Saturday, December 31, 2011

Photos from Tim Mensch

Thank you Tim!!

If others want to send links to photos, if and when you get them into a viewable place, I would love to share those links, too.

Hi Sandra,

Here's a link to a photo gallery of the shots that I took at the conference.

If you (or anyone) want a higher resolution version of any of the photos, please let me know. I exported them all at "web" resolution because it was faster that way. :)


Please credit Tim if you use the photos. If you want to print one, ask him to upload a higher resolution. He's willing to have them used without purchasing them, but please do credit him. Also he wrote: "Apologies to the parents of the tweens/teens who were playing in the game room, since I didn't really get in there with the camera."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Logo Art

Heather Booth, white paper painted and mounted on black paper:

Holly's t-shirt:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Jenn Beasley and Jerick

Jerick (13) and Jenn (41) Beasley will be leaving Monday afternoon (today!) to make our way via Amtrak to Albuquerque from San Clemente, CA (halfway between LA and SD). We are arriving noonish on Tuesday. Jeff (41) and Julia (11) have opted to stay home with the dog (Trekker). J (aka Jerick) and Jenn will be departing early (Friday) to return home in time for Julia's 3rd Annual New Years Eve Party!

We were first introduced to unschooling via the Unschooling Handbook for a bookclub presentation in around 2000/2001. Unschooling sounded wonderful but :) I couldn't trust the process for reading. Oh, how that backfired. We've come a long way from school at homeish to where we are today. If I had to claim a time frame I'd say we've been consciously unschooling for 5 years.

I, Jenn, work at the library a couple days a week as a library page (putting away books). The exposure to resources I wouldn't not have considered looking for along with not having to pay hold or late fees makes this job a thrill for me. I love to quilt, garden, and run but they generally have to take turns in my priorities. One thing I really enjoy is what I call Jacuzzi Morning. Whenever I can, I take a cup of coffee, a pair of sunglasses, and my Kindle and I start my morning by soaking in a jacuzzi. Ahhhh, life is good.

Jerick (13), plays xbox360 live (with an emphasis on single person shooters), Minecraft and enjoys scootering and boogie boarding. There is a new to him game that he's been into lately but he is sleeping so we'll have to ask him later. You may, or may not meet Jerick at ALL, he may be in the room. The train ride and hanging out in the hotel were his motivations for joining me on this trip.

2011 has been the year of conferences for us. Jenn, Jerick and Julia attended Unschoolers Waterpark Gathering (Sandusky, OH) and Life is Good (Vancouver, WA) in May during a 3 week long train trip. Jerick and I attended California Homeschool Network (Ontario, CA) and MineCon (Las Vegas, NV). Julia and I attended Home School California's Adventures in Homeschooling Conference (Sacramento, CA) and Good Vibrations (Del Mar, CA) We're burnt out on the conference experience after all that.

I'm attending Always Learning Live because my favorite event that I've attended to date was Sandra's Unschooling Symposium in Santa Fe. The smaller group format is much more my speed. We'll see how it goes for Jerick.

Travel provided my favorite memories and life experiences from childhood. My goal in 2012 is to offer more travel opportunities for Jerick and Julia without the crutch of a conference destination to push me in that direction.

I'm looking forward to reading all the introductions you all spent time sending in. I have them printed out to read on the train.

See you soon!

~Jenn Beasley aka Jennifer Vaughters Beasley on Facebook

Photo of Jerick taken in November 2011 in Las Vegas, NV. His first time meeting our friends baby girl.

Photo of Jenn taken in November 2011 in Las Vegas, NV drinking coffee by the fountains in Mandalay Bay.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holly's boyfriend's CD release show

Holly sent the art and photo and I forgot to mention this. She thought of James Daniel and Renee Cabatic, and isn't sure whether anyone else might be interested.

It's downtown, Friday the 30th, $8, several local bands, mostly punk and ska. If you stay until after Emergency Ahead (Will's band) performs at the end, you get a free CD. Holly figures it will be done by 11:00; Emergency Ahead might not play until near 10:00.
12/27 NOTE: Emergency Ahead is planning/hoping to be performing by 9:30.
It's an all-ages show in a nice venue, not a wild party.

Holly won't be able to take anyone with her, because she has a rehearsal of the acapella groups she's in (OnQ; Holly isn't in those photos) for two hours before the show, but directions are easy for anyone with access to a car who's interested in going. Holly will have my van, or I would offer to shuttle.

It won't hurt her feelings if no one goes, but she did want to put it out as an option. Some people might be tired of the hotel by then.

If you do go, plan on getting back and being up by 9:00 to hear Adam Daniel and his mum Saturday morning.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cara Barlow, Anna and Molly

My name is Cara Barlow and I'm mother to Anna (15yo) and Molly (13yo). My husband's name is Jeff Barlow and we live in Southern New Hampshire. Jeff won't be in Albuquerque with us—he's staying home to take care of the animals and house and other commitments.

We've been homeschooling for seven years and unschooling for about five, maybe a little longer. Our move to unschooling was gradual and I don't remember exactly when it happened. I do remember finding and subscribing to the AlwaysLearning and the Unschooling Basics lists when we'd been homeschooling for about a year. I was initially freaked out by AlwaysLearning—I left for a while, then came back.

We started out with our children attending public school. By the time Anna was entering third grade administrators were telling me she had attention issues and probably some learning disabilities. I disagreed, thinking that she was overwhelmed by the school environment (too loud, too smelly), the instruction was confusing and she wasn't developmentally ready to do many of the things expected of her. She was a stressed-out little kid. We took both girls out of school in December 2004 and were unschooling by sometime in 2006.

