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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, July 28, 2009

The passing of Ned Vare, unschooling advocate

I am passing this information along, for those that haven't heard yet. I met Ned and Luz at the first Live and Learn conference many years ago. I enjoyed them thoroughly. They were tireless advocates for home education and unschooled their son Cassidy in a time when John Holt's writing was new.

Anyone claiming "leader" or "pioneer" today makes me chuckle. These folks are some of the true pioneers of the modern unschooling movement and both Ned and Luz have inspired many of us over the years. Thanks to both of you for all the energy and passion you've put into helping so many embrace the unschooling life.


In Memoriam

It is with great sadness that we inform our supporters that a great friend and homeschool freedom champion, Ned Vare, has died. Ned was a fearless fighter for educational freedom. I first met him in 1990 when he was in the forefront of the effort to defeat government regulation of homeschooling in Connecticut. He was wise to all the background, history, and rationale behind public schooling and homeschooling.

Over the years, he not only educated me on the ways of the educational world, but educated untold others. He and his soulmate, Luz Shosie, met in 1973 at Ned’s ranch in Silt, Colorado. Together they raised their son, Cassidy, without schooling, with what is now called UNschooling. In essence, they wisely guided Cassidy in educating himself, an experiment, they say, that surpassed all of their expectations.

Ned and Luz were inspired by the writings of John Holt, and together, they started a support group for unschoolers and operated the Unschoolers Unlimited Newsletter for many years. More recently Ned penned a blog entitled, “School Is Hell”. Ned could always be seen supporting the right to educate in freedom at every gathering across the state, from his hometown in Guilford to Hartford and beyond. Ned was never afraid to confront any government official whom he believed was acting in any way to deny parents their rights.

Ned was tireless in his ability to engage legislators in quiet, polite, but persistent conversation educating them as to the rights of parents and why they should support educational freedom. Ned was extremely successful at this endeavor and was instrumental in persuading many key legislators to support the rights of parents in Connecticut. We are also fortunate that Ned, with Luz, wrote his thoughts about educational freedom in a book that I proudly keep in a most prominent place in my home. It’s called “Smarting Us Up, the Un Dumbing of America”. Ned was a true inspiration, who had a keen wit, a most engaging personality, and always the nicest smile. I was proud to call Ned my friend, and he will be sorely missed. A memorial service is planned for him at a date to be announced in the fall.

- Deborah Stevenson – Exec. Dir., National Home Education Legal Defense

Vacation week: Bele Chere Festival in Asheville

In random order, once again because otherwise I'll never get them posted. We spent the night with Alice in Asheville on Saturday night and hit all the Bele Chere craziness on Sunday. Alice had a terrific migraine unfortunately, and couldn't join us for the fun. Silas and Jake stayed at the house to video game while the rest of our motley crew headed into downtown to meet up with everyone.

Getting out of the heat for a rest at the Woolworth Walk.

Jana and her boys brought their sweet puppies with them...Jalen and Sierra fill up on puppy love.

This guy was shouting all sorts of lovely (NOT!) things at folks in Pritchard park. We couldn't resist becoming hecklers and sent George and Rachel in posing as a lesbian couple to debate with him. They were SO good at it too.;) It was highly entertaining because the guy was none too bright and George is well versed at debate. They even got other folks in on the action for a second. Yes, highly entertaining.

The local hookah shop. Btw, if you like flavored cigarettes of any kind (organic, natural, cloves etc...) they will be illegal shortly. Of course the big name cigarette manufacturers with all the nasty crap in their product can still sell menthols. Gross. Wonder who was behind that bit of unintelligent legislation? Grrrr......

Sierra's shoe-sharpie art.

Dancing in the streets....Trevor and George (aka; Moira) have set their wedding date for September 18th of 2010. Mark your calenders!!

Jana and her boys pose at the soda fountain in the Woolworths building. My camera wasn't cooperating and I caught them off-guard. Great place for a Cheerwine!

Empire tattoo rocks! Showing off some of their work I had done a couple years ago.

An impromptu pudding-eating contest. Mega-gross.

Jana posing with the controversial and well-known Mad Monk of Montford.

Free hugs campaign!! That's why you carry around that black shoe polish...right John? RIGHT??

Crazy, lovely, swirling day with lots of cool people. That's how Asheville days usually are.

Vacation week: Learn Nothing Day

A few quick pics of Learn Nothing Day 2009! I was on vacation from work so we played a lot last week....and worked too. We spent LND up at Rock Creek in Erwin, eating, swimming, talking, playing games (some crazy people can concentrate on games at such times, not I), talking, laughing, sitting at campfires, splashing, talking and oh, did I mention talking???

As you can imagine, all that activity leads to LEARNING. Lawdy, lawdy. So we decided that we are made of fail again....because we seemed to learn an awful lot that day! Discussions were had on the topic of etymology and word usage and all sorts of interesting things. Yep, we failed in an epic way.

But we had lot of fun.

