.
Just do it.

You can find her at Two Small Birds if you're interested. Take some time to read and poke around a bit. You'll leave feeling inspired and humbled. Truly. I promise.

Traaseth time!

Later this year I'll be speaking at a conference that will also have John Taylor Gatto as a featured speaker. I'm really looking forward to meeting one of the writers that helped forge my path into unschooling. As I was poking around the internet last night to find out what he's been up to lately, I discovered that he's been working on a documentary film for some time. It's titled "The Enigma of Public Schools" and sounds like a very blunt and hard-hitting film outlining the problems with mass schooling.

The ReThinking Education conference takes place in Dallas Texas over Labor Day weekend. It will be interesting to speak at a venue that is set up differently than Live and Learn. I'm really looking forward to meeting Barb Lundgren, the inspiration behind the conference.

The Traaseth's got in Thursday afternoon, a bit road-weary but glad to be in Tennessee!:) Most of our time was spent drinking wine (yet again; we found a place that carried the same Rioja Danielle brought) and talking, talking, talking! Kyra and Sierra were so happy to finally be in under the same roof. Those two spend many hours on Skype and World of Warcraft talking to each other. We had planned a visit to Acoustic, but the kids really didn't want our group split up (who wants to go/who doesn't) so we stayed right here while most of the kids swirled in and out of the house, playing games in the dark on the trampoline.

Bleu really got to know their whole family this time and he was commenting on each of them and how intelligent and sweet they were. I just winked and said "you know how cool unschoolers are".

I was a little bit sad about missing the Amy Steinberg house concert last night, but it really wasn't in the cards for us. I'm sure everyone had such an amazing time and I can't wait to hear all about it. I was sending lotsa love over to Columbia, where a lot of my favorite people in the whole world were hanging out.

We're more focused on getting our plans together for the FLT gathering and really looking forward to more time with amazing people. I'm hoping Teri will let me swipe some of her chicken eggs when we stay the night with them. Maybe she won't notice if I sneak into her coop? ;)

Last night, Jalen decided he needed to bake a cake just like his Birthday cake (a dinosaur). So we got the cake done and figured out there was no powdered sugar for icing. He wasn't very happy with me, but a batch of whipping cream saved the day. We had chocolate cake with whipping cream, ice cream and some "Mask of Zorro" to top it all off.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I know I'm a clutz....really I do. But sometimes it bites you in the worst way possible.

I was making cinnamon rolls for the kids last night and upon flipping the rolls out of the pan (onto a plate) I slipped and managed to drop what felt like hot TAR on my foot. Didn't think I'd be able to sleep last night it was so painful. In spite of getting it into cool water almost immediately, it blistered a huge patch across the top of my foot. There isn't a shoe on earth that won't touch that part. So work will be interesting today.

I'm going in early to look for a cute pair of black slippers or socks. sigh.

John stayed over last night. They had a ball playing this new game (even dragged Bleu into a round) called "Settlers of Catan". Mary picked John, Jared and Sierra up for a play in Greenville this morning. Jalen is currently watching Cartoon Network and Trevor is feeling icky. I'm pumping him full of herbs and vitamins while he rests. Poor guy is never sick, he really doesn't know what to do with himself.

Off to bandage the foot and try to find something I can wear that won't irritate it. I really should learn how to be more graceful....somehow. Maybe Ballet will help.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Einstein rocks my socks!

So does Danielle Conger...but let's start with Einstein.:)

I got my new edition of Wired magazine today and there was an article titled "The World Needs More Rebels Like Einstein". At first I thought, "well duh" but upon reading the article I found myself grinning. Here's an excerpt:

........."At a time when the US, worried about competition from China, is again emphasizing math and science education, Einstein's genius reminds us that a society's competitive advantage comes not from teaching the multiplication or periodic tables but from nurturing rebels. Grinds have their place, but unruly geeks change the world."


Later in the article:
"As a child, Einstein was slow to speak. This, combined with his cheeky defiance of authority and his distaste for rote learning, led one schoolmaster to send him packing and another to dismiss him as a lazy dog. 'When I ask myself how it happened that I in particluar discovered the relativity theory,' Einstein once said, 'it seemed to lie in the following circumstance; The ordinary adult never bothers his head about the problems of space and time. But I developed so slowly that I began to wonder about space and time only when I was already grown up.'"

And so on. So here's to "late-bloomers" and daydreaming and the freedom to think your own thoughts, in your own time and explore whatever picques your INTEREST.
And here's to rebels, free-thinkers and those willing to forge their own path in this crazy-ass world.

Here's what I think of rote learning (picture me flipping the bird to a schoolhouse about now). :)
I suppose I should add the word "forced" to that, because rote learning for your own purposes isn't nearly so mind-numbing. I actually enjoy pushing myself to memorize a poem or some other useless bit of information, just for fun.