Today Anna and Molly enjoy World of Warcraft, writing together, Doctor Who, Firefly, Harry Potter, reading, a theater company they're in that does a Shakespeare play each summer, movie-going and hanging out with friends. Anna's an accomplished knitter, works on costumes for a nearby theater, crochets and makes jewelry and pysanky. Molly plays violin, is learning mandolin, and was the "mistress of the drums" for a production of MacBeth last summer. She's also interested in architecture and is pretty expert at creating buildings and artwork on Google SketchUp. There are lots of other things they do, but these are the biggies right now.

I work about 15 hours a week as a reference librarian and spend the rest of my time being an unschooling parent. I help a group of teens run a free community supper twice a month and organize other get-togethers and activities to keep our lives fun and interesting. While we're in Albuquerque we'll also be visiting my sister-in-law, Carla Kay Barlow and her partner, Karen Milling. And if there's time I'm hoping to connect with some of my unschooling FB friends that live in the area. We'll be returning to New Hampshire on January 4.

Here's a picture of Anna and a friend - she was in a production of A Christmas Carol a couple of weeks ago. She's the one with the top hat.

This is a picture of Molly - she has long hair and glasses.

And this is me.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Chris Sanders, and Zoe, and family

Zoe (14) and I (Chris 47) will be taking the Amtrak along with our friends Theresa and Megan, to attend the ALL Unschooling Symposium. We're both excited to try this new (to us) mode of transportation! We'll sadly be leaving behind Rick (47) and Zach (20) at home in West Des Moines, Iowa to tend to their many other commitments.

Old Photo

Our family has always homeschooled and we gradually moved from using an eclectic approach to full-on radical unschooling by the time Zach was 12 years old. Now, Zach is a junior in college, a history major, and he will begin attending the University of Iowa next month. He enjoys reading, writing, history, listening to classical music, spending time with his girlfriend and world travel. Over Thanksgiving 2010 Zach and his girlfriend visited Florence, Italy and then during the Spring 2011 semester, Zach studied abroad in London, UK. He is the first, and so far only member of our immediate family to travel to Europe!

Seeing Zach off to London

Zoe loves playing World of Warcraft (WoW), drawing Manga, singing, dancing and reading fantasy novels. She's busy most weeks with art class, several dance classes, skypeing and playing WoW with her friends scattered across the continent. She also provides much entertainment for her dad and I with her wit and perceptive observations about the world. She's looking forward to getting her driving learner's permit soon and she hopes someday to travel to Thailand and Japan!

I have many irons in the fire at any given time. I work part-time for Pearson VUE as a test administrator. I also have provided freelance bookkeeping services to small corporations for the last 20 years. In addition, as a licensed teacher, I help other homeschoolers in Iowa by serving as their supervising teacher. I enjoy reading and doing all things on the internet—keeping up with technology, current events, politics and social networking.

We are fortunate that Rick's commercial photography business can be operated out of our home so that between the two of us, there is almost always a parent home and available to play, talk, drive, prepare food and host social events. We're a stay-at-home team! Rick also enjoys bicycle touring (his goal is to ride border-to-border across each state—Montana is next!) playing volleyball, watching football and spending time with his large family of origin.

We have attended two Live and Learn Conferences (St. Louis & Albuquerque) Sandra's 2009 Santa Fe Symposium as well as the 2010 Life is Good Conference in Vancouver, WA. We enjoy these gatherings for stoking our unschooling fires and for the comradeship of unschoolers. Zoe and I are looking forward to introducing our good friends to the great voices of unschooling and to meeting new friends while on our great 2011 Train Ride Adventure to Albuquerque!

Head count, I think, six days before:

I think there are 80 people coming:

29 moms (which is a count of how many families are represented by at least one person)
15 dads
1 grandmother
10 younger children (three are babies)
19 children of compulsory-attendance age
3 young adults who were unschooled
3 young adults who went to school (one older brother of an unschooler, two are the boyfriend of Holly and girlfriend of Marty and will be there some of the time, I hope)

I don't expect that ages will be as important as interests or abilities; we're not strictly segregating anything by age, but the ages of those under the age of 20 (while I'm counting anyway):

If no number follows the age, there's only one person of that age registered.
13 (4)
12 (2)
10 (4)
7 (3)
4 (3)
2 (2)
younger than a year: (3)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Introducing the Mensches

We are Deborah (41), Tim (43), Petra (7), and Theo (3). Tim and I (Deborah) first heard of unschooling around 2000, when Tim was guardian for his 12-year-old sister Julie, who really wanted to be homeschooled. We read The Teenage Liberation Handbook, but our work schedules wouldn't support unschooling then, so Julie opted to work with an Internet-based school and mentor teacher.

Fast forward to January 2011. Petra was in first grade, and though she was mostly doing well, she and I were both starting to chafe at the daily homework grind (!), the super-early mornings, and the lack of family time. I was also volunteering in Petra's class once a week, and while there was learning going on, I was reminded how much school time is not about learning, and especially not about learning things you're actually interested in at the time. I happened to reconnect with a high-school friend who, I learned, had two daughters in their late teens, both of whom she'd unschooled all the way through. We talked about it, and I started checking out the unschooling group in Boulder and the Always Learning list. It sounded like what we needed—more time to spend together, pursuing our interests and learning in the real world, without the strictures of the school routine and schedule. Our unschooling life is getting better bit by bit as we all deschool, and as I re-pace myself and grow gradually more mindful in my parenting.

I grew up very devoted to school and academics. I had some very good friends, but high grades were the main focus of my world through college. I became a science and math teacher and found that while I was good at explaining things to people who wanted to learn them, I couldn't manage a classroom very well and still feel like a good human being at the end of the day. (I've met a few teachers who manage this, but I was not one of them!) Tim, then my fiance, convinced me to quit because the job stressed me out so much. Looking back on my school career, I see a lot of opportunities that I missed in pursuit of top grades. I appreciate what I did learn, but it's easy to see that that path wasn't for everyone, and that it probably wasn't the best path for me, either. When I went to grad school in education, having worked two years as a teacher and four as a science writer, I was more able to focus on what kinds of learning and connections I wanted to get out of the experience, rather than just what grade and degree I wanted. I'm glad I had that experience before encountering unschooling -- it made the ideas of unschooling a lot easier for me to understand. Now, with both kids out of school, I'm enjoying learning alongside them. My own interests include fiber arts (knitting, spinning, weaving, sewing, etc.), running, science fiction, gardening, interface design, technical writing, and figuring out how to become more the kind of person and parent I want to be.

