Saturday, September 15, 2007

Third Installment of Live and Learn

Wow--so much happened in so few days! Both Emily and Thomas were having the times of their lives, running around in complete freedom and pursuing their interests. The only limit we did place on them was to be back in the room when we wanted to go to sleep. We wouldn't have been able to if they were still running around somewhere, and if we actually did get to sleep, we'd have woken up when they came in.

The gaming room, where Thomas spent most of his time. He's sitting next to the boy playing the game. It was kind of hard to find him sometimes, so many of the boys looked almost the same from behind!

So on to Saturday! After another early breakfast, Emily and I headed off to the "Bead Play" funshop. We both made a pair of earrings for ourselves--this is Emily's, almost finished. She's wearing the bracelet her Fairy God Parent had left for her.

I scurried down the hill from Lee Hall, where most of the Funshops took place, to the Washburn Center, where all the talks and roundtables were, as well as the talent shows, movies, and the "Saturday Night Fever" Dance. I wanted to hear Miranda Demarest's talk "How Unschooling Will Change the World": Unschooling has gone from a grassroots solution to the problem with education back in the 70's, to a phenomenon reported about on the cover of the NY Times today. Estimates put the number of children being unschooled at over 20,000, and growing. What does this mean for the future of education as we know it? We have the opportunity to be on the leading edge of a radical change in the way the world sees children and how they learn. This talk is for those of us who aren't content to sit back and watch as the world changes, or not, around us. We want to be the change we wish to see in the world! Eddie went with me to that one.

Right after it was the roundtable led by Rue and Jon Kream, "Parenting a Free Child," that I mentioned in the first post about the conference. I wouldn't have missed that one for anything! It was probably the most valuable to me (and maybe Eddie also, I didn't ask) of all the talks in really hitting home what it is radical unschoolers are doing, how they are practicing the lifestyle that we wanted to learn more about.

After lunch, Emily and I headed over to the "Cheerleading" funshop, led by one of the teens. I got to participate in this as well. All the funshops needed to be open to all ages, and it worked really nicely.

I led my second "Hip Hemp Jewelry" funshop, this time meeting on the huge front porch of Lee Hall. We had beautiful weather for the whole trip, luckily. And because of all the funshops, it was more of a family vacation or family camp than a simple conference. It wasn't all just about the speakers. It was about gathering together with other families who have similar goals, who are on a path similar to ours. I bought a hat that says "Live & Learn" on the front, and "unschoolers get it!" on the back. That was the feeling, of being with other people that we didn't have to explain our choices to.

And that's not to say that every family was the same. There was great variety--tattoos, colorfully dyed hair, piercings; granola to corporate; raw and vegan diets to go-heavy-on-the-meat omnivores. :) Some were complete night owls, in fact there some were lodges specifically for night owls, and some for early birds. The BRC hotel rooms were a mix. The conference organizers tried hard to accommodate people's needs and make everyone feel welcome, no matter what.

So that night was the "Saturday Night Fever" Dance. The teens had decorated the auditorium, the DJ was ready, and most everyone showed up to have a final evening together.
Emily is in the middle of the conga line with her NY Yankees cap on. Someone else took this picture.

Eddie and I happened to be in this picture that someone else took and posted to a group album online--and look at the hoola hoop action!

This is another picture from someone else, just showing the crowd. And there's Emily again! Thomas wanted to keep playing video games and WoW, so we left him at the BRC. And even though we each had a radio, he tended to turn his off. Or if it was on, he didn't answer it half the time. The other half, we couldn't understand what he was saying anyway. :)

It was the final evening to enter in the raffle drawings and the silent auction for "passion baskets" (for example, if your passion was knitting, you might put together a nice basket of items that a knitter might need) that people had donated. The money raised from these activities goes toward scholarships for the next conference.
If they weren't inside dancing, then they were outside talking up a storm.

Sunday was the last day of the conference. I was really looking forward to hearing Diana Jenner's talk "Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life (without changing your kid)": The journey of Unschooling is filled with Aha!s. Some are big, most are little; some are happy accidents, some are intentional. All have the potential of changing your life for the better (it can always get better!). I'll follow my own path of Aha moments that led to unschooling, the ones that keep me here and the ones I know will come. The most of my aha moments have come, not because diana is inherently filled with her own wisdom, but because diana has been able to leave her known perspective and move to a different view: sometimes the perspective of the child, sometimes that of a veteran unschooler, sometimes that of my own *ideal mommy* who lives in my head, sometimes that of my own still-healing inner child. It is in this movement, this shift, where real understanding lives; where unschooling is not only possible, it is viable and vibrant -- just like me and my kid! That talk was a real tear-jerker for me, and for most of the audience. But she was also funny and full of ideas we could all use as we make our way down our own paths.

After that emotional roller-coaster talk, Eddie and I found Emily and asked her if she wanted to find the letterboxes people had left clues for. We had brought our letterbox journal, which was still blank from when we bought it a couple years ago, intending to make our own letterbox and find others, but we let it slide. I believe there were 5 boxes total, but I only grabbed the clues for two of them. This was the first box we found:
Good thing we got to it when we did, because the owner was on her way to collect it, to take to next year's conference, maybe? Then we set of to find the second one. That took a lot longer, but we found it!
It was hidden in the small opening in that tree.

A page in our journal. "Changes" was the theme for the conference this year.

One of the clues had to do with a plaque on a large rock that two benches were placed near. Good spot to sit and rest.

We were done just in time for lunch, the last meal of the conference. We had already packed up our stuff into the car and checked out of the BRC. We left soon after that, excited about everything we'd experienced and learned, but sorry it was all over till next year.

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