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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, June 30, 2008

Learn Nothing Day!

Just in case you didn't know yet, there is an official "learn nothing day" just for all you unschoolers. I don't even think it's possible, but what fun eh?

How will YOU celebrate "learn nothing day"? I think I'll have to stay in bed and try to sleep all day...but heck, even then I'll be learning something. Dang. This is going to be hard!;)

Now to think of some crazy way to celebrate....without learning anything.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I'm a b.i.t.c.h.

Apparently someone thinks so anyway.

This was highly amusing. My friend Diana has a stat counter for her blog. Apparently someone had googled "Ren Allen bitch" and ended up at this blog of Diana's somehow (which as actually about her beautiful Hannah who died two years ago)....probably because she had the word bitch in a post during the same month that my name was mentioned (the March 23rd post if you scroll down a little bit).

Don't I look like a bitch in that picture? I think I look stoned.;) I must have pissed someone off again at my Unschooling Basics list. I had to google it just to see what happened. I seem much more interesting when you google "Ren Allen unschooling".

Someone must have been very disappointed by that search.:)
It made my day though. Goddess bless the blog stats!


Some snapshots of our Friday! It was all about working with my weak hive, replacing a queen and trying to figure out what is going on. Then we had friends from out of town and more friends down at Music on the Square.

We had a blast hanging out at our house afterwards, jumping on the trampoline in the dark and watching the kids do their usual dress-up. I love you guys!!:)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yummy stuff

First things first (can you see my priorities here?)........let's talk truffles.:)

These lovely works of art were a gift from a sweet unschooling Mum named Mara at the NE unschooling conference. I think it pays to mention truffles in your blog bio and talk about chocolate when you speak publicly. Yes, it really pays.

We had a mini-truffle tasting party a few nights ago. Everyone declared these the best truffles ever. Especially the lemon-filled one which was a favorite of all the tasters. It was almost painful to cut these up, so beautiful they were. Thank you Mara!! If any of you are drooling about now, you can order your own lovely truffles from Knipschildt Chocolatier.

On Saturday we all (other than Jared) headed up to the Mountain Expo in Erwin. We tried our hand at archery, something I haven't done for a very long time. It's like riding a bike. I did fine and the kids found a new passion. Looks like we'll be getting some bows and arrows soon.

Jalen had an especially hard time giving the bow back. Luckily this was a small town event where taking turns was less important than sharing passions. They were really sweet about letting him stay as long as he wanted.

They both checked out the kayaks. Bleu and I have kayaked enough to know we didn't really feel like paddling a stinky pond that day. But we have kayaks on the list of things to buy. We adore how kayaks can get into areas that hikers or motor powered boats can't. They're especially great at getting close to wildlife with their quiet ability. We've always rented kayaks and been in love with kayaking for many years...it's time to do something about it.

Yet another passion awakened....Sierra rocked out the climbing wall (no pun intended..truly). Once again, the guys were really cool about letting her go until she was done. They kept encouraging her to try the next difficulty level until she got to the top of the most difficult wall. When she came down, the guy in charge came over excitedly and said "You have GOT to get her out on some rock!"

Well yeah...that was the plan for years (another thing we let go while living in Florida). Bleu and I did a lot of alpine climbing back in Oregon, but I was the only one interested in rock climbing. Babies and moves and lotsa stuff got in the way of exploring that interest though. The Mountain Expo helped us get back in touch with those passions and we're meeting a climber up at the rock wall tonight! Yippeee!

Another thing the kids love in summer-time is swimming of course. Their favorite public pool has a slide, so we bought summer memberships and we're heading back up today.

Swimming and rock climbing all in one day? Sounds like a recipe for F.U.N. And some tired peeps at the end of the day.;)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Follow-up to photo shoot

I had mentioned a photo shoot way back in April. This link will take you to some of the shots the photographer took that night, Sierra's start on page 7 and continue on page 8 if you want to check them out. I didn't do makeup on all of the models, but the fire theme, flower theme, butterfly face and Sierra are mine in that grouping. Enjoy!

Off with the fairies

Fairies have come up a few times these last few weeks...it must be time to pay attention.:)
Sierra has a hidden spot up along the property line where she has begun to build houses for the fairies. It started with one house and now she wants to make a village for them.

One thread at Unschooling Basics recently was about children who were "off with the fairies" and how quickly those behaviors get discounted by adults, especially in school. I was often away with the fairies in my own mind and got remarks on my report card like "daydreams too much" or "doesn't pay attention". As if it's a bad thing to daydream too much. What is "too much" anyway? It wasn't enough for me.

I WAS paying attention though, just not to the things they thought worthy. I'm glad my own children can be off with their fairies all they need, or wherever else their minds decide to go and stay as long as they wish.

Patti Digh wrote a post today at the "37 days" blog titled "Catalog your fairies".
In it, she ends with some good advice about honoring a child for exactly what they see and feel.

I think we will create a small bin of fairy materials. Sticks, stones, moss and whatever materials needed to build them some comfortable homes. After all, what is a garden without a few fairies stopping by?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summertime fun

The bad news? Trevor moving out.
The good news? Trevor moving out.

It's good for him, because it's what he wants. It's good for us because we suddenly have more space.:) As much as we miss him, Sierra is thrilled to have her own room now.

It was musical rooms here again. Jared moved into Trevor's old room and Sierra took over Jared's. We painted it to her taste....

