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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, September 29, 2009

My second baby....

...is still in Alaska. By the time he gets home in October, it will have been five months since I said goodbye at the Life is Good conference in Vancouver Washington!

He celebrated his 16th birthday at my sister's house, with family. We're going to have another celebration when he gets home. :) Heidi just blogged about Tristan's "late" reading journey (he's also a second baby) and it reminded me just how Jared learned to read...almost overnight, never learning the letter sounds at all. He figured them out after he could read!

We miss him so much. I think I've lost one of my children to the wonder and beauty that is my home state. The plan is to get Trevor, George and Jared up there next summer for a visit. We've got some saving and planning to do if that's going to happen!

Us? Living the creative life...as usual. Sierra is sewing, Jalen is gaming, Bleu is selling houses and I'm gearing up for the body art show on Friday!! Busy, busy week...as usual.

Monday, September 28, 2009

So tell me.....

I asked at Facebook today:

So...tell me what you did today that was just for YOU. Something that nourishes your spirit and makes you feel whole. Name at least one thing...more is ok too.

Then I listed weeding in the garden and taking pics of the critters therein. But that wasn't all and Danielle inspired me to really list everything.

Here are some of the critters though. This gorgeous spider is absolutely huge. I've noticed her before and let her be, but today I got the camera out. You'll see my gloved hand behind her in the second picture, to show you just how big she really is! I've identified her as a Golden Garden Spider. *She's very cool!

*I have no idea how to sex spiders...it's just a "she" because I said so. ;)

This little guy (fuzzy things should be boys right?) was busily munching leaves and happily ignored me. I'm glad it likes the leaves of a common weed, lambs quarters, which are a little on the tough side right now. I like eating them in the spring but it grows easily and everywhere.

Other things I did, just for me:

~sip tea and look at the birds, and the messy garden
~chat with my sister, who is getting ready to drive to Fairbanks to help care for a friend that just had a cancerous tumor removed from her kidney.
~chat on facebook with some of my favorite people
~lit a candle
~listened to some U2
~walked in the sunshine
~drove into town for some candy at the Lollipop shop (for the kids, but going into my downtown is for all of us)...then a stop at the new lavender shop. Standing there and smelling an entire shop full of lavender items was my meditation for the day! Amazing.
~weeding the kitchen garden is total meditation too....the smells of basils, lavender, lemon verbena, oregeno, summer savory and other heady scents makes it so pleasant.
~Prepping for the body art show...researching photos as points of reference for the art, working on fish fins and tail feathers and such

Those things were just for me....they don't include food prepared for all of us, hugs, watching my kids make things that make them happy etc...

I agree with Danielle, I am one of my favorite people! I can't imagine spending this much time with someone I didn't really like.:) Leave a comment about the many ways you nourish yourself each day....cuz you're worth it you know.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Storytelling Festival

It was ten years ago that I first visited the small, energetic and picturesque town of Jonesborough. My mother was coming down for the Storytelling Festival and wanted the kids and I to meet her here. It was a magical, amazing weekend filled with stories and laughter and connections and tired legs (have I mentioned that Jonesborough is very hilly?) from hiking to all the different tents filled with diverse stories that made us laugh and cry and see ourselves in our fellow humans.

I fell in love with this little town, nestled up against the rolling Appalachian mountains. My Mum died seven years ago, we moved here four years ago. I couldn't have predicted any part of the journey to Jonesborough but looking back it was always meant to be a part of my life. That's how some things are.

Next weekend is the 2009 Storytelling Festival. We're watching tents pop up all over town right now, more and more visitors show up every day. Our tiny town becomes overpopulated for those few days.

Sierra wanted to go walking in the rain today, so we did. As we walked in the rain, I remembered sunnier days and many firsts in my little town; Jared sound asleep on the sidewalk in front of The Bistro as we waited for a seat, hiking the hills with my laughing Mum, being mesmerized by the spells a storyteller can weave and that feeling of driving through this town and sighing like my soul had found it's home. It had.

We stopped by the International Storytelling Center which was just breaking ground when we first came here. There was only the funding and the idea, no building yet.
It has become the heart of storytelling for the world.

A wet stop to the brick my Mum purchased in support of the storytelling center when we were all here for the festival. Thanks Mum, for bringing me here and sharing your passion for a well-told story. The legacy lives.....

Another realization....revisiting LOA

I realize what it is about new age metaphysical lines of thought that really irritate me. Finally I realize the touch point. The idea that a person is "one" with everything else that exists and judgment is useless. We're all supposed to be light and love and connectedness right? But that's a judgment. Saying something is beautiful is as much a judgment as saying it's ugly. Telling someone they're amazing is as much a judgment as saying they're nuts. Sure, one isn't as kind but they're all judgments whether the person wants to admit it or not.

Beyond the fact that niceties are forms of judgment too, there's the fact that human beings can be "enlightened" (whatever that means for you) and still be dealing with rage, discomfort, judgment...whatever it is you want to put there that is deemed negative. We are creatures of complexity and spiritual evolution isn't about NOT being human. In my view, it's about fully embracing and understanding our humanness. It's not shying away from the darkness, it's about being totally ok with it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sierra's new blog

Where she is sharing her latest passion...sewing and design!! Every day I come home, there is some new outfit or hat or accessory she's made up. Now she's blogging about her original designs. Check out Stitch-stitch!