Tim was never much invested in school. He did what interested him and mostly ignored the rest. He became interested in computers and programming as a young teen (back when 16K of RAM was the norm), and though he went to college in cognitive science, he's been mostly self-taught as a programmer, with most of his career spent in making video games, as well as the software tools game programmers use. Last year he went independent as a game developer for Android and iOS devices, which is its own roller-coaster ride. The good part about it, besides being his own boss, is that his schedule is more his own, which makes more family activities and trips possible than when he was on salary at a game company. He has a casual game, Hamster: Attack!, on the Android market. His other interests include photography, woodworking, maker stuff in general, competitive badminton, and playing the piano.

I asked Petra what she'd like to say by way of introduction. She says that she is a good reader, but doesn't feel like reading much these days. She likes playing with Theo and seeing her friends for playdates. She is devoted to our elderly cats. She likes birdwatching, being out in nature, and watching videos, her most recent favorite being Phineas and Ferb, and she likes several casual video games. I would add that she loves imagining vivid, elaborate situations for herself and Theo or for her dolls and stuffed animals, and that she really enjoys hearing fantasy novels, folk stories, and fairy stories read aloud. She likes to draw, paint, make things with clay, and write stories. She's starting to learn to sew and is looking forward to helping me make warm robes for her and Theo. She goes to beginning gymnastics classes and sings in a local children's choir.

Theo loves playing with, having books read to him about, and watching videos about cars, trucks, construction toys, and trains; he also loves pretend and/or dress-up play as an animal, dinosaur, prince or princess, character from a favorite show (Go, Diego, Go and Wild Kratts) or fairy. He loves going to playgrounds and swimming pools, exploring new places, staying in hotels, petting the cats, and asking lots of questions about all kinds of things. Many of his questions these days are about words and how to spell them; this is fascinating for me to watch and participate in from the perspective that beginning to unschool has brought. Theo also likes videos and video games; he and Petra are digital natives. Theo takes gymnastics classes, too, and both he and Petra like going to open gym times.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mairi Sasaki, Neil, Cameron and Isobel

Here is a bit about us and how we came to unschooling:

Neil (38 in January) and I (Mairi - 37) have two children, Cameron (5 in January) and Isobel (2). We live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

A combination of attachment parenting and who our son is eventually brought us to unschooling. Cameron constantly challenges us and requires us to stretch and improve as parents. If not for attachment parenting, we probably wouldn't see the situation, or our son this way. We would be busy now trying to fix him to fit in instead of realizing that Cameron is whole and unbroken, and we had better instead get busy trying to figure out how to meet his particular needs.

When he was 3, it hit me that school was not going to work for Cameron. I brought him to playgroups and he was agitated by too many other kids around him, consistently refused to participate in any structured activities like circle or snack time, and raged at any other adult who tried to correct him.

So if not school, then what? I joined our local homeschooling group and spent a year looking into the options. Unschooling seemed like the most likely fit for us, since I felt awkward and phoney trying to act like a teacher, and Cameron would clam up when anyone tried to create a teaching moment, like asking him "what's that letter?" while reading him a book.

When I dug deeper into unschooling information, I was thrilled. It felt like coming home, like I'd found something I'd been searching for for a long time. Here was a whole treasure trove of parenting wisdom and experience underpinned by a foundational belief in the validity of children's perspectives and feelings. Neil soon shared my excitement that in unschooling we'd found an amazing direction for our family.

We are still quite new to unschooling and have a lot to learn and to "get." We are grateful to have guidance from the resources that Sandra, Joyce and other experienced unschoolers generously offer as we try to grow into better parents for our individual children. We look forward to continuing our journey towards unschooling at the symposium and beyond.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rebecca Allen

We're Rebecca (39 by ALL), Matthew (39) and Quinn (6) Allen. We live in Englewood, Colorado in the South Denver Metro area. Matthew is a Citrix systems engineer who refurbishes, builds, and rides old and new BMX bikes too. I dabble in growing food for my family and bees. Lately, I'm having fun fermenting all sorts of edibles. Quinn keeps us all very busy designing and creating ways to decorate herself, her plushies, and our space.

When Quinn was around 12 months old, we took a baby sign language class. I was astounded by the comparisons between infants' abilities, the expectation to practice often—even to have babies sign "milk" before breast feeding(!), and the senselessness of the topics. (Wasn't it enough for the babies to know "ball" without knowing 12 different kinds of balls?!) I might have had a different impression if Quinn was a star baby sign student, but it was clear that she had no interest in sitting in circle time or staying on topic and switching stations on cue. I had no desire to try to make her do those things, but it was great fun to see what did catch her interest and how she expressed herself. She was very clear at communicating without "signs"! When I mentioned my dismay at the class and what school pressures might be like if this was already the case for infants, Matthew suggested that we home school. I hadn't considered it and was a bit leery. As I investigated, I quickly found unschooling amongst the home schooling options and AlwaysLearning amongst the unschooling information and fell in love with the possibilities. Matthew was a bit leery of unschooling at first, but we all have embraced the lifestyle at this point and have grown so connected as a result.

I was at Sandra's SUSS, so I look forward to seeing some familiar faces and to meeting new folks too! I'm going to ALL alone this time. This will be my first time away from Quinn overnight, so if I look a little teary at some point that might be why. We will miss each other, but she is super excited about having a "three night slumber party" with Matthew. She has already started planning and decorating. They will have a great time at home as they love their "daddy-daughter time" and neither likes to travel much. I'm excited about having a fun time too. I'm counting down the days to ALL!


