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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......

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The trip out West

I've been on the go since 6am today and there are few words to describe how exhausted I am right now. BUT, my sis Heidi got a loverly blog post up that has some pics and activities from the trip, including some information about my sweet Jared that might interest a few folks. I have only two children in my house for the next few months. It's a strange experience. :) Nite, nite.....

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Toothpaste babies

Jalen is sitting here in our hotel room talking a lot about poop and anything else that the eight year old mind finds amusing. He was sharing how great his breath smells and said something about pooping...

"so now we have pooping toothbrushes?" I ask.

"No, my toothpaste poops. It poops out toothpaste babies which I use on my teeth to make my breath smell good."

Toothpaste babies. Wish I'd thought of THAT one.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Heading West....

Insert deep sigh here. I miss the NorthWest. I do, I do. My sis Heidi just called me from Portland's Saturday Market, one of my fave places in the world. It's an eclectic mish-mash of handmade goods, greasy food, colorful people and amazing talents. You can get lost in the noise and hub-bub. There's always some street musicians and street entertainers if you need to pause. The choices of handmade items is endless.

I think she just called to gloat a bit...we're already SO excited about leaving tomorrow. I think of all the places I've been in my life and how each place has enriched me and deepened my understanding of the world and it's people. Travel is an amazing way to connect, to learn and mainly, to have FUN. I value our travels so much and hope my children get to continue visiting amazing people and places on this earth. It's hard to be close minded when you see many places and learn what people are like in those many places.

We're looking forward to visiting the Tillamook cheese factory and the Oregon Coast, OMSI, the Vancouver Farmer's Market and my Grandparents farm. I've climbed several of the cascade mountains and lived/worked in the NW for over a decade of my life....it's good to be going back for a bit.

The massive Columbia river will be our view from Life is Good, you can't get much better than that!! Happy trails everyone...wherever your travels--both near and far--take you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tidbit from a list

Sandra Dodd wrote the following in a post at Always Learning and it really resonated with me. So many people ask things like "Is it ok for unschoolers to _________?" which worries me. It worries me because it seems that unschooling has become some sort of club to join, rather than a philosophy/lifestyle to discuss. It worries me because if someone is more concerned about doing what an unschooler would do, they aren't really examining the issue critically. It's not a great way to wrap your mind around a new idea, it's just a way to "join". Rather than be concerned about whether something is "unschooling" or not, maybe people could question whether it's respectful, whether they are focused on what their child needs and whether it brings peace and joy to their family.

Here's what Sandra wrote:

~~NVC is all about rules, though, and labeling
people with new labels and using jargon (redefining
words for the purpose, such as "violent,"
just as NCP redefined "coerce."

For those unfamiliar with these initials, NVC is
for "non-violent communication" which says
"Do things our way or you are a violent
jackal." NCP is "Non-coercive parenting"
which says "Do things our
way or you are coercive."

I have tried for a long time NOT to say "do things
the unschooling way," but do things that make sense,
that aren't arbitrary, that make you a more peaceful
and generous person. Still it's pretty common
and perhaps human nature for some people to come,
take a glance, get excited about something (like
"No BEDTIMES!" and tell their kids "You
never have to go to bed again! NOW we are

People like rules and touchstones and proofs
and flags to wave.

I think "the rule" should be "think," and the
touchstone should be a child's head, touched

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Life is a Verb

I've blogged about Patti Digh more than once over at Tea with Ren, but I thought I'd share this video here. She's a great inspiration to me and her discussion at ARGH was really awesome. Get the book, I love it!! After you click the "play" button you can click on the video to enlarge it. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pushing vs. supporting

I had a discussion at ARGH in March about the idea of forcing your child to attend a class they were reluctant to attend, after showing interest. My bottom line is that even if my children gain something valuable from being forced/coerced, what they lose is MUCH more influential...trust in themselves.