Jalen even popped in to help for about, oh, say five minutes before he said "I'm done with THIS" in a disgusted voice. It's only fun until your arm starts hurting.

Here she is in her new space. Aaaaahhhhhh...

We found out that there is now a Farmer's Market in downtown Jonesborough, which is very exciting! Sierra made a new friend on our first foray a couple Saturdays ago.

Here's a list of what will be there this week:

At the Jonesborough Farmers' market this Saturday 6/14:

  • Early season produce (lettuce, salad mix, radishes, herbs)
  • Herb and perennial plants
  • Country Sausage
  • Honey
  • Strawberries (after 9am for freshness)
  • Homemade breads and cinnamon rolls
  • Scratch Brick Oven breads, sandwiches, danishes, pizzas
  • Earth and Sky Confections
  • Blue Ridge Chocolates
  • Herbed Goat Cheeses (after 9am)
  • Jams, Jellies, canned goods
  • Fair trade Coffee & Scones from the Cranberry Thistle
  • Live music (after 8:30)

Last week we met up with La's crew at Winged Deer park for a free movie night. It seemed like a really cool idea (the movie part that is, meeting up with them is always cool) until the movie started and we couldn't hear a thing from our playground-way-in-the-back positioning. Oh, and then looking at the sea of vehicles (did EVERYONE in the Tri-cities decide this was a good idea?) and wondering how many hours it would take to get out of there afterwards, made us think it might be good to leave half way through.

THAT was a good idea for sure!:)

We had fun hanging out and chatting, playing in the water and being outside though. Met a new friend too.

This was probably their favorite part.

We left happy, laughing and a bit damp (mainly from the unusually high humidity). I think we'll go back when there is no inflatable movie screen drawing thousands of people into the park. Next time I want to hang out with cool people and watch a movie, I think we'll have them over here with some wine and pay the $4 for a rental. Yeah, that sounds good.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Discussion on labels

We've been having a very interesting discussion about labels and the benefits of avoiding them, even for children with some major differences, over at UnschoolingBasics. Kelly Lovejoy posted this video and wrote:

~~ There's a wonderful young man out there named Stephen Wiltshire. The
amazing thing about Stephen isn't his memory and drawing
ability---although they are remarkable beyond words!

It's his childhood. He obviously didn't fit the mold. All he wanted to
do was draw---that's where he found comfort and where he excelled. But
that's all fine and dandy--AFTER he's done his "normal" work. In order
to get his drawing notebook, he would have to jump through a bunch of
school hoops. THEN he was allowed to draw. His childhood was
horrendous---all those folks trying to make him fit in and be "normal."

I couldn't find the video/article I first saw about him. In it his
childhood is discussed. The newer ones gloss over his school years.

How I wish he was celebrated for Who He Was when he was a *child*.~~

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

New Unschooling list!

Just spreading the word! I started a new unschooling list for support and discussion. Hope some of you will join me in making it a great place for people to question, ponder and get encouragement for the journey.

Learning in Freedom:

Learning in Freedom is a place to discuss gentle parenting and unschooling. From birth to adulthood, unschooling is all about learning naturally and trusting our inner voice, while helping our children explore the world freely. Talk to parents that have "been there" and new parents finding their way into this very joyful way of connecting as a family.

In John Holt's words "Birds fly, fish swim, humans learn". We believe that humans are born to learn and learning happens best in an environment of trust and respect where everything counts as learning, from Scooby Doo to Kathmandu!


"As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live. "
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ah yes, that trust issue again. There are several after-thoughts about the conference I'd like to share. Still doing that whole sifting/processing that happens after such amazing gatherings, so I won't be able to get it all out tonight. One thing I wished we had time to explore more thoroughly was during the "Terrific Teens" talk that Erika and I did together.

A Mum was talking about recently moving towards the Radical Unschooling lifestyle and how her teen seems to be "pushing" her. Erika likened it to an invisible fence, the child being sure the old rules and boundaries are still there so she's searching for it. I like that analogy.

Joy Karim brought up the fact that the mother could just quit looking at her child's behavior as "pushing" and try to see it as simply living her life. I think that's such good advice. It's not outrageous to think that the child might be trying to see if her mother is trustworthy and trying to find just what the boundaries are at this point. But if the behavior can simply be seen as part of her LIVING and BEING and nothing more, then the mother can be more open to finding solutions rather than feeling "pushed".

I loved that thought and wanted to discuss it further but the conversation turned other directions.

If we can simply see our children as living their lives and be their partners in the journey, then even when a family is making shifts towards freedom there need not be the filter on the eyes that makes behavior look more intentional than it really is.

Seeing our children as doing their very best, helps us truly be in the moment with them rather then filtering the behavior through our own baggage. I remember adults talking about how I "tested" them and it felt SO unfair and like they didn't understand at all. I never remember intentionally "testing" anyone! I simply didn't like the way I was treated at times, nor did I agree with their judgements of my behavior.

Being with our children in the moment means letting go of our own notions of what the behavior is about. Seeking understanding allows us to connect rather than judge. And if they are "testing" the waters so to speak? Then it might be more important to let go of that idea entirely, in order to become more trustworthy for them.

Just as the road to peace is to simply BE peace, the road to trust is to simply TRUST. Trust yourself, trust your children, be trustworthy. That's it.