The Cabatics

The how, why and how long of our unschooling:

Xander and XuMei (pronounced Zoo May) have never gone to school. Chris wanted his children homeschooled. XuMei knew school at home wasn’t for her. It was at the first Life Is Good Conference we found unschooling. It was there that I found Sandra Dodd’s writings and the Always Learning Yahoo group. I’ve been reading it since Nov 2007. I also like to cook and hula hoop.

XuMei rides horses. She is on the Flower Power Drill Team. She hopes to get up close with elephants and giraffes someday.

Chris is an engineer, marimba musician, massage therapist and do-it-yourself guy.

Xander will blow your mind with his redstone creations in Minecraft. He wants to learn code.

We love to game! We recently learned Euchre. We play Little Big Planet, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Halo and more. Minecraft is our current favorite. We attended Minecon in Las Vegas in November. We got Notch’s autograph and met Simon and Lewis of Yogscast. If you’re interested, ask us, we’ll tell you all about it.

We also love to swim, do parkour, dance, hula hoop, boffer fight and walk our dog, Lola, who is coming with us to Albuquerque!

Food for New Year's Eve

I have made the posole, packed it up in flat freezer bags easy to thaw and re-heat in a crock pot, and I have made two kinds of cookies and some rum balls. That's my formal contribution to the New Year's Eve Party.

The known vegans will be gone by then.

Perhaps, as people leave the hotel, if there is leftover food you don't want to take home with you, that could be donated to the New Year's Eve food too. We can have a randomly donated feast, with posole as a main course.

Posole (poe SOH lay) doesn't sound as good as it is. It's a thick soup of hominy ("posole" in Spanish—oddly preserved corn), pork cooked to pieces, and red chile. It's winter party food in New Mexico, though, and particularly it is New Year's Day food. I didn't make it very spicy, but will have honey and sour cream for people to put in theirs if they want to taste it but are afraid of chile.

We'll bring a bottle of champagne, and if there are lots of people there maybe we can send out for another one.

If you're staying over, bring drinks or food if that's simple to do; if not, go to dinner, come to the party, and we'll just play games and goof around.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Another registration came this evening

Deborah and Tim Mensch (parents), Petra Mensch (age 7), and Theo Mensch (age 3)
Boulder, Colorado

Deborah said it was fine for me to list their names here and that she'll send info about the family and photos in a few days.

Still 16 17 states, but 29 moms, 14 dads.

Michelle Godfrey, Ben, Izzy and Clara

Hi! We are the Godfreys from Omaha, Nebraska, where we have lived for the past three years. There’s Ben – 43, Michelle (myself) – 42, Izzy – 4 and Clara – 3. The Symposium is part of our first road trip as a family. We are pretty excited about the whole deal. We have been reading about and experimenting with unschooling concepts in our lives for the past year. I would certainly say I am in the midst of the process called deschooling. It is a rewarding and challenging journey thus far. The unschooling concepts ring true within my heart. The challenge comes with changing the habits/thoughts that were taught to me by my “mother, father, church and state.”

Ben is a nuclear power plant operator and I stay at home with the girls. Ben practices the martial art of aikido and I practice Bikram yoga. We spend a lot of time with our girls. They are at that age where having us near and involved with what they are doing is most pleasing to them. Izzy is a self proclaimed artist and currently loves to work with pastels and water colors. Clara loves to pretend she is a cat and cracks a mean egg for scrambled egg prep. Both of the girls’ spontaneity and creativity are inspiring. We are all on the cusp of embarking on a new life journey as we move to a nearby small town in the country to a home on 11 acres of land. We intend to raise goats, chickens and own a horse. Maybe even have a cow join us and who knows what other animals. We will eat most of our foods from the gardens we grow and just plain old get more connected to nature and learn from it too! These are all things we have very little or no experience with.

Can’t wait to hang out with everyone!

Here are two family pictures. The first is obviously the four Godfreys. The other also includes our adopted Grandma Sissy and her boyfriend, Miguel. We were painting rocks for our Thanksgiving centerpieces and someone decided to paint someone else and the rest is history, captured in this photo.

It's a good neighborhood

I'm going to add that note (it's a good neighborhood) to the post about the doors, and then I'll delete this post, after I think people have had time to see it. :-)

Didn't mean to spook anybody.

If the idea of a sliding door on the ground floor to your room makes you nervous, then request upstairs. :-) But it's a good neighborhood.

Laundry and elevators and doors

There is a coin-op laundry room in the hotel, on the second floor.
We'll have change there, for a game Pam and Rose might show us, and change for books and such, so don't worry (especially those from Canada and the UK) about finding some coins. They'll take quarters, but I don't know how many of them.

The hotel has only two floors. There aren't any elevators, so if stairs are a problem for you, request the first floor.

Every room has access to the outside, either to a little balcony or to the courtyard area (where the pool is, though it will be closed), or to the parking lot. If the idea of a sliding door on the ground floor to your room makes you nervous, then request upstairs. :-) If you have a dog, request toward-the-pool, maybe, so he can have a run where there are no cars, right from your room.

There was frost this morning, but it was gone as soon as the sun hit it. It's likely to be warmer when you're here, because the winter in Albuquerque is very spotty, with a few scattered cold days, but usually above freezing in the daytime and sunny. If it were to snow the first day of our gathering, it would probably melt by the last day (or on the same day).

(that's the side window of my van, and my neighbor's tree reflected in it)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Denaire Nixon

Hi my name is Denaire and I have two wonderful boys Elliott (14) and Harrison (11). My husband Mike and I have been homeschooling for 6 years and unschooling for about 3. We kind of fell into unschooling. My husband was a bit nervous about homeschooling, so unschooling really confused him. It has taken time but we have been finding our way and watching our boys take off.

