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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......

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My travelin' kid

While we've been gardening and playing with friends and working and such, Jared has been doing things like climbing "The Butte" in Palmer Alaska:

He ran in his first race this week, a 10k at 10pm called the Midnight Sun Run in Fairbanks. I ran it a few times in High school, once with my Dad and sister Heidi (the same sister with whom Jared is living right now and ran the race again this year, along with my nephews Tristan and Kevin).

He's already changed and I'm not even there to watch it happen. It's cool and a bit strange but I'm really excited about all the amazing things he's doing. Life changing things...though he may not realize it now.

He'll come home full of new experiences and tales to tell. We'll have a few of our own to share. I miss him like crazy but mostly I'm just happy my kids feel free to explore this big, amazing world and take what they need from those experiences. Happy trails.....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Being your child's friend

I remember a moment very clearly from my teen years. My Mum and I had another of our screaming matches and I had stormed off to my room, slamming the door while crying those big, heavy, uncomfortable sobs. I was still sitting on my bed a while later, trying to find some comfort in my space when she knocked and asked to come in. She had cooled off a bit and was trying to reach out. I remember telling her, through all the snot and tears, "I just need you to be my friend". Her response? "I can't be your friend, I'm your parent".

She wasn't trying to be mean, she was buying into the conventional "wisdom" of that time. I remember so well the feeling that solidified for me in that moment. I knew I couldn't trust her. I knew I wouldn't tell her certain things or reach out to her in the same way again. Those words rang in my ears..."I can't be your friend". It stuck. We weren't friends again for a very long time. I loved her and she loved me, always. But the friendship didn't come until I had lived away from home for many years.

This topic came up at the Always Learning list today and I want to share what Pam Sorooshian wrote on this matter. As usual, she put it in such a clear and poetic manner. I will always be my children's parent AND friend. One can be both.

(note: The picture and quote are swiped from Sandra's website.)

"As we get older and our kids grow up, we eventually come to realize that all the big things in our lives are really the direct result of how we've handled all the little things." —Pam Sorooshian, June 4, 2007


Something that has rattled around in my head for
years is the line, "You're the parent, not their friend."

I was just reading a news article and someone was
quoted as saying:"Your kids don’t need a 40-year-old friend.
They need a parent,"

What a tragic dichotomy that one little line sets up!
Every single time that line has ever entered my head,
it was leading me in the wrong direction. Every time.

What is a friend? I'm not talking about the schoolmates
teenagers go out partying and drinking with. Not talking
about the 5 year old kid your child happens to play with
at the park that day. I'm talking about real friendship.

1 a*:* one attached to another by affection or esteem

Knowing what I know now, with my kids grown, I strongly
feel that one line, which permeates parental consciousnesses,
should be quickly and actively contradicted and rooted out
like a pernicious weed every single time it sprouts up.

Instead of "You're the parent, not their friend," substitute,
"Be the very very best friend to them you can possibly be."

Do your kids need you to be their "40 year old friend?" YES!
Children do need to feel attached to their parents "by affection
or esteem." What better connection is there than by affection
and esteem?

AND, what's more, parents need their children's friendship too.
Some people seem to think there is something wrong with
parents "needing" their children. They act like being mutually
attached to each other means children have not become
independent enough and parents are being a "burden
to their children."

A 40 year old friend isn't going to have the same
relationship with a 5 year old as his/her 5 year
old friends or 10 year old friends. And parent-child
friendships evolve over the years until they are,
eventually, adult-with-adult friendships.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be your child's
friend. Do what it takes to earn their friendship - be supportive
and kind and honest and trustworthy and caring and generous
and loyal and fun and interesting and interested in them and all
the other things that good friends are to each other. Be the best
40 year old friend you can be (or whatever age you are).

