Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2014 registration is open for Rochester MN, May 29-June 1


Room registrations and Reservations!
The Minnesota Always Learning Live Unschooling Symposium is taking registrations and hotel reservations for 2014 now!

Check the tabs at the new blog for more information, and there is a facebook group for questions and particulars here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/130892373753543/

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Minnesota Photos, 2013

This is a link to all the photos I took while I was in Minnesota. All that I didn't delete for being too fuzzy or weird, anyway. :-)

There are none of the symposium! I didn't know people well enough to be snapping photos of them, but next year I might feel differently! And we ARE planning a next year!

Some are self-explanatory, and for some no explanation will help, but if there's anything you really wonder about, leave a note below, or there, or e-mail me. :-) I will attempt to justify my pixelating actions.


You'll see some of those on Just Add Light over the next few months. The one of the eagle in the water was used already.

 photo eaglebath.jpgRespect and acceptance are more important than test scores and "performance." Understanding is more important than recitation.

What doesn't show is that it was a rescue eagle in the river for an outing, and not a wild eagle I happened to catch. Still, it's an honest picture, lifted from an honest little video.

I always like to see what visitors to New Mexico photograph. I forget sometimes what's pretty until I see what other people got excited about. (No guarantee on my stuff to be representative of pretty, but do note the artful arrangement of the deer carcass, and how the cat's face and the preemie calf's face nearly matched! (And from that perspective, their size, too.)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A language link I think I said I would provide

I just had the vague thought this morning that I had agreed to bring this link to some group of people. I asked on facebook. Alex and Steve remembered, and Steve thinks it was the MN conference, so here it is just in case. :-)

It's a collection of links to Bible passages that are interesting in one way or another, but aren't religious, that might be of interest to people wanting some exposure to the language of those days.
This was created to help (and amuse) people who were writing pseudo-Renaissance scroll texts and ceremonies within the Society for Creative Anachronism. Renaissance-ish. but for people who weren't familiar with Shakespeare or with the King James Bible, it can be way-difficult-to-impossible.

Reading the Bible Without Fear of Religion
Ælflæd of Duckford is my SCA name. My medievalesque name. :-)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Alex is looking for a hotel in Rochester for another gathering next year. We will NOT conflict with the statewide conference in Wisconsin this time.

I'll be back, and it's very likely that Pam Laricchia will be there in person with her THREE books. There aren't three yet, but should be by next summer. :-)

We're looking at the middle of May, 2014, so please save the vague date, if you're interested.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

About not rushing (for new unschoolers)

I wish I'd had this to read when someone talked about removing all limits at once! It's perfect. It was posted to the Always Learning list today:
We've been unschooling for nearly 3 years now and the one thing I really wish I had done differently was to ease into it. I had a tendency to be all-or-nothing, and that way of doing things really created some struggles that I think could have been avoided if, instead of dropping all rules, we had simply started to say yes more while I continued to read here and get a better understanding of how to apply the principles of unschooling.

Because of my all-or-nothing approach, we made too many big changes way too fast, and then had to come back toward the middle and find balance, which was very difficult for our whole family, but especially for my now 7 year old, who I think felt very confused and angry for quite some time, as she felt that her world was in turmoil.

If I could give you any advice it would be to hear what Sandra means when she says, "Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch." Small changes seem to lend themselves to the ability to find balance and harmony in family and life, without causing unnecessary pain. Big changes can make everyone feel off-balance and frightened.

Amy Jackson

Anyone who's not a member of Always Learning might want to consider joining. It's a serious discussion, so don't jump in too quickly! Ease in gradually.


I will ease out gradually, but will leave this blog as a souvenir for people who attended the symposium. :-)

Monday, May 6, 2013

"Sweet and patient" (and thank you)

It's Monday morning, and I'm doing my final packing. I enjoyed the weekend here, and the days before that at Alex's farm!