I attended Sandra's Symposium two years ago and was so impressed with the grown unschooled kids. I had so many fears surrounding my kids and their education that I was missing the big picture, they knew what they wanted and I was going to be their guide, or driver. We are often on the road to classes, music, theater, science, art and of course friends houses for many, many, many, hours of video games and computer parties.

Harrison has found his passion in cooking and music, and Elliott has been totally immersed in game making for computers. This month Elliott is in "The Christmas Carol," playing Peter Cratchet. It was the first time I was not a backstage helper and I was worried how he would do without me. He was fine and in-fact I got quite a few comments about how helpful he was to other actors backstage who needed help with their costumes or running lines. We are so proud of him, it felt good to hear, but also sad to know he is growing up and doesn't need me quite as much.

Time is flying by and soon they will both be grown, I am cherishing every day and making sure I am present in their lives when they need me. If there was one thing unschooling has given me it is our family back. When they were in school it was yelling, anger, and tears. Now it's peaceful and everyday is something new and exciting.

I can't wait to see old friends and meet new ones too. See you in a few weeks, it's so close!!!
Denaire Nixon

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Melissa Yatzeck's family

UPDATE FROM SANDRA, December 23: Joe is attending, too! The older children are staying with grandparents, but Joe, Melissa and Lily will all be here.

We are the Yatzeck family and we live in Wisconsin. I am Melissa, the mom. Joe is the dad. We met at summer camp in high school and have been together ever since. We have three kids - Mary is 5, Joey is 3 and Lily is 9 months old. Below is a recent family photo, taken December 1st of this year. I have been a member of the Always Learning Yahoo list for about two years and have learned so much. I'm not a frequent poster, but I read almost everything. My husband is pretty familiar with the conversation starter, "On the Always Learning list they are talking about..." :)

I am super excited about attending the Always Learning Live Unschooling Symposium in Albuquerque!

For lots more photos and tidbits of info about us, you can visit our blog:

Pamela Corkey and her sons

Pamela Corkey
Milo Corkey
Oscar Corkey
from New York, New York 

I am new to unschooling (just under 2 years) and loving the changes it has made in all of the relationships in my family—they have gone from mostly adversarial to mostly peaceful, sad to happy. Pretty amazing. 

About us: I am a single parent, filmmaker, writer, and professor of film. Milo (not unschooled) is 21, studying liberal arts/pre-med at Marlboro College in Vermont. He's an avid reader, world traveller, and hopes to join Doctors Without Borders some day. Oscar is 13 and enjoys videogames (Call of Duty, WWE, Uncharted, and many more), baking, cooking, adventure movies, and television (South Park, Merlin, Dr. Who, Star Trek, Family Guy, Community, The Office). We are super excited to be coming to the conference and for the cross-country road trip we'll be taking to get there. I look forward to meeting so many of you!

Note from Sandra:

Also, Oscar is a cook, and is bringing some caramels he's made, to sell.  So bring a little extra money to buy what he's made.  He designed the label for them, too.  Maybe that money you'll save on the price of an upgraded room going down... :-)

Heather Booth, Monty Kerr and Austin Booth

We are the Booth/Kerr family, but I prefer to call us the Kerrbooth family because it is more fun to say ;)

I’m Heather, mom and love to knit, cook, read and garden.  My husband, Monty, is a game designer who…loves to play and design games. Austin (10) is an avid gamer whose favorite games are Little Big Planet, Assassin’s Creed and Minecraft.  He loves to design his own levels and make mods for the games that allow it, building Legos, Marvel Comics and our mini zoo consisting of a dog, a cat, a Russian tortioise and a bearded Dragon.

We are a newly unschooling family and live in Austin, Texas.  We started our journey while temporarily living in San Francisco in 2010.  I saw a listing for the HSC conference in Sacramento posted on the local homeschool board, and on a whim that weekend we packed up and drove from San Francisco to Sacramento in hopes of finding an easier way to homeschool.  Maybe some magic curriculum.  

I walked into a session that Pam Sooroshian was giving about unschooling.  She asked everyone to write down three things children need to be taught.  I wrote down math, reading, writing.  The other people in the room were saying radical things like “nothing”!  I raised my hand and asked, “How do you deal with the anxiety of not teaching?”  Pam told me to read Frank Smith and Sandra Dodd (who happened to be sitting right next to me). 

Sandra was speaking later that afternoon so I went to check her out.  I left Sandra’s talk on "partnerships in the family" a changed woman.  I bought her book and could feel old reasonings about bedtime, math, reading and eating breaking in my head and my heart.  My husband wasn’t as sold as I was walking out of that conference room, so we traded reading material; I would read World War Z If he read The Big Book of Unschooling.  And that is how we came to be an unschooling family. 

Marin Holmes

Marin is attending alone, but wrote about her family:

We are a family of three (Marin, the mom, me, 34; Buck, 42;  and Ian, 7.5) living happily in Raleigh, NC. Ian has never been to school so we are just entering our third year of unschooling. We got to unschooling by way of La Leche League and attachment parenting. Lots of people we knew stopped doing the attachment thing once their kids weaned or reached preschool age. It seemed natural to us to extend the same principles we'd gathered from La Leche League and attachment parenting to the rest of our lives. We didn't have a name for it though until I found Sandra's unschooling website and then it all clicked.

I just passed the Certified Nurse Assistant exam (last week!) so I will be assisting at homebirths in the new year with my boss, who is a midwife. I love to write in my journal, read, watch movies, think and hang out with my family.

Buck is into sword fighting and medieval history. He also loves Star Wars, the Old West and RPGs.

Ian loves Lego, movies (UHF is his current fave), drawing, playing video games, Kirby, Mario Bros. and The Presidents, i.e. his favorite plushies who get preferential treatment and bed space ;).