People use "I'm the parent, not a friend," as an excuse
to be mean, selfish, and lazy. Instead, be the adult in the
friendship. Be mature. You've BEEN a five-year-old and
your child has not been a forty-year-old, so you have an
advantage in terms of long-term and wider perspective.
Use that advantage to be an even better friend. You know
how to be kinder and less self-centered and you know how
beneficial it is to put forth the effort.

I can honestly say that my children and I are friends. I know
they'd say the same. I'm not trying to act like I'm 18 or 21 or 24
-- I am 57 years old. They're having a "Halo" party at someone
else's house tonight and will stay up all night playing video games
and I'm not going to go and hang out with them all night and play
Halo. I'm going to make a huge platter of deviled eggs for them
to take over there, but I'm going to stay home and watch a movie
with my husband and go to bed early enough that I'll feel good
tomorrow. I'm not 18 and I don't recover as quickly as they do
from a night with no sleep. I didn't go to the midnight showing
of the Terminator movie the other night, for the same reason.
But I was certainly invited and welcome.

My kids are not spoiled brats because I've tried to be their friend.
They hold jobs, they manage money, they make good and responsible
decisions. We are very strongly "attached by affection and esteem."
I wish I could wipe that expression out of everybody's minds and replace
it with "Be the best friend to your children that you can be."

Pam Sorooshian

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lovely synchronicity

Today, Sierra and I were uploading and editing pictures from the last week, photos of Music on the Square with the Gavins, Bowmans, Chittums and Traaseths, photos of the storms moving through the last couple of days etc...

As I sat out in my art room organizing just now, a song came on from a CD that Zenmomma mixed. It was a James song titled "Waltzing Along". I had that weird feeling of "knowing" but I couldn't figure out why...there were words in the song that were familiar not by having heard them before but something else.

Then it hit me!! The words were on Laura's shirt she wore to Music on the Square last week...Kelli had given it to her when it didn't fit properly, a gift from the Mayer's in Canada (the same Mayers we got to hang out with at Life is Good last month) in sympathy for the Traaseth's not making it to the gathering which the shirts were created for.

Still following? It's ok, I'm confused too....but anyway, it was so cool to sit in my art room thinking about getting back to my art just about the time La is getting back to hers also. So cool to sit in my art room and think about collaborative energy and co-creation and simplifying and such things and then hear the words I was reading on my good friend just days ago.:) So cool. Especially when one doesn't expect it or plan for it or even realize that the words on the shirt were inspired by a James song (though one should have expected it).

Then I ran in from the art room to blog about it before I forgot. And here we are.....

Waltzing Along

Help comes when you need it most
I'm cured by laughter
Mood swings not sure I can cope
My life's in plaster (in plaster)

May your mind set you free
(chorus: opened by the wonderful)
May your heart lead you on
May your mind let you breathe all of disaster
(chorus: opened by the wonderful)
May your heart lead you on

These wounds are all self-imposed
Life's no disaster, disaster
All roads lead unto death-row
Who knows what's after

May your mind be wide open
May your heart beat strong
May your mind's will be broken
By this heart-felt song

May your mind set you free (Chorus: Be opened by the wonderful)
May your heart lead you on
May your mind let you breathe all of disaster (Chorus: Be opened by the
May your heart lead you on, may your heart lead you on
May your eyes let you see all of disaster
May your heart lead you on, lead you on
(Chorus: May your eyes be opened by the wonderful)
Set you free (Chorus: May your heart lead you on)
Lead you on

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Trip to the NW: The Beach

We spent the 18th driving to Tillamook to visit the cheese factory, Cannon Beach where we explored Haystack Rock and then on to Seaside for some shop browsing and arcade fun.

The cheese factory is much more sterile and touristy than it was when I visited as a kid. But the ice cream and cheese are still amazing.

I love Haystack rock where you can get up close and personal to sea creatures, the smaller variety anyway.

The kids seem to spend most of their time in the very cold water and digging in the wet sand until their lips are blue.

Hot coffee and no water play were in order for me....thank you very much.

Hanging out with my sisters and their families/children was truly awesome. I'm so lucky to have two of the best sisters ever. I mean EVER. They rock! I love you both.....