There are more pics on Sierra's camera which is in Georgia with the Traaseth's and Gavins and Patti. They just got back from the Jason Mraz concert and are probably not off the high just yet.

These are a few I took with my new-to-me-hand-me-down digital camera Kelli was kind enough to pass on. Thank you Kelli!! I may just get into the 21st century yet. Stranger things have happened.

Speaking of strange...Jana and her boys (I met at Life is Good in May out on the West Coast) showed up at Learn Nothing Day thinking they were a day early! They drove their unschooling bus up to Rock Creek to spend a week and would have missed us completely if we didn't run into them in the parking lot. Writing "Life is Good" and having unschooling bumper stickers on your car can get you mobbed by local unschoolers though. So it all worked out beautifully.

Happy Learn Nothing Day (and Happy Birthday Sandra). Here's hoping you all failed.:)

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's our "thing"

Rivers and Obos that is. We build them wherever there are rocks and leave them for nature or other humans to find or destroy.

This is how we spend our days at the river. Building, scooping, swimming, fussing, collecting and laughing. I've spent too much of my life wishing and dreaming, I'm more into DOing now. Because you can use what you've got, rather than waiting for things to change. I don't have a house near the river. I don't have a kayak. I have a truck though, and I have kids that love the water. So we go and in that moment the river is ours as much as it is the earth's and it seems to love us too.

This one likes to try and catch fish. The fish aren't so cooperative...smart things.

Sand, water and rocks are a bit more malleable. Mini dams and rivers make for great fun.

Happy faces, nurtured by the water and trees.

Later, Sierra insists on trying Meringues again. This was her second attempt in her desire to perfect them. Yes, they're eggs from the farm down the road.

We've spent a lot of time trying to come up with a plan for buying property and building a house. We found the property, haven't found the money yet! But that isn't stopping Bleu and Sierra from spending HOURS designing and redesigning, looking at Deltecs, abandoning Deltecs, designing again...and so on. I came home from work two nights ago around 8:30 and they'd been at it since 6pm. I think they finally put it all away around 10:30 or so.

Sierra was delighted to learn about square feet vs. cubed feet and other such things that made me cringe in school. She's drawing designs to scale and loving every minute...I think even the frustration is joy at this point. :)

I laminated sheets of common household furniture and appliances drawn to scale (thanks to the Deltec rep we chatted with at the model home last week) and they had a ball placing them and replacing them on their home designs. Cool stuff! Such is the life of natural learning....things we believed difficult in school are actually fun when the learner chooses it, because of some internal force that guides their interest. Human beings are SO wired to learn. I wish people could see that and trust the process...whether their children are interested in home designs or pokemon. It's all learning. It's all worthy.

Her other current interest is memorizing Jason Mraz songs. Why? Because she's going to the concert and she wants to know the music better! Funny how that motivation stuff works when it's for our very own purposes. :) I do so love this life.

Jared is having his own water adventures, with family and other unschoolers up in the light of far North. Water and obos...it's what we do in the summer.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What unschooling mamas talk about....

...or "The glowstick IM".

In preparation for a conference talk, I was chatting with Sandra Dodd about glowsticks and the idea of using them to illustrate some idea about unschooling. Can't remember what that part
was about but I saved the instant message conversation with her because there were lots of cool ideas about using glowsticks in fun ways and so I emailed it to a rarely used account and forgot about it until today.

It struck me as being longer than just four years ago. Hannah Jenner was alive, I hadn't done much public speaking yet, we still lived in Pensacola. So many things have changed in the last four years. Anyway, here is the instant message in all it's convoluted glory:

SandraDodd: We've had glowstick injuries.

starznmoongarden: Seriously!??

SandraDodd: My kids' favorite thing is to tie a string on it and spin it and fling it up into the air, in the woods, because they're easy to find.
SandraDodd: But...
SandraDodd: between them and the glow stick might not be cactus-free and rocks and trees, and hitting other people, and just tonight, it so happens,
SandraDodd: Keith and the kids went to the company picnic at the zoo. I'm sick and stayed home

starznmoongarden: I got the idea because when I was out of town for training..I left them a bag of fun stuff. They took the glowsticks one night, with Millie, and wrapped them through a whiffle ball and rolled it all around the house.
starznmoongarden: Wow. I LOVE the idea of throwing them up in trees.

SandraDodd: The kids got glow sticks, three apiece, part of what the company was providing for fun. NOt the sticks but the fasten-together bracelet/necklace things.

starznmoongarden: Our woods are fairly non-dangerous...at least in daylight when you can see snakes.

SandraDodd: Holly opened one and got it on her and it was hurting. I talked to her about chemical burns and that it wasn't soap and water that would help as much as more and more water.
SandraDodd: There are lots of fun things to do with them but not in a hotel. And not with the lights on.

starznmoongarden: Well...they still look cool with the lights on!