I am quite excited about the ALL Symposium! I am looking forward to meeting other unschoolers as well as some of the people who have had a wonderful effect on my parenting and way of life with their time and good advice. I feel like I have been encountering lots of pressure from friends and family about unschooling recently, so I am hoping to get some advice on how to deal with that.

Buck wasn't able to get time away from work and won't be coming and Ian chose to visit his grandma so I am coming to Albuquerque by myself. I can't wait to meet everyone and absorb lots of unschooling wisdom!

The good news and the bad news

Holly and Marty and I went to the hotel so they could see the conference rooms, and so we could ask questions.  Clyde, our contact, said he had bad news and good news, and which did I want first?

"Mix them all up together," I said, thinking that would be a fun joke.

So he said the room differential had changed, and now the upgraded rooms (microwave/fridge) are only $5 more than the plainer rooms.  So instead of being $61 plus tax, they were now only $56 per night, plus tax.

"But that's good news.  What's the bad news?"

"They changed the room rates."

So it WAS mixed up together.  But the joke was his.

The "plain rooms" now have mini fridges.  They're pretty small, but it's really refrigeration.
The upgraded rooms (for $5 more a night) have a larger (still small, but larger) refrigerator and a microwave.

They're VERY easygoing, even though we're not using any of their catering or options.  We can bring food in, we can bring liquor in (not just for New Year's Eve, if we want, but beer or wine with lunch if you're that kind of person).

I asked about extension cords to get plug-ins for more laptops in the room, and he said no problem.  So we'll bring some power strips, so people can play on computers during talks and report back out to the world the cool things the speakers say. :-)

The breakfast room is WAY nicer than I thought it was when I saw it last time.  For one thing, there's another whole room I hadn't seen.  They will have scrambled eggs, biscuits & gravy, waffles, fruit, yogurt, pastries, cereal,  6:00 to 10:00 every morning for hotel guests.

Keith will put snack food out every day (and some of you might bring your leftover Christmas snacks or something, maybe).

Another family

I just received a registration from New York, so that makes 17 states, 28 moms (and I'll add them to the list when I have final details on all three names).

Marty and Holly are about to go with me to talk to Clyde with my last-minute questions, and so they can see the facilities.  Keith went with me the first time.

I have some other bio information, and I'll get back to that this afternoon.
New Mexico
New Hampshire
New York
North Carolina

Monday, December 12, 2011

Shelby and Lily Coleman

Shelby's daughter Lily is 11. They live in Pasadena.

"The little girl is Lily and the big dog is Rosie, the chocolate Lab, the little dog is Lulu the miniature dachshund."

Shelby wrote:

Lily and I have been un schooling together since she was 5 years old. I read an article about it in Mothering Magazine and decided that it was for us. I pulled all of the applications we had out to schools in Manhattan and never looked back. It wasn't until this summer that I found out there was a community out there of Radical Un Schoolers who shared my life philosophy. We attended the Northeast Conference near Boston in August. Wow! We were both blown away with the experience and it gave us such a lift to be in and around "our tribe". No one could believe I had never heard of Sandra Dodd. I guess I have had my head in the sand or something! I bought the book, and bought 5 more to share with friends and family. Couldn't have said any of it any better.

We live in Pasadena, CA during the winter months and summer on Long Island in New York.

Lily is passionate about animals. We have 2 dogs and 2 cats. We un school along side my sister and her two young boys. The current rage among them is Minecraft. We are so excited to meet everyone in New Mexico. Lily asks me to tell everyone she is a little shy but give her a chance and she will talk your ear off.

I left school in the 8th grade and that was the best decision I ever made.

Heather Brown's Family

Like a lot of others we learned about unschooling through La Leche League and Attachment Parenting friends. We knew we wanted to homeschool when our oldest son, Holden, was a toddler and that gradually led to unschooling. We are enjoying watching the boys learn as they grow, just by being and following their passions and ours. As the boys are getting older is nice to hear so many wonderful comments from family members about how much they enjoy the boys and how smart they are and how glad they are that they have so many friends. When the boys were younger we got a lot of questions and now no one really asks us a lot of questions, they just treat us with respect and vice versa.

We just take things one day at a time and try to realize our boys will be with us a short time and to make the most of the time we have together. We both lost our moms while they were in their 50s and Cliff's dad passed away in his 50s also. This just solidified our beliefs even more and brought us all that much closer. Having support from other unschoolers in Iowa, like Chris Sanders and others in our area helped us a lot. We have also met many inspirational unschoolers at conferences and traveled wide and far to be with other unschoolers we have connected with. We are all excited about the new journey we are on and looking forward to connecting with more people and new experiences.

Cliff, Heather, Holden (10), Camden (7), and Shadow

They were marked "Norwalk, Iowa" on the list earlier, but they're on the road, so that's been changed to Iowa/Texas/traveling Here's their website, with more information:

December 14 addition:

I've added this of my own volition, and if Heather wants it removed, she should send me a certified letter explaining the reasons. It's VERY CUTE.

(The embedded video isn't working as well as the one at JibJab works.)

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Geographical, age and gender

I'm working on mailing labels, and counted up some things:

27 moms (which is a count of how many families are represented by at least one person)
13 dads
1 grandmother
3 adults who were unschooled
(Rose Sorooshian, Marty and Holly Dodd; Kat Fetteroll can't come after all)
14 children of compulsory-attendance age
11 younger children (three are babies)
2 are the boyfriend of Holly and girlfriend of Marty and will be there some of the time, I hope

That makes 71.

Geographically, three countries are represented and sixteen states, including all four "corners" and the middle! Quite a good spread.
New Mexico
New Hampshire
North Carolina

Gratuitous photo
and link

Sunday, December 11, 2011



Thursday night singing; acoustic instruments or just vocal.
Think of a song even little kids will like if you can, and perhaps something with a singalong part. We'll go around in a circle, and people can play, pick (request a song others might be able to lead on your behalf) or pass. Or people can choose to hang back and not be in the circle. Sing from a distance, or just listen. I figure it will last between an hour and two.