The topic came up again at Unschooling Basics this week and Joyce Fetteroll answered it so well I thought I'd just share the post in it's entirety. The ~~ parts are quoting the original poster and the rest of this is all Joyce. She was one of the voices I found SO incredibly helpful about a decade ago, when I first discovered how unschooling could impact our entire parenting journey, not just the educational aspects.

The above picture is of Jalen, helping me get our seeds started early this spring, not because anyone made him but because he likes to grow things. He scrubbed some doors and moulding for me today too, because he saw me doing it. Funny how that self-motivation thing works eh? :)

Oh, and I've climbed mountains and gardened and all sorts of things that are very challenging just because I wanted it enough. There's a saying amongst climbers about why they climb a mountain; "because it's there".


On May 9, 2009, at 1:26 PM, DJ250 wrote:
~~ I have a friend who's interested in unschooling
but feels that her rather shy daughter would not have
varied interests if she hadn't pushed her at certain times.~~

Quite possibly.

There are adults who were pushed through music by
well meaning parents who are grateful for the pushing.

There are adults who were pushed through music by
well meaning parents who have so wrapped the
memories of coercion and tears and powerlessness
around music that they want nothing to do with music.

(Music can be filled in with anything: basketball, cleaning
up, writing, math, horses ...)

Both shed tears and complained, so how does a parent
know what the outcome will be? Unfortunately we so
want to give kids all the advantages that the stories
of people who are grateful they were pushed, the times
when our kids find happiness in something we pushed
them into, loom larger than the far more common stories
of people who avoid what they were pushed through.

How many people were forced through 12 years of
math and hate it? How many love it?

So, are the only two options pushing while praying
or not pushing?

No. But this is a slippery slope because helping kids
past the humps can end up being pushing. So, the
first idea to examine is that each time we push,
we run the risk of the child deciding they need
someone else to push them, that they can't move
past the difficulties on their own.

It will be also helpful to keep in mind that you
could be wrong. It might be the worst thing for
that child. And you'll be helping your child with
another life skill by letting them assess and decide if
it's right. Each time they decide, they learn a bit
more about themselves.

So, with that in mind, I'd talk it over with the child.
*Don't* begin with the idea of convincing them they
should let you push them since you feel it's a good idea
for them. Listen to them.

~~Mom pushed her to try a 4-H horse competition which
the kid found she rather liked after doing it.~~

And while she pursued that she was not pursuing
something else. Maybe the other things would have
been something she liked even better. Or

The point is that there are a million choices we can make,
a million things we could get interested in. Everytime we
focus on one, there's nearly a million others we're not choosing.
We can't ever know we've found the ultimate, best thing.
But having the freedom to choose and explore is even better
than certainty.

~~Mom says she wouldn't have so much knowledge about
horses now and wouldn't have found out she enjoyed such
a class if she hadn't been pushed a bit to do it.~~

The daughter might even agree. But the most important thing
is the mother is deciding on the value and that the pushing
yielded something the mom values.

The focus should be on the child. What does the child want?
We know less what the child wants, less about who the child is
-- the child knows less! -- the less we listen and the more
we push.

My daughter Kat's a very good distance runner and loves
running. She joined the school cross country team.
My husband loves running too and was on the same team
when he was in high school. He loves competition. Not one
of those rabid beat 'em types, but he gets jazzed setting
up goals for himself. He tried to help her train to beat the
cream of the crop. (Not a huge stretch since she's a natural
at it.) At first she enjoyed it. But as she continued, she
started to realize the goal of beating someone (and the
possibility of failure) didn't float her boat. She just loved
to run. It was hard for Carl to even grasp the idea of not
caring about competing and there was a lot of strain until
he finally accepted that someone could have great talen
but want to do something other than what he'd do with it.

~~She feels it's human nature to go the easy route instead
of trying things that are tough.~~

It's human nature to avoid what we feel is a waste of time,
energy and resources.