I have some praise to share with the rest of the group:

At breakfast I thanked the restaurant manager (I think she might be), whose name is also Sandra, for her help upstairs. She said it was her pleasure and that our group was great. I said I thought so, too. :-) I said "Weren't those teenaged boys sweet?" YES! She said, with big eyes. "We're not used to that," she added.

She said that the kids were all calm and polite, and that other employees commented on that too, and that the front desk was impressed. She said they're used to loud kids and parents who let their kids have the run of the hotel, and the kids go wild about the water park, but that the kids in our group were sweet and patient.

Thank you, all of you who had those sweet kids who made our group, and homeschooling in general, look good to a new group of people. :-)

Friday, May 3, 2013

New page about who inspired us

Summary and good quotes from Friday morning's sharing session:

Photos on facebook

Rodney Sikes is taking photos to post in the facebook group someone made for this group, so in case you didn't know about it (and if you're on facebook), here it is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/130892373753543/ All Unschooling in Minnesota

They won't tag or identify anyone but their own son, but you're welcome to join the group and tag yourself and your kids if you want to!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thursday night welcome, Friday morning notes

I know several families are at the hotel, the water park is reported to be large and fun, and the conference rooms have been set up.

On the second floor, when you get out of the elevator, the presentations and young children's rooms are to the right. To the left, past the open area (and then to the right), is a room for older kids to hang out in for video games, board games, or chatting. Between those two you'll see some tables and chairs we can also use.

Please try to plan to eat lunch in the hotel restaurant on Friday. After that, no obligation. (If you can't, don't worry. If you can, cool.)

Some of you know already, but I'm fairly face-blind. I might not recognize you if I've only met you a time or two. If we talk on Friday, and I see you again on Saturday, I might likely look at you blankly. I'm really sorry about that. It takes me a while, but I can learn faces slowly.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Yatzeck Family

Our basic info hasn't changed from the link to our bio from a year and a half ago that you already sent out, but here are some more recent pictures.

Joe has his own business installing commercial doors and windows, and Melissa spends her days with our three kids, who have never been to school. Mary is now 7, Joey is 4, and Lily is 2.

Joe and I were at the ALL Unschooling Symposium in Albuquerque in December 2011 and loved it. We've also been to one local homeschooling conference in Wisconsin in May 2012. This is our first homeschooling conference we are attending as a family, and we are all pretty excited about it. The kids are especially looking forward to playing in the water park and playing Minecraft with new friends!

Family Picture from November 2012:

Melissa and Lily at my sister's Pakistani Wedding in England; January 2013

Sequence of photos of Joe and Lily making Lily's signature faces (also at the Pakistani Wedding in January 2013): "Angry", "Happy", "Surprised", and "Silly"

Mary at her 7th birthday party, February 2013, with a Monster High birthday cake created by Joe:

Joey at the Space Needle in Seattle, February 2013:
Looking forward to spending time with everyone in a few days!
The Yatzeck Family

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hotel Reminders

Checkout is at 11:00.

No food is allowed in public areas or conference center.

Watch your children; coach them to be courteous to other hotel guests, please.

Friday lunch is the only meal I'm really encouraging people to eat in the hotel restaurant. Eat there as much as you want, but Friday's lunch is set particularly because of our conference.

There's an onsite laundry. If you think you'll need to wash clothes, pack some quarters and laundry soap, maybe.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Checklist suggestions:

Toys to share maybe: but if you bring things to share, they must be quiet toys.

For the water park:
swim suits
goggles and such

For gamers:
head sets /headphones
power cords
game systems
memory cards
(I don't know what you'll need, but whatever it is, bring it.)
Power strips and extension cords might be needed, or not. If people with plenty of room and a spare power strip could put them in the car just in case, that would be great. Mark them, maybe.

Board gamers:
I'm bringing:
Wise and Otherwise
Five Crowns
If people have other board games that can be played by a large and variable number of people, that would be good.
One request: Please Do Not bring "Cards Against Humanity," or if you do, keep it in your room. Too disturbing for mixed-age, mixed-group.

