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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......

Monday, September 24, 2007

Inspiration from starchild

All of my children inspire me in different ways. This is about how Ciara has inspired me lately...
She loves to bake and cook. Recently she has been all about the sugar cookies. It interests me how her cookies are colorful and artsy, just like her. In the above photo, she is wearing a shirt she altered by cutting up 2 or 3 shirts to make a new creation.

Beautiful! They tasted good too.:)

Bella gets to be her model for a knitted creation. She looks a bit peeved about the whole affair.

Her clothes and hair are typically another form of expression. She picked up this lovely green scarf from one of our favorite stores in Asheville where the windows are full of swirly, long skirts.

She was all about painting the other day. This is a representation of our shimmering, fan-tail guppies. Another painting was an abstract with collage. I snagged the last board, time to stock up again! She inspired me to stop my busyness and sit to draw, paint and reflect for a bit....

It started with oil pastels, evolved to watercolor pencils and acrylic paint. It's not finished just yet. Next up is some gel medium and maybe drawing and collaging over the base surface.

Jalen and Ciara created several Spongebob Squarepants characters from playdough. They look good enough to eat!

Thanks for all the inspiration Ciara. I'm glad you're the vibrant, colorful, sparkling soul that reminds me to be expressive in all that I do.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I promise I'll stop...

...after this. Really. Truly. I just had to share a few more photos from RE. Bear with me here ok?

This was the really nice security guard that put up with our late night shenanigans. When I looked at him I said "Dang, you have a great face for Visual Kei!" and he actually knew what I was talking about! We had a mini-conversation about J Rock and some Visual kei bands. He had actually been on that scene and admitted to looking pretty good in some of the costumes.:)

We liked him.

As a makeup artist the Visual Kei style gives me goosebumps it's so amazing. The Gothic Lolita stuff does the same. As one of my customer's said "I'm having a girly moment". A girly EDGY moment I suppose. It's that mix of innocent/feminine and hard-edge that is so enchanting.

Eli and I just being plain goofy. Eli Gerzon is quite a world traveller for one so young. A great inspiration to kids wanting to "drop in" to life and out of school! He also takes groups to foreign countries, his next foray is into Mexico.

And finally, my ATC workshop*. The kids are always such an inspiration to me! They came up with new ways to do the crayon melt cards, surprising me with their creativity (will I ever quit being surprised by these ingenious spirits?). The ATC's were being made and traded for HOURS. I look forward to the next opportunity to share ATC's with curious minds. I must have had hundreds of blanks with me, thinking it was waaay too many. It wasn't quite enough in the end. Encouraging creativity means one needs to keep resources readily available!

I just used the last of my German Rock Cane sugar from the lush Teavana store in Dallas. Order some from their website for a rare treat. It's more raw then raw sugar! Crunchy, sweet, deliciousness. I was sad to use the last of it....

*Photo by Dan Coppersmith. More Rethinking Education photos are available at his photo gallery.

Beautiful loveliness

Or some such syrupy sweetness.

Somebody mentioned the Kahlil Gibran chapter "on children" from his book "The Prophet" on a list today. I had no idea that it had been turned into a song. Go listen to Sweet Honey on the Rock sing it Acapella style. If that doesn't bring tears to your eyes, I don't know that there's any hope for you.;)

I have all these lovelyish connections to Kahlil Gibran's work though. I feel a deep sense of connectedness to my mother through his work. One of the first times I felt we indeed had similar spirits was finding that book in the basement and realizing it was one of her treasures. She gave it to me a couple years before she died. It is one of my most cherished possessions now.

I mentioned a new friend from the RE conference in an earlier post. His Grandmother actually knew Gibran and housed him as he worked on "The Prophet". That was a pretty cool connection. Three degrees from brilliance right?

Enjoy the song....the ring of truth is so inviting.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


This is the boy who asked for a "wallermelon" plant.
This is the boy who asked for a "wallermelon" plant, who's Mum helped him grow it.
This is the boy who asked for a "wallermelon" plant, who's Mum helped him grow it, who is harvesting his first "wallermelon".