David Carradine

I just wanted to post this video of David Carradine on the night that I briefly met him! He was at the party I attended in Beverly Hills. I adored Kung Fu returns and the Kill Bill series...sure wish I'd gotten a pic with him. Anyway, here is the video interview of him that night. Rest in Peace Mr. Carradine.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Trip to the NW: The Farm

I have many things I'd like to write about our trip out West and all the things we did in those 10 days, but I'm not going to do it in order. Not chronological order anyway, perhaps order of importance to me personally.

There are very few places that remain from my childhood. Places I can plant my feet today at any rate. We moved. I left the church. Things change. But one such place remains where I feel that grounding, that connection to my childhood, my family, my ancestral history. It's my paternal Grandparents farm.

They bought some land in the 40's, with two young children in tow. The first summer on their land they lived out of a tent. Once the garage was built, they lived in it until the house was finished a couple years later. They farmed that land for over 40 years and continued logging and gardening until recently.

Inside, the cupboards are filled with home canned goods, just as I always remember. The woodstove burns warmly and Grandma sits working on her crossword puzzles, just as I always remember. As much as things have changed, many are the same.

The house smells like good food, at all times. I think the scent of all the jams Grandma made over the years, are permanently embedded in the very walls of the kitchen.

Outside there are poignant reminders of decay, of once-loved things being forgotten or neglected, of times past that linger with us now.

My Grandfather died early this year. His beloved Model "T" still sits in his workshop. I could almost hear our child voices laughing with joy as we climbed inside for a ride up the dirt hill. I could see my sister and I dressed up to ride in the Vernonia parade and lovingly recall Grandpa winding the old car up, regaling us with stories when things were "old fashioned".

"Tell us about old fashion times!" we would beg. He'd chuckle with amusement at our labeling of his younger days as "old fashion". His workshop is attached to the barn and still smells of oil and wood shavings. I can almost see him bent over a chunk of wood, turning it into a clock or some other useful item.

Wood was a part of his life from his earliest days. His father George Bidwell was a logger and Grandpa grew up learning how to log. Trees and wood, then later farming. That's what he knew. My Grandparents always worked with their hands, worked with the soil, with the resources they had.

I stood in this grove of trees planted by them about 20 years ago and remembered chasing cows in the pasture that used to roll beneath my feet, before these trees were here.

Grandma recalls the damage to this tree being done during the Tillamook burn, a series of forest fires my Grandfather helped fight. His name is mentioned at the Tillamook Forest Center where one can watch a movie about this important event in Oregon's forest history.

This land is sacred, and one feels it with every step. The trees seem to hold secrets we can only guess.

I remember exploring these woods as a very young child. Often with my aunt Carol Anne and her horse Sonny. She would take me down to the creek where the beaver dam was and we could see them at work. It was magic then. It is still.

Hiking these woods with my children was a joy, as we recounted childhood stories and memories. The circle continues.

I love the look on Jared's face when he doesn't know a camera is aimed at him. He is a deep well and I love that this picture captures it.

I loved this picture so much that I am posting two.:) My sister Heidi shot it and I can't decide if I love the black and white or color version better.

As we ambled along, Jalen started annoying some of the other kids. We were walking past a patch of clover and one of the adults tried to use a distraction; "hey Jalen, can you find a four-leaf clover?"

"ok", says my boy and starts scanning for one.

"I found one" he adds, about two seconds later, much to our amazement.

Sure enough, a lucky four-leaf clover had been found. The rest of us tried to find one to no avail.

Later in the afternoon, my niece Rylee and I have some adventures of our own. We went on a walk about, taking pictures and chatting about many things. I found a dead blue jay that I chose not to point out, knowing her love for all things living. Managed to capture a few photos before she caught up though.