Extra set of car keys, if you're driving
Electronics and paraphernalia
Camera, extra batteries, chargers
Phone, charger
Computer (if you do that sort of thing when travelling), cords, chargers

Food for the rooms (we can't have it in the conference center, but stock your car and room, maybe).

Mahowald Bio

I (Eileen) and Felix are excited to travel together to join you in Minnesota. My husband George grew up in Illinois (suburb of Chicago) and I in Massachusetts. Our family resides in Northboro Massachusetts (40 minutes from Boston)

Both of Felix's grandparents grew up in Minneapolis.
Felix asked me last night where his grandpa was buried and I will look into the possibility of visiting his grave.

This is a special trip for Felix and I as I can't recall many events that he and I have ventured alone. We are a family of 5. My husband of almost 23 yrs and our fraternal 10 yo twin daughters will stay home this trip. It is unusual for Felix and I to spend this one on one time together and it is a great gift for me to experience with him.

Felix attended a few years of preschool as my twin pregnancy slowed me down and he sped up as a 2 1/2 yo toddler. That was nearly 11 yrs ago and we as a family and as individuals have grown so much.

At nearly 47 I am finally beginning to get grey hair! lol (sorry but it's so new I'm trying to still realize it!) I am ever grateful for my wonderful husband who trusts my judgement and sponsors my dreams. George's genetics had him grey in his early 30's so for him this is not a realization of middle age! (he's turning 50)
I have known the preciousness of life from a young age. It goes by quick!

I understand how Radical Unschooling can work in preserving inherent qualities of learning and developing as whole individuals. These are things I wish for my family and with the incredible work of people like Joyce Fetteroll and Sandra Dodd I have been able to live my life with my family with more joy and a more open sense of possibilities of who we are and what we do.

We began our journey by gently keeping Felix home from kindergarten as we grew and recovered from a twin birth and toddlerhood. I have always been exhilarated in learning and to be among these fine people in my immediate family is an honor and privilege.

I have a deep sense of gratitude to Joyce Fetteroll as I fell upon her work online as I kept my son out of public school. Her writing on joyful living gave back to me the gift that had begun to deteriorate under societal norms for parenting. Sandra's work has provided me material to synthesize a way of living conducive to preserving my relationships with my husband and my children. I am intrigued by Sandra's work and have gleaned her words for 5 years or more. Her ideas and those she spurs and collects have helped me be a better parent and spouse.

My kids have all learned to read and write naturally without formal practice.

Felix is a full time gamer and has many friends online. He enjoys hosting & traveling to see friends who live at a distance. Felix loves geography. He has recently enjoyed hunting with his dad. Felix has expressed aspirations for selling his many collections of beloved Bionicles and Lego sets on eBay. I suggested that Felix may want to learn some gaming via his laptop among others at the conference and he felt his time would be better spent meeting new people while there! =)

I have a meditation practice, enjoy the Internet, love playing and learning with my kids, walking & talking with my husband, hosting kids & families for play, cooking, cleaning, reading, yoga and the outdoors. I play with Feng Shei and take care of my house plants, outdoor garden and our 2 bunnies and adopted chinchilla. Can you tell I'm a nurturer.

Looking forward to our adventure and mini vacation among Unschoolers. See you soon!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Deanna & Alexander, joined by Kevin

Hello from Duluth! Living in northern MN, we feel lucky to be able to enjoy both city life and wilderness fun, as both are close by. Alexander (15) has never been to school, and we’ve been on the unschooling path for many years now.

Deanna’s former life included working as a speech/language therapist and a massage/bodywork therapist. Her current life includes exploring with Alexander & husband John, cooking, gardening, knitting, hiking, and a bit of yoga. An information junkie, books and her iPad are often close by.

Alexander has long enjoyed gaming and has met some truly awesome friends on the Unschooling Gamers group. He dove deep into computers & programming this past year, working a 6-week internship at a local computer shop, and amassing components for building his own computer. One of his biggest passions is the Melbourne Shuffle, a dance form that has brought him contacts from a wide variety of places and some cool background on the history & sub-genres of electronica music; he looks forward to meeting up with some other shufflers and dancin’ till dawn at the Anime Detour Con again this year. (Yep, manga and anime have been long-time passions, as well.)