This is the picture pose of the boy who asked for a "wallermelon" plant, who's Mum helped him grow it, who is harvesting his first "wallermelon ".

This is the fruit being inspected by the boy who asked for a "wallermelon" plant, who's Mum helped him grow it, who is harvesting his first "wallermelon".

This is the girl, eating the fruit, the fruit being inspected by the boy who asked for a "wallermelon" plant, who's Mum helped him grow it, who is harvesting his first "wallermelon".

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.:)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Live and Learn crew continued....

Some shots of our time in Asheville with friends last weekend......

There's always some hidden and intriguing doorway somewhere, we're just sure it leads someplace fantastic. In this case it was to a hookah shop.:)

Ciara gets to reconnect with old friends and meet some new ones up at Black Mountain, ever so briefly.

This guy had the most unique tandem bike I've ever seen. Just a few minutes later we watched him bike past us up the street near Empire Tattoo. I'd hate to crash on this bike! Should have asked him for a ride.

There was the usual intense discussion and laughter that seems to come with the territory of hanging out with a bunch of unschoolers! The two people on the far right and left of this picture have the most fantastic coffee shop ever, in Corvallis OR. Make it a point to visit Sunnyside Up cafe if you're in the area.

One of my favorite raconteurs in the whole-wide-universe. Dianna always cuts right to the point in her blazing, fiery, beautiful way. She's truly one of the brightest lights this earth has ever known.

The Traveling Butterfly Gypsy was hanging out with us of course. These are some of my soul sisters...

My sweet "twin" Rue fits right into the Asheville scenery with her colorful, swirly skirts. We often get mixed up at the email lists and we share a birthday, so I'll claim her.:) I truly didn't write "Parenting a Free Child" though I get misplaced credit occasionally. It's a fabulous book that answers anything and everything related to unschooling and gentle parenting.
We're hanging out in front of Malaprop's here.
A pit stop at Malaprop's bookstore is always in order when you visit Asheville. Charles Vess and Charles de Lint were scheduled to be there that evening. We missed that unfortunately. I had left my copy of Memory and Dream at home anyway. Maybe next time.

The last goodbye. We waved and honked as the Jenners took the left ramp and we went right. It makes my heart happy to see their van all covered with happy unschooling "free the children" type messages. Until next time my friends.....be well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I just want to plug a really fabulous site one more time.:)
A new friend from the RE conference (mentioned in previous blog entry) gave me a truly amazing gift at a very appropriate moment. I read it every day now and I think everyone needs to have a copy.

Dan Coppersmith of Spiritwire.com takes gorgeous photos and writes uplifting poetry. The one I'm referring to scrolls across the front page of his website and is sure to inspire and ignite your spirit.

Of the twelve verses in "Hello World", this is one of my favorite:

"I am blazing, amazing
I can't be contained
I'm a glorious, fabulous
Radiant flame...."

I hope you get a copy for your home and read it aloud everyday. Can you imagine what an empowering thing this would be for a child to hear over and over? Can you imagine what might happen if we could all celebrate ourselves and each other for exactly who-we-are today?

Go check it out and celebrate YOU...because you are an amazing being!! I just know it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?"

It was the official tattoo funshop once again! Sunday night after the Live and Learn conference (which I sadly missed this year) we all met up at Empire tattoo in Asheville NC to get inked. Two years ago the tradition was born when Jon Kream showed up at my hotel door in St. Louis and said "let's go". That was my introduction to the world of tattoo's. Let's just say I'm hooked now.:)

Here's the latest addition of art to my body....

It's a Frieda Kahlo quote that I've loved for a very long time. I had the idea of feathers and a quote, the tattoo artist really ran with my idea and created a design I love.