OH, I should also add the closing snippet of this article:
"Other scientists had come close to this insight (it was referring to his Theory of Relativity at this point) but they were too confined by the dogmas of the day. Einstein alone was impertinent enough to discard the notion of absolute time, one of the sacred tenets of classical physics since Newton. 'Imagination is more important than knowledge', Einstein later said.
Indeed, if we are ever going to unravel the further mysteries of dark matter, come up with a unified theory, or discover the true nature of energy, we should carve that proclamation above all of our blackboards."

All of our blackboards? Let's just ditch the stupid blackboards all together and actually see Einstein for what he truly was....an unschooler. Except for the blackboard at Acoustic Coffeehouse where one can leave messages of any kind in the bathroom for future readers and rebels.:)

Our house has become a pitstop for traveling unschoolers this week, all on their way to or from the Amy Steinberg house concert at my dear friends, the Lovejoys in Columbia SC. I can't make the concert, so I simply coerced and bribed and wheedled my friends to come over here and visit me instead. Ok, it wasn't really that hard to get them to come...really.;)

Danielle and her crew were here earlier this week before they headed out to Gulf Shores before coming back up this way for the concert. When she walked in with two bottles of wine, I knew we'd survive the night! The kids had a ball, even with a couple of tense moments between my Jalen and her Sam. With empathizing and reflective listening, we moved past the moments and on to more fun. There was trampline jumping, walks to see the horses, pizza in the driveway, tree climbing, Bratz play, sprinkler running and lotsa conversation.

Sam really loved my meditation closet and would ask us to help him light candles in there so he could "calm my mind". Such profound awareness of self in such a wee man!

They left behind some lovely farm-fresh eggs that we just polished off this morning. The green Aruacana eggs are my favorite!

An ironic moment took place as Danielle and I read at Unschooling Basics from parents with great fear about letting children have access to tv and video games without limits. It was SO ironic, because here we were, in a house with SEVEN radically unschooled kids that were playing, running, laughing, talking and only TWO of them were remotely interested in anything electronic. Trevor and Jared (who are big-time gamers and had nobody even close to their ages here) were the only ones interested in gaming while we had company. Unlimited access certainly doesn't produce the fearful results that people imagine. If they all HAD wanted to watch a bunch of tv and play video games, that would have been fine too. It just doesn't have power to lure children the way people seem to fear. Out of the entire crew, there was a very small slice of time spent watching tv or gaming....playing with friends was more important because heck, you can have the tv or games anytime right?:)

Later this week we'll get the Traaseths and then post-concert the Cleavelands will come through. Those two visits will necessitate a couple of trips down to Acoustic Coffeehouse of course (oh darn) for some good music, good friends and good beer...yeah, maybe some nachos too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Too radical?

I think I've gotten to the point, where I have a hard time explaining unschooling--radical unschooling anyway--to anyone that isn't ready to understand. I know people that don't have lessons or curriculum, but would have a hard time understanding that we don't "study" anything. We learn all the time, but my children's interests haven't led them to anything that looks like formal study. Trevor has a broad knowledge of computers and how to build them, but he never did anything that looked like a class or "study". He learned. He read books some of the time, but I don't believe he would feel that he "studied" anything.

How do you explain that to the average person? Not planning a curriculum or requiring any sort of lesson is enough to freak most people out. But top it off with never separating life into subjects and not studying anything and you lose them all together. Sure, we delve into some interests deeply.....but we're just playing more intently.:)

In responding to a post at Unschooling Basics, I dredged up this commencement speech that Anna Quindlen gave some years ago. It's a favorite of mine. It speaks about creating a life worth living, which has very little to do with studies or degrees or diplomas or societal expectations. If we are to truly march to the beat of our own drum, then certificates and degrees mean very little. Learning what we love is everything. If you're carrying around a heavy backpack of perfection....it's time to lay it down.

On a personal note, Neurofeedback has continued to be an interesting topic. Jalen is typically more centered and able to communicate after his sessions. He still thinks the games are "stupid" but seems to enjoy the calming effect. We've struck a bargain. He didn't really want to go back, so I made a deal with him that if he would do something he didn't like (neurofeedback) then I'd take him to do something he DID like afterwards. Yeah, it's bribery plain and simple. But I felt it was important enough to try this time around. And we've had a great time at McDonald's playland (yucky, yucky food....argh) and visiting the Dollar Tree.

Trevor even noticed the difference in Jalen one day. While driving in the car, Jalen and I were able to complete a conversation that involved explaining why we couldn't do something he wanted right at the moment (we explored many options without a melt-down) and how to resolve the issue. He has a very hard time processing certain information usually, but lately has been able to take it in, digest it and offer up information that contributes to a solution. Big step for my little man. I don't think he's punched the wall in anger for over a week now. Another big step. So the neurofeedback has been positive for all of us.