We will be joined by Kevin, a gaming buddy from CA. His bio states: “I’m Scooty McGee, I mean Kevin. I did ballroom dance for two years. I’m also into gaming, and stand up/improv comedy.”

The folks from Texas

Rodney (50), Andrew (14), and I (Glenda, 47) will be driving from west-central Texas to the symposium. Although Rodney’s been to Minnesota several times for business, this will be Andrew’s and my first trip to the northern part of the U.S., and our first long driving-trip as a family. It will also be our first time to meet up in person with other unschoolers, including friends Andrew and I have made over the years via several unschooling lists. It will certainly be a trip full of many “firsts,” which is quite exciting!!

Andrew has always been homeschooled, and we’ve been unschooling, really, from the point at which he would’ve had to enroll in school (age 6, here).

In their bio, Deanna said this about her son, Alexander: “Alexander has long enjoyed gaming and has met some truly awesome friends on the Unschooling Gamers group.” I can say the very same thing about Andrew!! Andrew is looking forward to hanging out with those friends in-person.

In addition to a love for many-things-gaming, Andrew has a passion for participating in plays at our local community theatre (recent productions include “Get Smart,” “Cat in the Hat,” and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”) and would like to expand his theatre knowledge to include the technical side of productions. He tried out our local youth bowling league last fall, and looks forward to joining again this fall. Now that he’s between theatre productions, we’re all three ready to blow the dust off our bowling balls and start honing our bowling skills again! We’re also looking forward to his cousins’ schools letting out for the summer, as we enjoy hanging out with them and their parents at the pool….that’s probably the only perk of the triple-digit temps we have during the summer! When Andrew’s looking for some downtime to recharge his batteries, he likes watching YouTube and reading.

Rodney and I both work in the family business, Rodney full-time as a safety/loss-control consultant, and I very part-time as an executive assistant. We are fortunate to have a boss (my mom) who places a huge priority on “family first,” and who is incredibly supportive of allowing us to work our schedules around things such as this trip.

Rodney is a fantastic nature photographer and is looking forward to coming home from this trip with a memory card full of beautiful-scenery photos. He also has a great love of being outdoors, which results in us having a garden for as much of the year as our weather allows! He built a fantastic chicken coop for our (city) backyard a couple summers ago, and is always looking for new ways to capture rainwater (which has been in woefully short supply the past several years).

I currently enjoy doing Zentangle, but was an avid embroiderer for several years before that. (I keep thinking I’ll mash-up the two hobbies, but it hasn’t happened yet.) I love finding new-to-me tv series (“Supernatural” and “Battlestar Gallactica” are current faves, with “Dr. Who,” “Sherlock,” and “Elementary” next up in the queue), reading (favorite series are “Game of Thrones” and “Outlander”), being at the pool in the summer, playing with our dogs, and hanging out with my fellas.

The Schad family

Greetings from the Schad family! We live in the White Bear Lake area of the Twin Cities, Minn. -- Steve, Tracy and two girls Skyler (9 y.o., soon to be 10 on 5/9) and Delaney (6 y.o.). Steve and I will celebrate our 18th anniversary at the end of May.

I'm a former animal shelter worker; my favorite role was that of foster care and breed rescue coordinator. Animal welfare is a part of me. I enjoy reading, photography, and creating arts and crafts (well, more honestly, the idea of doing so; I love my Pinterest boards.) and simply enjoying our tree-nestled home with its large backyard and the small forest backing up to our property.

Steve enjoys history (reading biographies and watching documentaries), art and creating amazing vegetarian dishes for us. He works at Andersen Corp. as a corporate training and development manager. Like me, he loves being awed by natural beauty, and some day soon, we are going to take that love on the road with more traveling and enjoying what the world has to offer.