It's also human nature to pour energy into what we
find fascinating.

If someone is made to climb a mountain, they'll find
the easiest path, and perhaps even cheat.

If someone desires to climb a mountain, they may
even make it more difficult -- challenging -- for
themselves if the route doesn't light their fire.

If it were human nature to go the easy route, I
wouldn't be sitting here writing out a response!
No one would write a novel. No one would
climb Mt. Everest. No one would bake a cherry
pie from scratch. No one would have kids ;-)

~~She said when she was growing up maybe if someone
had pushed her more to take tougher science classes,
she would have become a vet.~~

It's much easier to blame others for our failures than
to accept responsibility.

That sounds harsh and judgmental. It's meant as a
universal truth. When we decide we aren't capable
of something and feel that we can't accomplish
something unless someone else uses their power
over us to make us, we can absolve ourselves of failure.
It's not our fault we aren't doing x. It's other people's
fault for not pushing us, or not clearing the way for us.

A far more useful life skill for kids is knowing they can
do whatever they set their minds to. That trumps
a knowledge of horses or guitar skills or ability to
spell or whatever someone's personal need is.

While it would be *easier* if her parents had
pressured science on her. (*And* she had liked it.)
Now, not being a vet isn't their responsibility. It's hers.
She'd be living the idea that you can do anything you
put your mind to if she decided to become a vet right
now rather than modeling that you can blame your
failures on others.

For a shy child, it would be far more valuable for mom
to help her find ways the daughter can use to get past
the humps to do the things the daughter wants to do.
If the daughter gets the idea she needs the mom to push
her, she could end up at 20+ wishing her mom had pushed
her in science so she could be a vet.

~~She knows of people who perused the college
catalogues, saying "Hmm, what are the easiest classes
to take."~~

When college is seen as another hoop they're
pressured to jump through, why wouldn't they
choose the easiest route? It isn't until school
change to be relevant to people's lives, it isn't
until a college degree isn't seen as the key to
success, that kids won't be choosing for expediency's

When college is seen as one option to explore what
fascinates you, then interest will be the determining
factor in choosing courses. That's what will carry over
from living a life exploring what fascinates you.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Fabulous article...

...by unschooling Dad Jeff Sabo. His blog is really great all around but I especially love this essay about Dads and control titled "Great Expectations".

I can totally relate to the way expectations mess with our heads and get in the way of joyful relationships. Still learning about that "letting go" process every day.

Jeff, his wife Ginger, and their boys will be at Life is Good next week. Don't miss it!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Paper or plastic?

Neither I say!
But that isn't the important choice anyway. What's IN the bag is more important. A compelling argument for a vegetarian diet in this article by Emily Gertz.

My friend Cid makes some awesome bags from T-shirts...talk about altered! They're soft and hold a ton of groceries. We love our Ecotees!
Now go fill 'em with some local produce, preferably organic. We picked up some amazingly delicious strawberries today and there's a pound cake in the oven just waiting to be smothered with them.:)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

My latest interview

If you're interested....
It's an online article about homeschooling and unschooling options, you can read here, at babygooroo. It's by Mum and writer Mary Jessica Hammes who was very professional and easy to work with. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Another Jalen convo

Jalen was just asking me about why we moved from Florida and how much we made on our house and so on....we chatted about hurricanes and mountains and the reasons we wanted to live here instead of at the beach.
"Why do they call it TennesSEE though? There's no seas around here." says the boy.

My birthday is coming....

...and you're invited!! I'll just paste what Laura is posting:

WHAT: Ren's 40th birthday bash
WHEN: May 10th, 6pm til they kick us out!
WHERE: Acoustic Coffee House, Johnson City, TN
BRING: potluck style food and drinks

That's right...Ren is turning 40 and you'll wanna be there to help us celebrate!!

We know it's a little late notice, but come if you can!!

if you've got questions just email Laura (ladymomma@gmail.com)