Here's Kelli Traaseth's gorgeous tattoo that she designed herself. It looks very Tim Burtonish to me. I thought it was pretty bold for a first ink. Unfortunately I have no pics of Diana's full-calf tattoo and we missed Jon's inking all together as his was delayed by a day and we were headed back over the mountains before he got in. There were so many people getting inked this time. I hope you all post your pics soon.:)

The Simian Line

I'm not big into palmistry or other new age trends, but I've always wondered if there was something to it. Long ago, my art teacher Mrs. Stratton read our palms. She was a big believer and told us some very interesting things about ourselves. When she saw my hands for the first time, it was pointed out that I had a very rare line called the "Simian Line" which was an indicator of total idiocy or total genius. That's all she really told me at that time. I've stuck with the "total genius" idea since then.:)

I decided to do some research on it after some of us discussed the palm thing in Dallas last week. What I didn't realize is that the Simian Line is actually a fusing of the head and heart lines. They run as a solid line across both of my palms. I've never met anyone else with this feature. We are a small percentage of the population. It tends to show up in people with Down Syndrome more often.

I got a laugh out of some of the writings about people with Simian Lines. Some of it was spot on. Intense, passionate etc... Yeah, I can buy that. Apparently they also tend to have difficulties getting along with people. Nope. I only have a hard time with stupid people. :)

There was more information about people with Simian Lines that are below average intelligence. The last time I took an IQ test it was 140, so I think I'll stick with the "genius" thing (not that an IQ test means squat about anything really). Apparently Tony Blair has the Simian Line on both hands also. Oh joy.

I'd like to find more positive information about this feature. I also wish I shared the feature of being able to focus intensely with my fellow Simian's. I obsess about something for a while, then I'm onto the next thing, eventually getting back to each obsession in time. I like it that way, but there are times I wish I could stay focused better. Skipping around can be exhausting.

Anyone else out there with a Simian Line? It would be interesting to compare notes.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Rethinking Education comes to life....

Rethinking Education is an awesome adventure!
Signs like this were posted all over the hotel:

The piano was at Northpark mall, the very piano that John Lennon wrote the song "Imagine" upon. If you look closely, you can see the "Traveling Butterfly Gypsy" near my leg. She had a few adventures in Dallas with me.

My ATC workshop was loads of fun. I love trading with the children who are always so enthusiastic about these small works of art.

Peter Kowalke and Susan Brummett show off their ability to raise ONE eyebrow. I'm scared.

The late-night group consisted of (in this instance) Aaron Garland (whose uncle started the Muskox farm in Fairbanks I grew up visiting and whose friends started Vagabond Blues in Palmer...our favorite place to eat. Heidi got us hooked on Vagabonds!), myself, Eli Gerzon (a grown unschooler who now travels the world), Peter Kowalke (famous for his unschooling documentary "Grown Without Schooling") and the "S couple" Susan and Steve Brummett who know more about windsocks than anybody I've met.;)

It was a crazy, enlightening and fun-filled weekend. One I won't forget! I'm thankful for each and every one of you that made me feel welcome, stretched my horizons and connected over laughter or tears.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rethinking Education

Still trying to process all of the energy and learning that happened at Rethinking Education this last weekend. It's a great event, and truly focused on unschooling. I was honored to meet many new people that brought some amazing connections and ideas to the table. Sitting on a panel discussion with John Taylor Gatto and Peter Kowalke, among others was a highlight for sure.

I received generous gifts from Dan Coppersmith...the main gift being kindness, the secondary gifts are his photography and poetry. One was an 11x17 piece suitable for framing... go read it as soon as you can and say it out loud as often as possible.:) It's on the front page of his site, titled "Hello World".

There were late night talks, intense discussions, tears, hugs, funshops the size of Texas and as colorful as the unschoolers in attendance, art at the mall with my traveling butterfly gypsy, fortunes from cookies, feathers and angels pointing the way and enough laughter to make my gut ache. To sum up, it was an incredible weekend that helped me stretch and grow in ways I didn't expect.

Thank you to every person that shared of their time, their friendship, their support and their gifts. I feel fortunate to have been a part of the whole experience and I know my journey will take me in new places because of the connections made there.

....pictures to be up soon....very soon......promise....:)