He's still his intense, active, energetic self. He's just more able to cope with transitions and information without the huge frustration and anger. It's really cool. It's no magic bullet. We still need a large dose of patience and mindfulness to stay connected. But that gentle nudge to the brain has definitely made life easier for him to cope with......and in turn making it easier for us to meet his needs. Neurofeedback is gentle, gentle nudges. That's all. It isn't some "cure", but it helps the mind operate more effectively which I figure all of us can use a bit of help with.

So far, it's been a very positive experience and I hope we can continue sessions for a little while longer.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Jalen had his first session of Neurofeedback today. After a close friend got certified in this method, we decided to give it a go and see if it could help him with some processing issues and his frustration levels. I wasn't sure if he'd agree to try it, but after explaining that he would be hooked to a computer for "exercising your brain" he was interested.

I had my first session a couple days ago, so this was my second and Jalen's first. After seeing Jalen and I hooked up, Sierra wanted to give it a try also. The results were interesting. I felt calm and centered all day, though a bit emotional as I sifted through some grief issues I'd ignored for the entire month of February. Jalen was a bit agitated that there were no "bad guys" in any of the games and kept saying "these games are stupid" and "this sucks" but let himself stay on it for about 25 minutes. At the very end he started crying. Not an angry cry, but a very sad cry. We took him off right away and he perked right up.

During Sierra's 35 minute session and my entire 35 minute session, he played happily with legos in Mary's kitchen. Normally, he would have been bouncing around her house opening every cupboard, but he seemed very calm and focused on his play. I actually fell asleep on the couch for a while, waiting for Sierra. Can't remember the last time I took a nap!

Driving home I felt alert and calm, so it didn't fog my mind even though I was tired afterwards. She likened it to doing any exercise that you aren't used to, where you might need a rest after completeing it.

We've had a very good day. Sierra seemed to really LOVE the session and is asking to go back soon. Jalen seems open to going again, in spite of thinking the games are "stupid". It's very relaxing so I can see why children enjoy it once they get started. It relaxed me more than any massage I've had!

So............I'm going to try and blog about our neurofeedback experiences each week, to help others understand what it's like firsthand. I think it has great potential to help people in a non-invasive manner. Especially those of us with "ADD" like character traits that want to get more focused without losing any part of ourselves through drugs or other inhibitors. Neurofeedback is really just exercising your brain so it can operate more effectively. All natural and very therapeutic.

Part of this very calm day, was catching up on a few blogs I haven't visited for a while, including my sister's. One post talked about The Bridge to Terabithia, a book that inpacted me deeply as a young person. She quoted this portion, which seemed so incredibly relevant in light of a couple death anniversaries in February:

~~" He thought about it all day, how before Leslie came, he had been a nothing - a stupid, weird little kid who drew funny pictures and chased around a cow field trying to act big - trying to hide a whole mob of foolish little fears running riot inside his gut.

It was Leslie who had taken him from the cow pasture into Terabithia and turned him into a king. He had thought that was it. Wasn't king the best you could be ? Now it occurred to him that perhaps Terabithia was like a castle where you came to be knighted. After you stayed for a while and grew strong you had to move on. For hadn't Leslie, even in Terabithia, tried to push back the walls of his mind and make him see beyond to the shining world - huge and terrible and beautiful and very fragile? (Handle with care - everything - even the predators.)

Now it was time for him to move out. She wasn't there, so he must go for both of them. It was up to him to pay back to the world in beauty and caring what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength.

As for the terrors ahead - for he did not fool himself that they were all behind him - well, you just have to stand up to your fear and not let it squeeze you white. Right, Leslie?

Right. "~~

As I sat at the computer weeping, I left her a comment about how we all need a Leslie in our lives. She left me a comment later saying "you are my Leslie".

I don't think anyone has ever told me anything that beautiful or kind in my entire life. I cried all over again at the power of that statement and just how responsible I felt at that moment, for how my life choices impact others. My sister made me feel incredibly strong and blessed and vulnerable all at once with that once simple comment, but mostly grateful.

It tied right in to another blog I stopped by today, my dear friend Mary (not the Mary here, the one in Corvallis, better known as "Zenmomma") had this quote on one of her posts. I printed it out to remember forever:

"My now does not belong to me. It is shared with others...ultimately with all that exists. I will treat this now with the utmost reverence, compassion and attention to detail. In this way I can give the golden glow of my love of now to others. This is truly the greatest gift I can give and from others receive. I will live in this moment rather than deprive myself of the only part of reality I can truly ever experience."

She also had a video that featured an autistic girl speaking about her "native language." It was touching and reminded me of the importance of learning to understand my wee man who does not process information like the rest of us.

Today was about getting more deeply in touch with a lot of emotions and remembering just how much this unschooling journey has helped us connect not only to each other, but the world in which we are learning. I am forever grateful for the beautiful souls that have been a part of my life story thus far, and for those I have yet to learn from. Life is good and grand and painful and perfect.