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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, May 30, 2008

The trip East

A brief tour of our trip to the NE Unschooling conference...because it would take too long to write about all of it and it was all pretty fabulous. Thanks to Kathryn and Beth for hosting such an amazing gathering!

It all started with a really good idea, to stop at Touch The Earth Farm where some of our friends run a CSA and raise all kinds of yummy things. It's a piece of Eden. The kids had a great time checking out the piggies and turkeys and chickens and geese and bees.....

....and all sorts of green growing things too.:)

The feeling of it being a piece of Eden may have been about the growing things, but it might just have been all that swirly, unschooling energy of free children (ah, but I suppose they are more growing things too).

Free children playing amongst lovely things, like blank T-shirts and sharpie pens, or the climbing wall, or the various swinging things they hung and swung from.

Then we had a really bad idea...
or rather *I* had a really bad idea. Which seemed good at the time. Live and Learn right? I think I've heard that phrase before.;)

The bad-idea-cleverly-disguised-as-a-good-idea was all about the route we were taking. Right through New York city up I-95. Because that's what Google maps said to do and why would I question Google maps??? Why indeed? (picture me cross-eyed and cursing google maps in several languages here).

We'd see the Empire State building right? And maybe a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty? Oh sure, it would be worth it. Bad, bad logic. Faulty logic. Very, very naive and ignorant of me....which ended up in everyone paying the price by sitting in every traffic jam from Princeton to Hartford. At least five of them. We lost hours and gas and sanity...all while learning about toll booths on EVERY freaking highway or bridge.

I learned something very valuable.
People that live in big cities on the East coast...

Certifiable. Why would anyone want to live where there are lots of other people driving fast and inhaling each others gas fumes? Why?

I'd like to see a study done on Southerners vs. Easterners and see how the statistics on stress rank. Because they seem to be a stressed out lot that drives angrily and think that Tennessee only has dirt roads. Hmmmphhh. It would have been amusing but the guy who asked me that really believed it! Wow.

I now know why so many Southerners don't like Yankees. It's not the "Yankee" so much as the East-coast-stressed-out-elitist they don't like. But maybe that's what a "Yankee" is anyway. I always equated it with "from the North". I'm still learning.

The George Washington bridge.....at rush hour. My knuckles were getting kinda white and I'm trying to remember to BREATHE. I just kept saying "there's no place like home" and clicking my heels. I've got news for ya ...it doesn't work. Maybe next time I'll bring some ruby slippers with me.

But then, when I believe I will be sleeping in a rental van in this crazy place people call "back East" we reach another haven. The Kream's house is over a hundred years old and reminds me of houses in all those Zilpha Keatley Snyder books I escaped into as a child. It's got a windy staircase up three stories and has all sorts of nooks and crannies to get lost in. I was pretty sure if I lifted or pushed just-the-right spot, a bookcase would spin around and show me a secret room. It was a magic house. A magic house filled to the brim with unschoolers. Talk about perfect. We celebrated birthdays and talked and snuggled in comfy corners.

The next morning my kids explored the outside nooks and crannies which include a tree-top fort, a large swimming pool (not yet open for the season), a zip line and many fruit trees sprawling on their acre lot.

That evening we met for the presenters dinner, where Jalen promptly fell asleep. I was pretty sure he was headed for a melt-down so falling asleep at the table was much better. For me anyway.

Ah, our tribe. It was good to be at a conference again. A place where gentle, mindful parenting is the NORM. Cool.

During one of my round table discussions, this was the scene right in front of me. It made my heart happy and seems to epitomize what the conferences are all about. Great example of meeting both needs....

the Mom wanting to connect and talk, the child wanting to be a child. A painting, colorful child sitting next to her Mum. Perfect.

It's always hard to say our goodbyes. This time was especially difficult. There was quite a send-off party in the parking lot as we tried to drive away. We were definitely feeling the love.:)

Back to Touch the Earth Farm for a quick overnight so I could keep driving. Their milk cow Lavish had arrived while we were at the conference and the kids were really excited to meet her.

She's a most beautiful creature who calls to everyone when she wants attention. Danielle says "We have a dinosaur in the pasture." Cows do make strange sounds don't they?

After arriving back home we got some rest and then headed down to Hendersonville to drop off Trevor and George. He's officially moved out now. Here they are at the new house, George is holding her acceptance letter to UNC Asheville where she'll be attending her second year of college. Life moves forward.

Fun thing happened on our way out of Jen and Marc's house. Sierra found her first four-leaf clover!! She'd been trying to find one for a very long time...years perhaps. We were walking to the van and there it was, growing next to their sidewalk. One of those happy moments you can't plan.

She proudly displays her treasure.

So I came home and slept most of the afternoon, totally and completely exhausted but filled with great memories and lovely connections. So many friends, and even family in the form of my cousin Jill and her son Robby. We grew up in Alaska together and share a common and strange family history. She was super-sweet at the conference bringing me drinks (how did she know I tend to neglect my body and get uber distracted?)

The next morning I sat in Trevor's empty room and cried. It felt so final to see that empty room with none of his belongings in it. I knew that an era had ended and even if he came back home to live, things had changed. Unschoolers grow up. People move. Your time with your children is a finite thing and every moment counts. Make them good moments...
no, make them GREAT.

I love the quote I shared at the conference from Judy in AZ: "Just breathe. Don't waste a moment of enjoying who-they-are by worrying about what they may become."

I'm still "becoming" at age 39, so when does this turning-out thing happen anway? I hope I never find out.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Boston or bust!

We're all gearing up for the NE Unschooling conference which takes place over Memorial Day weekend. There will be lots of our good friends to hang out with, late night talks and happy faces. I can't wait! If you can get there, it's a great opportunity to make new friends and enjoy connections.

The kids are already putting aside their favorite outfits and planning what to take (yes, we're driving!) Sierra is especially looking forward to seeing some friends along the way and hopefully trying some fresh cow milk from Touch the Earth farm.:)

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Daily stuff

Sierra's been busy knitting again.

I've been busy being entertained by some of these creatures. Did I mention I have a bird obsession? This bluebird has an insect in it's mouth, probably heading back to one of our birdhouses where some very loud babies are growing up. You can't see it, but a woodpecker was on the rail beneath her and kept peaking out.

And finally, I decided to go back to blonde. Or some mix of blonde and other colorfulness I suppose.

More exciting, we are harvesting food from our garden now! Little bits here and there which get worked into meals.:) I do so love growing things. Children and plants are my favorite.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Sierra was discussing a Halloween costume idea with Jalen tonight....she wanted them to dress up like the Ice Climbers from the Super Smash Bros. game. She thought it would be great to have him be the blue climber, but no, he wanted to be the pink one. For a minute.

Then he thought about it for a second and said "Sierra I can't be the Ice Climber because I'm going to be LINK!"

"What? You're going to be Link AGAIN?" she asks.

He gets a very serious expression at this point,

"Sierra, I'm going to be Link on Halloween for the rest of my LIFE."