Holly took a picture of me singing the other night:

We won't have lights and mics and stuff...

so... maybe some of these things...

a song
warm clothes for nighttime or outside
less-warm clothes for daytime and inside

if you colored a logo for the conference, maybe bring it (maybe send me a photo in advance)

snacks to share (holiday gift food you might not want would work)
food for your room, maybe

IF you intend to be outside much, sunscreen (due to elevation and climate, sunburns are a danger, especially in the combination of sun and snow, such as with skiing)

If you're used to a very humid climate, bring lotion, lip balm, moisturizer.

Drink more water than usual. If you have a favorite water bottle, you might want to bring it.

If you have a favorite string, lanyard, ribbon or a long shoelace you might want to use to hold your name badge, throw it in your luggage. I'll have string, ribbon, and a few other kinds of strings for people to choose from, too. You don't need to bring your own string.

Camera, extra batteries, chargers
Phone, charger
Computer (if you do that sort of thing when travelling), cords, chargers

If you bring toys, keep noisy ones in the hotel rooms. VERY QUIET ones can be used or shared in the room adjoining where the speakers will be. We'll bring some from here, for general use, too.

We'll bring games; please don't bring games you would be very bummed to have scattered or lost. You can use ours.

Are there things you think need to be added to that list? Please add suggestions in the comments below, or e-mail me with reminders of what I'm forgetting.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Julie Daniel

Julie will be attending with James (her husband) and Adam (our first Saturday morning speaker). Looking for something this morning, I came across something I wrote two years ago about Julie.

Julie Daniel

Holly took the photo during "the Duck Tour."

Julie (and her family) organized the Learning Trust — Trust Learning Conference ("the LiTTLe Conference") in London last summer where Schuyler, David and I spoke (and others), and is tentatively / seriously-probably planning another one for June 2012, also in London. You can listen to my presentation from last summer and follow along with my little power point pictures (though you have to go "next" by yourself) here, if you want to: The Past, The Future and Now

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Oh no. I finished the page on food, and it seems I didn't say so. :-)

So I've added a tab above to a copy of it, but the "original" (which I was keeping kind of secret, without intending to) is linked from this FAQ page:

If anyone here has questions, either leave a comment below or e-mail me and I'll try to clarify. Target has "real" groceries now—vegetables and eggs and all.

In addition to that food outside the building, the hotel provides some sort of breakfast to guests, and Keith reminded me insistently on the way to Texas the other day that we should really keep something out all the time for people to eat so nobody is very hungry or has to leave the room if they'd rather stay and talk. So Keith plans to have donut holes in the morning, and nuts, fruit, cheese and crackers out other times.

If any of you get Christmas sweets you don't really like, bring them! (I like fruit cake.)

Chris Sanders and Renee Cabatic will take care of keeping coffee going. If anyone has favorite tea or hot chocolate mix you'd like to donate to the snack table, it would be welcome. We'll bring sugar, milk and cream. If you want non-dairy or non-real-sugar, bring it!

Click for more info.
I'll make some.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A most important half hour

On Saturday of the event, I'm going to stop talking at 11:30 so people can get things out of their rooms by noon, those who are leaving Saturday afternoon, and so we can say goodbye to them. Some people will need rides to the airport about that time and so people from my family might be off driving.

We will need to vacate the big room and the room where the younger kids' toys are so it can be re-set for someone else's New Year's Eve party. We're keeping the south room, where the games and older kids' things will be, for our Saturday night room, so anything that's ours can be moved to that room, to be dealt with in the afternoon.

I'm deputizing everyone to help that happen smoothly. Don't let me speak past 11:30, no matter how much I might hint or beg.

Gratuitous image: Marty, tumbleweed, mountain; in the parking lot of Central New Mexico Community College, when his jeep wouldn't start and I rescued him with jumper cables. Tadaaa!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Nice note from Pam

In an exchange on Facebook:

Pam Sorooshian 10:19pm Nov 11
I'm SUPER excited about ALL - the gathering in Albuquerque. I think it is going to be deeply thoughtful and sweetly fun and probably will challenge our thinking, too....I know enough of the people coming to have a sense of what to expect!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ten dads, so far

I'm not talking biology; some might be step dads or even less formal significant-others, I didn't ask, but there seem to be ten adult males scheduled at the moment to be here in December. So just in case someone's been worried about that aspect, of the 54 people that I have on my list (a few more have muttered about coming but haven't confirmed), ten seem to be men of the dad-age. :-)

In case anyone would like to pass on some writing by and for dads, I have a collection:

And so that each post will have a photo, here's picture of James Daniel, who will be here, his wife Julie, and their son Adam, our 9:00 Saturday morning speaker:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Twenty to thirty families, so far

I think we will have one to three adults from twenty to thirty families, about a dozen little kids and a dozen or more teens. That's a rough guess. Some people asked. :-)

Because there was no tiered registration-cost schedule, some people have made hotel reservations and gotten airline tickets and still not yet registered for the conference. I don't mind, but it means I don't have a count. We have enough to pay for speakers' travel, and not quite enough rooms rented yet to get the conference rooms comped, but they'll be discounted.

Gratuitous photo of Holly and some mannequins at Sears:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Deb Lewis has a plan

Deb will speak on how be develop the courage and confidence it takes to unschool.

Here was her initial description, and I loved the enthusiastic flow of her writing here:
I want to talk about how unschooling parents probably can’t expect the understanding and support of extended family and friends but how being honest can give them courage and credibility.
And I intend to make these points:
That being honest doesn’t mean being unkind.
Honesty has far reaching benefits.
That our culture has certain (wrong) ideas about children that make unschooling seem crazy to the mainstream population.
And that emerging science about babies and children seems to suggest radical unschoolers are right. (There’s some research by Alison Gopnik and some from MIT I’ll use as supporting evidence for this claim.)