We both scooped a bag full of soil from the garden to take home to our own gardens. I took her down to the beaver dam, so rich with my earliest memories of the farm. The entire hill behind that location had recently been logged and looked so raped and ravaged, yet the dam continues and the beavers seem oblivious to the plight of that land. My Grandparents used to own that 80 acre area but sold it to a logging company many years ago. They never ceased regretting that choice even to this day.

The grapevines will be lush and full later this season. Rylee and I pause there for some photos.

If I lay on this land long enough, I think I shall grow roots right into the ground that holds so many stories. To my left is the barn we filled with hay and chased farm cats, to my right is the location where the horse stall used to stand. I adore the smell of hay and horse manure which all stems from good memories at the farm.

My head points towards the garden where they grew so much food and beyond that stand of trees, the former strawberry fields. They are being used for hay now but even when I first moved away from Alaska as a newly graduated teen I picked berries there. It was an indian summer that year. I took one of my roommates to the farm and she and I gleaned what was left of the berries in October. I'm fairly certain I decided that day to never move back to Alaska.

There are some things you just can't do in the cold North, picking berries in October is one of them. I learned later that it's not a common thing for Oregon either.....which may explain my love affair with Tennessee today.

I lay there in the sun, recalling the night of trying to sleep in itchy hay while the cows made funny night time sounds. I felt the pulse of sun and earth, cradling me with my memories, connecting past and present. I never wanted to rise. But I did. And I trust that my own farm will be part of my story, of my future and my childrens memories too.

We reluctantly say goodbye and move on down the road for more adventures. Adventures that won't leave me clinging to the past quite so tightly, nor causing a lump in my throat at the recollection of it all. Adventures that hopefully don't include quite so many goodbyes. But then, that seems to be the only sure thing about this life experience...change.

So thank you Grandma and Grandpa, for your love of the land and hard work, for the strawberries and cherries and plums we ate until sick, for the crackling wood in the stove and the smell of berries cooking. Thank you for the nights filled with games, popcorn and stars brighter than I ever saw. The days filled with hoeing, hikes and swimming holes. For an old attic and cellar filled with curiosities, for a workshop filled with usefulness and a forest filled with sacred trails. For all of it and more I thank you.

To my sweet Grandfather; your accordian playing, wood working, farming, logging, strong, weathered hands will be missed. Memories and the spirit of your choices will last....long beyond you or I or any of my children. You remind me to choose well. I will feel your presence in the trees as I try to find my way back to the farm.....rest well old man.

*the above picture includes myself, Jared and Sierra (Jalen refused to be involved) along with my sister Heidi, her husband Martin and their children Kevin, Tristan and Calista and their friend Sarah, my sister Robin and her daughter Rylee and my aunt Carol Anne (my dad's sister and my grandparents late addition to their family) and my uncle Ed who got married in the house and for whom I was the flower girl at 6 years of age.:)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A new, shortish interview

There is a new, shortish and fun interview with me that was published at a very cool blog "Homeschooling; freedom and fun for your family" which is run by Debbie H.

My interview is part of a series she's doing with various unschooling families. There are familiar names/faces like Sandra Dodd, Pam Sorooshian, Helen Hegener, Deb Rossing, Laura Endres and many, many more! Go check it out and be sure to browse through all of the very fun and interesting interviews. I'm glad I participated....though it was only because of Debbie's patience as I'm a great procrastinator. :)

(above artwork by Jalen/Scott Allen; 5/09)

Sierras 12th birthday

Sierra Star's 12th birthday was April 29th and we celebrated it on that very day....with lots of cotton candy and snowcones and friends. See how far behind on blogging I am? Such is life...for now.

The dogwood tree looked like this on that day....

Laura rocked out like this....

We ate cotton candy like this....

...and hung out like this

...all for my girl who makes art like this

...because she is a beautiful, zany, funny, smart, talented, artsy, kind, fun-loving, gentle and loving spirit!! Happy birthday my sweet Sierra/sis/Sisi/starlygirl/starchild. The day you were born a true star came into my life and I am forever grateful. Thank you for falling to my part of the earth.:)