I first came upon unschooling while reading John Holt's How Children Learn as I rocked a 6-wk-old Skyler. I bought it thinking it was a how-to book; in a way, it was, but of the opposite sort of what I anticipated. Most importantly, It was a happy accident that set us down this path early. As an attachment/peaceful parenting household, it was a natural progression. We prefer doing things as a family and make home our sanctuary, to us and our 8 indoor cats. We are fortunate to live in an area where we can nurture many of our passions and easily meet up with like-minded families, or as least ones we can find commonalities with despite our differences. We enjoy art, board games, field trips, open play and nature outings with our various homeschool friends. The girls and I volunteer together with our local cat shelter.

Skyler's current interests include American Girl dolls, reading, fashion design, horses, drawing, Guinea pigs, dance (currently, tap) and musical theater. Delaney loves Littlest Pet Shop critters, American Girl dolls, cats, dance (currently, ballet and tap), butterflies, swimming and Squinkies. Both of them enjoy playing Club Penguin, Animal Jam and Webkinz, often together, side-by-side on their computers and with on-line friends. They can't wait until the trampoline goes back up outside for the warmer seasons.

We're a more quiet, introspective bunch, but are excited to have this opportunity to spend time with other unschoolers in a relaxed atmosphere.

Stopa Family (Pearl, Cas and Larry)

Hello, my name is Pearl. I’m a 15 year old girl from Wisconsin. I like geology, although I’m fairly new to it and I don’t know that much yet. Still, I have a decently sized rock collection. I play a lot of video games. Recently I’ve been playing a lot of Touhou and Minecraft, and I like to use level editors in games. I also like making necklaces, especially when I can use beads made out of rocks. I have a Tumblr where I post about all of these things. If you’re interested, you can find it here: http://rock-paper-mario.tumblr.com/

I am Cas Stopa. I am 13 years old and live in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I like playing video games. My favorites are Minecraft, Portal, Ratchet & Clank. My sister, Pearl, and I play Minecraft with each other. I like all kinds of sports. I like to watch football, and play basketball.
I’m a drummer. I’ve played for about 5 years now. I really like Tré Cool, the drummer from Green Day. I’m really into theater. I like to act and have been in 20 shows, playing everything from a mafia godfather to an old wise man from Persia. I really love roles where I can do an accent.

I am Larry Stopa, proud papa of Pearl and Cas. (I like to call him “Mir” which means “Peace.” His full name is Casimir.) I try to stimulate their curiosity however it might work, such as in nature or on computers. I run an online marketing firm. I enjoy biking along the many off-road trails around here and commuting with nature. I play with N-scale trains, and collect football and non-sports cards.

The photo is from our vacation last year in Copper Harbor, MI. as we left on a sunset cruise – 
Jennie Neary, Pearl, Cas and Larry Stopa.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Godfreys from Nebraska

Hi! We are the Godfreys. Attending the conference are myself (Michelle 43), my 5 year old daughter, Isabel and my 4 year old daughter, Clara. My husband, Ben has to work so he won’t make it this time. I am bringing my sister, Marilyn Anderson and her 15 year old daughter, Marrissa who have recently started to home school.

I decided to homeschool our two girls just after Clara was born. I thought I would have a small Montessori classroom in our home and do it that way. I even set said classroom up and bought an expensive curriculum. Isabel and I sat down to do some of the first lessons and it became clear very quickly that the Montessori style of teaching was not going to fit our family (some things in theory are way different in practice).

I began reading about unschooling in 2011 and it resonated with all that I believe yet had not yet been able or brave enough to practice (I had been working with young children in preschools and tutoring center situations prior to being a mom). I began deschooling myself and talking about the concept with my husband. We put some things into practice in a “testing” type fashion. In 2012 I began to implement more unschooling concepts into our lifestyle yet still in a “on the fence” fashion. It had been about a year since I had read Sandra Dodd’s “Big Book of Unschooling” and I picked it up again. To my surprise and pleasure, some of the concepts that went right over my head the last time I read them now made sense and some of them I even “got”.