I know it doesn’t sound like it all connects but it really does.

I think it will be a good segue to the grown unschoolers.

It's been added to the schedule.

If anyone reading here isn't yet familiar with Deb's style and ideas, please read here:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Holly and Luke, not so recently

This is what two of the unschoolers who will be there looked like one night at Jill's house in 2010. It's Luke Davidson and Holly Dodd, hanging out with computers and a time-lapse camera designed to help people watch plants grow.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New presentation for the program

Because the Daniel family is coming from London, I'm adding a talk at 9:00 Saturday morning.
How I learn, by Adam Daniel (with some help from his mum)
By Saturday morning you will have met Adam (and Julie and James), and I'm sure you'll be willing to get up a bit early that day to hear Adam and Julie.

I'll add this to the schedule, and create a bio page for Adam, who is six, loves Star Wars, and skis well. In July, the Daniels hosted a wonderful one-day conference in London, and Adam helped with the site procurement, organization and announcements.

I lifted these recent photos from facebook:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Found this on facebook

Heather Booth did this:

The logo art link to the upper left (if you're reading this on the blog) should be clickable links so you can print out various sizes, but it's not right now. You could use "open image in new window."

Here's the link to the biggest one:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Joyce's presentation

Joyce has decided on a topic:

Unschooling Takeaway
Why we naturally learn by breaking big ideas down into sound bites. And why it can lead to some very goofy ideas about unschooling.
Joyce will have handouts, and I'm sure it will be as fun as the presentation she did at SUSS, in Santa Fe, which resulted in comical and embarrassing artwork by participants.

Joyce's daughter Kathryn/Kat has decided to be in Albuquerque, too, so that makes (of speakers' kids): one of Joyce's, one of Pam's (also speaking), two of mine and two of Jill's.

gratuitious picture of a room,
though I've heard there are new bedspreads

Don't forget to make room reservations, and to name the gathering so you get a discount and I get credit toward the cost of the meeting rooms. I LOVE that we can make reservations by e-mail! reservations links and info

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pets, and rooms

If you have a travelling dog, or a friend who might have come but didn't want to put her dog in a kennel, the hotel will allow pets for $10 extra. That's $10 extra per stay, not per night.

A fourth of the rooms open onto the inside where there's a lawn (and the pool, which will be closed for winter). That's where dogs can frolic. It's very fenced.

A fourth of the rooms open onto the outside of the hotel, and people can park right outside their rooms that way, motel-style. The other half of the rooms are on the second floor. So if you really want one of those kinds of rooms, maybe request it when you check in.

There are stairs, not an elevator, but there are only two floors.


I don't drink coffee. The hotel will let us use their coffeemaker and supplies, and if there is a coffee-drinker who would like to volunteer to keep coffee on, I would really appreciate it. If the machine isn't obvious, I'm sure Clyde Wanatee would show us or find someone who could. I don't want to add that to my list of things to think about, so maybe there could be a coffee monitor, or a coffee committee.

I was in that Target store this morning, and there's a coffeeshop and fast food counter. There was Starbucks coffee, though I think it wasn't officially "a starbucks," and there were baked goods. So for expensive coffee in paper, Target. For plainer coffee at the site... we need a volunteer or two.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Owl Cafe

In the parking lot, truly close, breakfast/lunch/dinner, wine/beer, 10% discount if you show them your room key. They were decorated for Balloon Fiesta. There will be winter or Christmas stuff there when you see it. Some booths have remote juke-box controls; if your kids have never seen those, this is their chance!

Keith and I went to breakfast to scout it out and take come pictures; that's him eating.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Conference room layout

(click to see it a little larger)

I erased some wall where I hope/intend to have the moveable wall left open between the main room and the play areas.

Table games and maybe video games can be to the south, off the little lobby where the registration table will be. There are a couple of couches there. I figure that end will be a good hangout for older kids.

To the west (left of the photo) is another room we can use for toys and younger kids. We can have paper, markers, mazes, pencils...

In the main room we will probably request "banquet style (round tables and chairs) so that people can bring laptops and food, and will have toys, paper and pens in there for the adults, too. Being a fidgeter and a doodler myself, I would like to cater to people of a similar nature. If we can get a combination of "classroom" (rectangular tables) and "banquet," I might try for that. If they let us set up our own tables, even better.

As to names of rooms, "Sandia" and "Kiva" are sanDEEah and KEEva.

The map I used was for the fire department or insurance company, I guess; it showed the location of fire extinguishers before I messed with it. What it doesn't show is that the rooms open up to hallways on the north/top and east/right, and to the outside on the others.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

quiet toys and discount books

I've started piling things to take to the site. It's just two and a half months away, I know.

I'm collecting quiet toys for toddlers and older kids. I'm washing the little wooden rocking horse. If you want to bring toys for kids to share in the playroom, which will be right next to the speakers, choose things that don't make noise if dropped on a table or floor. It will make a big difference in peace, happiness, and hearing what's going on.

(I know that horse would make a noise if dropped on a table; I know. On the back of that photo is this note: "Marty with 'the Turtle sword,' fall 1990. The horse came from a garage sale, $5. Keith fixed it up." Marty turned two in January 1991. He's 22 now. The horse is about the same.)

Also in my "take to hotel" collection is a box of books that have been shipped three times. Some are a little bent. There are a few books in there that were glued imperfectly when they were bound (too much glue, not too little; it's an aesthetic thing), and a few that were printed without the last blank pages and the "about the author" page. So I'm not happy to ship any of them to anyone who paid $25 plus shipping for their One Copy of the book. But they're fully good enough to
1) lend out
2) give away
3) use to take notes in, bend corners down, circle, cut-out-for-decoupage
So I'm going to sell those for $12.50, half price, to people in person at the conference. Not by mail, just right there.