Another Jalen QOTD

The boy runs to me for a big hug this morning, grinning and saying "Mom, I am growing up so fast!"

Me: "I think you're growing up at just the right speed for you, exactly how you're meant to grow."

Jalen: "Yep, I'm growing up fast. Fast is the right speed for me."


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jalen QOTD

I'm chatting with the boy-who-just-woke-up and notice he slept in just his underwear.

"So you like sleeping without jammies now?"
"Yep, it feels good."
"Dad likes sleeping that way too"
"Yeah, except his underwear doesn't have sleeves."

The boy-who-just-woke-up likes boxers, not briefs.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Learning by doing

Design by Sierra Allen

I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. ~ Pablo Picasso

There is this notion in our society, that one must learn certain things so they can eventually do something worthy. One must learn in little blocks and chunks, information handed to you so that you will be prepared to do something in the future. If an interest swirls up, that is outside of the school curriculum, you sign up for lessons or classes.

You go and learn the thing so you can then do the thing.
But what about doing to learn? What about jumping right in and DOing a thing in order to learn how to do it? What about not knowing the "how" and doing it anyway?

Sounds crazy right? But in the DOing we find the learning. In the doing and mucking and exploration we find our way. We find the people or resources most useful for the exact information we need at that moment. We learn a deeper, richer more meaningful context for the new interest.

Sierra has been a great example of that lately. She dug out the old Serger machine that I inherited and never used last month. She hauled it with us to Asheville, hoping that someone (specifically George) could show her a few tips about using it. Leading up to that date she mucked about with it, took it apart, tried to read the manual and decided that was a waste of time. In Asheville, George showed her enough to have her questions answered (but see, she knew what to ask because she was already DOing!) and off she went again.

Since then, she's starting to sweat thread I believe....
The girl is sewing every day now, altering clothes, making up new things. Some of them work, some of them don't. In the doing of her fascination, she's learning the "how" and which questions to ask. She's learning which resources help her get the information she needs most (hurray for YouTube and video tutorials!) and as she learns more her processes get more refined.

I can't imagine a class that would offer more varied information, more challenge, more satisfaction or more learning.

I could have taken dozens of classes on beekeeping and none of it would have properly prepared me for the actual act of raising bees. Same for gardening, same for cooking, same for makeup artistry....you must be DOing a thing to truly learn it. So maybe that's just the best way to start with anything. Don't try to learn it first....DO it. In the DOing you'll find your way.

"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing".

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


We visited the Splashpad in Kingsport recently with several families in our homeschool group. It is such a cool place to enjoy the last of summer's warmth. Water splashing, falling, spraying and puddling up everywhere....

...good times. And even some yummy baby toes.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Asheville revisited

We took a trip to Asheville with La's family last month...finally getting around to posting a few pics. Finding art in Asheville is easy. Laura and I stop by a mural to do our usual silly posing thingy....we didn't realize until later that we both stood near the colors in the mural that matched our clothing! We're just cool like that ya know.....

So very easy. Trevor and his fiance George pose by dude-looks-like-a-pipe art.

So sweet. Jalen to the left is being pulled by big brother as he'd injured his foot pretty bad and couldn't walk. Laura's kids loaned us their radio flyer wagon (via the Traaseth's) and we traipsed all over the place just fine. He had it made!

Alice taking in some bluegrass in front of Malaprops. That's the other thing easy to find in Asheville; street musicians.

While the music played, the kids found their own entertainment.

Back at Alices there was all sorts of entertainment...La demonstrates what happens to a Newman-O when you squish the cookies around real good. She's a woman of many talents.;)

Sierra, Sadie and George spent a good amount of time immersed in Serger technology. They made some really cool things out of scrap material and Sierra has been sewing every day since then! She's going to have an entire wardrobe of altered/homemade clothing before long.

Bananagrams (I tried to play, honest I did) and Twister were on the menu, along with the usual array of videogames.

All in all, it was a typical lovely visit to one of our favorite places with some of our favorite peeps! I can still taste the lovely melted goodness of mellow mushroom white pizza. I smile when I think of the toasty assortment of coffees and rows of books at Malaprops, the freaks and hippies in Pritchard park and the yummy, colorful art supplies at True Blue art.

The best thing though? Watching all of our children together, how they adore each other, work out challenges, make up games spontaneously and are such good friends. They warm my heart.

The following pictures are several I took just for fun. Alice lives past these greenhouses which have been abandoned. It looks like they will be dug under for new condos. Everytime I drive through there I get this sad feeling....for these rows upon rows of broken down, grown-over greenhouses which used to be so important to someone. I've thought a lot about the concept of usefulness and things that get abandoned, people who used to matter to someone but seem to have no one in this life. We see them on the streets of Asheville and that haunted look in their eyes makes me feel the same sadness the greenhouses do.

I've driven through them so many times thinking these thoughts and we finally stopped to shoot some pictures this time around. They are haunting and beautiful, abandoned and enchanting. The perfect setting for exploration and trying to archive a piece of something that exemplifies all those feelings.

This final picture was simply shot from a parking garage skyway....it's an area we'd never discovered from the street and it looked very enticing indeed. Next time Asheville, next time...