SandraDodd: And sometimes you need other stuff, like a whiffle ball
SandraDodd: or water
SandraDodd: or strng
SandraDodd: You can drop one in a wine bottle--that's fun.

starznmoongarden: My kids play with them all the time, but yeah, I might need to just use it as an example since I don't want to bring all the peripherals. Damnit.
starznmoongarden: I need to think of something.

SandraDodd: In cold water they go dim, but last longer. You can use them in a cooler for a refrigerator light, but they're not very bright in there.

starznmoongarden: Oh yes, my kids throw them in the freezer to have them last for the next night.

SandraDodd: and they're FANTASTIC bathtub toys, and glow even brighter in warm water, but the don't last as long when you warm them up.
SandraDodd: You can tape them into porta potties for lighting, and if you use box tape (my suggestion) instead of duct tape (DUH, PEOPLE) you get the full light.

starznmoongarden: One of the kids made a really cool bottle/sculpturish thing with one before...can't remember who it was. Oooh, a portapotty light. How funny.
starznmoongarden: I took a picture of Sierra in Black light the other night. It turned out really, really blue and cool. I used it for one of my Art Trading Cards.
starznmoongarden: I'll have to do a glowlight pic next!

SandraDodd: Years ago I figured out how to order them in bulk because the local SCA group needed them and couldn't figure it out. Pre-internet. I read the fine print on one and used a zipcode map and directory assistance to call the manufacturer and found a wholesaler in Oklahoma but they weren't available to just anyone, only to police and government.

starznmoongarden: That seems lame. I bet you can buy them in bulk easy now eh?

SandraDodd: I figured out how to get us a thousand, and Keith and I threw in our own money on top to get 100 for us. So when the kids were little and we went to events,

starznmoongarden: Cool.

SandraDodd: each night we gave each one a stick and they could sleep with it under the pillow or in their sleeping bag. VERY HELPFUL.

starznmoongarden: A little peace stick.
starznmoongarden: Peace of mind anyway!

SandraDodd: Probably you can get them way easier now, but they were newish in the 70's and very high tech.

starznmoongarden: I see them at Lowe's really cheap now.

SandraDodd: The lowest price we ever got was 79 cents each in 1985 or so, I think.
SandraDodd: But those were the best kind, the bright yellow that lasted 12 hours.

starznmoongarden: Yeah, the one's at Lowe's are really long lasting. They're thicker too....I need to buy one to see who makes those.

SandraDodd: I have some glowstick pics of Holly in the hot tub when Diana and Hannah and Hayden were here.

starznmoongarden: I bet those are GREAT.
starznmoongarden: I love how they look in a bottle of water, very bizarrish.
starznmoongarden: Like a bio-phosphorent drink.

The picture Sandra referred to can be found here, lower left corner.

Nesta Fest and other such fun...

Have I mentioned we've been busy? Summer is full of activity and work, it seems everything is on steroids this time of year!

One day Sierra decided to haul out some of the contractor plastic I use to kill off weeds for new garden areas. We cleaned it and turned it back into the "slip and slide" we originally purchased it for. Lots of good water fun that day.

After you get wet and use up lots of energy playing, baking cookies is necessary. Didn't you know that? We used the handmade butter and buttermilk from the farm we visit occasionally. SO yummy.

In June we went camping for "Nesta Fest", a yearly birthday event for our friend Nesta, down in the Nolichucky River Gorge...one of the most amazing places on earth.

The noodle wars, which went badly a couple times. But overall were only a semi-painful battle.

Jalen with a friend and his new pet slug "Jeffrey" in the tipi.

We take up a section at the campground, filled with tents and friends and fires and lots and lots of laughter and talk.

Rob has got this whole river relaxin' thing figured out!

Building castles and dreams....

Just chillaxin! It's so beautiful and serene, time seems to stand still for us.

Birthday cake!

A man and his rock; I think he's fishing for something other than fish.

This one was definitely fishing for fish, but he let's them all go after observation.

Me and my buddy La taking in the sun....I'm nearly blind here as the river ate my sunglasses!

Barb even stopped by for a little bit, in between running kids to places and packing for a trip (did I mention she's crazy??) :)

Jalen hanging out by our little campsite. No, we didn't sleep in the tipi, that's our tent to the left. We really need more than a two-person mountain tent though. Soon, soon.

In the morning, before our friends are awake and other friends arrive for the birthday, the kids and I snuck down to the misty river. I feel more whole, more awake, more content there and I realized I need to visit the river often. So we do now. Every Monday at the least....working on getting a kayak next.

Then there was the visit from the Lovejoys and an afternoon spent at Boone Dam Lake. We stole Sadie away and took her home with us. They spent lots of time jumping off the concrete wall with the sign that says "keep off wall".

They jumped off the divider too....

...and made lots of cool designs with string, fingers and even faces.

Back at home...

...where the garden grows,

and grows,

the bees stay very busy, and butterflies stop in for brief visits.

There are hidden places in the brambles now, because it's summertime! How we love it.