Category Archives: Unschooling Conferences

Life Rocks Conference Recap

If you’ve never been to an unschooling conference before, you’re missing out on one of the most life-changing, empowering experiences EVER. This life attracts some of the most dynamic people on the planet. Being in their presence has been invigorating, exhausting, exciting, inspiring…

I think I’m running out of adjectives.

Maybe you know the feeling. If you’ve ever bared your soul to a friend, sharing hopes & dreams, your deepest secrets, and hearing theirs… Maybe if you know that no matter what you say or do, you are loved and the world is right and magical people are sprinkled all over the place(except for last week, when many of them converged upon the town of North Conway, New Hampshire).

I can think of ten thousand amazing moments that I want to share, here they are in no particular order:

– I loved meeting and hanging out with Amy Steinberg (the rumors about her being phenomenal are absolutely true, plus I love her). On the last night of the event, she gave a concert. I loved watching her sing Exactly and looking around the audience to see that everyone really was exactly where they needed to be… nursing babies in arms, toddlers on the dance floor, dads hula hooping, and moms arm-in-arm basking in the glow of the moment… it was so powerful. In a way, I was where I needed to be, too.  I was also lucky enough to take her on a Thai food lunch date and ride with her back into the airport and I kinda feel like I’ve known her forever. Actually, I had that feeling quite often during the conference. It was more like a reunion, in that way.
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Still Digesting

You know when the news interviews people outside the scene of some major event and some people say really stupid things, while others are able to give an accurate account of the events in an order that truly gives you a picture of what went on?

I’m in the first group.

I feel the need to post a coherent statement about my experiences at the Rethinking Education Conference in Dallas, but the reality is that I’m not done digesting it yet.

In one way, everything I experienced resonated with deeply held beliefs that hadn’t yet been validated by anyone outside of my own mind, with the exception of those books I read such a long time ago.

Years ago, I read everything by John Holt, Magical Child by Joseph Chilton Pearce, the Continuum Concept, the Teenage Liberation Handbook, everything by John Taylor Gatto, and they definitely influenced my parenting. But this was over 10 years ago, when my oldest was a baby, and at that point, the only practical skills I could have come away with were babywearing, limiting the amount of crappy toys in favor of real things, not duplicating a classroom in my house, and the intention of one day not being such an idiot when it came to my kids.

So, ten years have passed and the deeply held trust I had for babies and toddlers has lent itself well to my family, and my total ignorance about the older child development has made me an idiot when it comes to my kids.

It was really nice to be in an environment of adults whose beliefs were so similar to mine that it allowed me to challenge myself based upon my own logic. I couldn’t have predicted many of the issues that I’d be “rethinking” and education wasn’t even one of them, much to my surprise. But “Rethinking-Everything-You-Thought-You-Knew-about-Human-Existence Conference” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The talent show was fantastic. It had all the passion and creativity of the fireplace performances in my house, with none of the contrived parent-led recitations of other kid group performances I’ve seen (I’m not naming any names.) The Thriller Dance was great, the little girls who retold the story of Atlas with interpretive dance, totally sweet, and all of the dancing and singing. One little girl, I don’t know how old she was, said “I’m going to sing a lullaby, but I don’t want you to go to sleep. It’s a song my mother sings to me” and proceeded to serenade us all. Then, there was the entire room singing Pink Floyd “We don’t need no education…” My absolute favorite performance was by some little boy in a green shirt, I don’t even know his name. He was the lead singer in a rock and roll band. He handled the microphone like a real spirited rock star jumping around saying “yeah yeah” and when he told everyone to put their hands in the air, they did.

My stand-up comedy thing was fun. I didn’t have the stage-fright I thought I’d have. The environment was so loving, accepting and fun that I really felt safe and comfortable, like I was in a room full of friends. The sound system was a bit of a challenge, it threw me off a little. I forgot the whole 2nd half of my little act but I backed off before it became an embarrassment. I don’t know. I wonder if anyone filmed it. Eek- I don’t know if I want to see. I guess I can check that one off the bucket list.

The little reconstructed action figures were adorable. I loved how creative the kids were chopping up the Happy Meal toys and rebuilding them into more imaginative things. My favorite was the Tasmanian Devil coming out of the My Little Pony’s butt. Because I’m 12 that way.

toy from Rethinking Education Conference

I made friends. It’s been years since I’ve been in the company of adults who share these beliefs. It was really really nice. I haven’t felt so relieved and relaxed in so many years. I like knowing real life people that I can learn from. I like hearing their similar perspectives and learning from our differences. I like the supportive environment that comes from everyone helping bring out the best in each other.

So what happens? I come home to a house full of angry kids, and an angry husband. In an effort to please me with an immaculately spotless house, my husband used the skills he learned as a child to get the kids to help clean. One nice way to look at this is that I’m grateful for new insights that will allow us to work together differently in the future. Another advantage we have is that he’s open minded and once he gets past the emotions of everyone hating him for the events of the week, I am sure that he’ll be a happier guy.

One thing I learned was the value of appreciating people for where they are on the path. I don’t have to go there, but knowing why someone ELSE is there helps me respond better. My kids, accustomed to questioning authority and teamwork, didn’t buy the whole “Because I pay the bills” business. There was a revolt. I’m glad I wasn’t here for it. I’m glad it happened.

Yesterday, the girls and I started making altered books. Today we’re taking the sewing machine to the repair shop, so we can work on a few sewing projects we keep meaning to do. Each day we plan to spend time creating stuff together. I have an owl purse to copycat and an article to write that involves scrap booking supplies, so I’ll have to go buy some (unless one of my readers is a vendor who wants to donate in exchange for a review/ credit in a major mainstream parenting publication)

So we’re chugging along. I plan to share the “social world of unschoolers” with the rest of my family at the Life is Good Conference in Vancouver, WA next Spring. I’m enjoying the “back-to-my-roots” feeling and I’m not enjoying the consequences of having strayed for so many years. We’ll be OK, though. It’s a process, right? You can’t just be crazy like this overnight.


4 comments to Still Digesting (from before the server-crash of 2011)

  • Summer

    I’m so incredibly jealous that we weren’t able to go to the conference this year. *sigh* I can’t wait to hear more as you digest it all.

  • mama-aya

    I’m so glad you had a such a time you even HAVE to process it! Sounds amazing.
    It sounds so fun to be in that group of great people and all the kids being creative and having fun and not stuck with their parents trying to make them out-priss each other like SOME homeschool groups.
    Well, welcome home! And I AM jealous that your husband had the house clean, even if there is emotional clean-up still to do….

  • Moxy Jane

    It was a fabulous experience and I’m so glad you were able to come and be a part of it. I really enjoyed meeting you and look forward to keeping in touch!

    Moxy Jane

  • angela

    thank you for putting into words the process of processing this amazing event that i was also very happy to have been able to attend!
    being surrounded by so many people who share similar and even challenging beliefs was at once an affirmation of self(past and present) and the root stimulant of an adventurous growth spurt. it was also sorta like kid bumpers at the bowling alley!
    it was inspiring to meet you and i hope we can become good friends!

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