At the beginning of this year, I chose to unschool. It is a practice similar to how I see my yoga practice. I know and have experienced the magical benefits. I am just past the beginning steps and am determined to continue on the path, even through the unknown, uncertainty and angst that shows up. I trust those that have followed the unschooling path before me and I am trusting the human spirits of my girls.

Isabel (5 years old) loves her mommy, daddy, her cat, her dog, her pigs, her chickens, her bees, her geese, her sister and her grandma. She likes to run. She likes zebras because of the stripes and giraffes because of their long necks and their long tongues. She likes exercising, such as jumping and skipping. She likes to play Barbies. She likes to help people cook. She likes to take pictures, too!

Clara (4 years old) likes to play house and princess, watch princess movies, jump, watch Winx Club and Bubble Gumpy. She likes to eat strawberries, apples, pears, bananas and sweet things like cake, ice cream and chocolate covered berries. She likes to dance like ballerinas and princesses. She likes to hold our baby chickies and visit our piggies. She wants the animals to grow big and strong like their moms and dads. She also likes her pretty dresses and her party dress.

We are looking forward to the Always Learning Live weekend in front of us!

Study up on Minnesota

The locals will know all this. I only knew six or eight of them.

Things Minnesotans are Too Nice to Brag About

Bob Dylan. Betty Crocker. Lucky Charms. Indoor malls! Lots of goodness comes from Minnesota.

They didn't mention cheese curd. I guess it's not exclusively in Minnesota, but if you're not from that part of the country and you're in a lunch place and one of the options is "cheese curd," try it. But don't buy it from a drive-through and leave before tasting it, because you might need more if there are many people in the car.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

THURSDAY night (correction)

Those of you who are in the hotel Thursday night, though, should find me, Alex or Jill somewhere in the common area.

When I wrote "Friday," I meant the night before the exciting thing really starts.

A few more people made hotel reservations, and we might have access to the water park Thursday night after all. Either way, we will have fun. :-)

Locals and those who might be staying elsewhere can buy waterpark passes at the desk at a discount. Tell them you're part of this conference.

Rooms with more than four people might need to buy extra passes, too.

Head Count, two weeks out

Updated head count has some interesting stats:  86 people are registered, from infants to grandparents.

43 of those are adults
43 of those are teens and younger

Of the kids, 22 are boys, 21 are girls.  


Babysitting opportunity

Melissa Yatzeck hasn't sent a bio yet, but I'll add a link below to one from about a year and a half ago. Add that much age to each child, if you would like to consider this:

My husband and I would be very appreciative if we could find some teens to help keep an eye on our children, just during the speaker sessions. Our seven year old, Mary, is very social and independent and will probably quickly make new friends and find things to play with them; she won't require close supervision. My four year old, Joey, is a little shy at first, but warms up after a little while. Mary and Joey both love Minecraft and we will be bringing along two iPads they can use, and possibly a laptop. I know at the last conference there were several kids playing in an adjoining room, and if that is happening again they would likely happily join in on that. Our two year old, Lily, requires close, constant supervision though, and it would be most helpful to find someone willing to play with her during those times. It is also possible she might nap during afternoon sessions. We would be comfortable having someone (or two, or three!) watch the kids either in our hotel room, or in the adjoining room for kids.

(I'm guessing it's possible that a nearly-teen might work for the next-room play, as the parents would be so near.) A year and a half ago, the family looked like the photo here: http://alwayslearninglive.blogspot.com/2011/12/melissa-yatzecks-family.html

Some newer photos of the kids are here: http://alwayslearninglive.blogspot.com/2011/12/melissa-yatzecks-family.html

HOTEL news

Today is the last day to get a hotel room at the group rate, so if you were stalling, DO IT!

Alex has been tirelessly negotiating to get us the best arrangement, and I'm grateful to her for that. Something we were told, though, is not happening as we expected, so... for Thursday night the water park won't be open. I'm sorry.

Those of you who are in the hotel Thursday night, though, should find me, Alex or Jill somewhere in the common area. We will have the name badges and registration sheet, and we will find room to sit and talk or play and meet each other.

Thursday might be a good night to sleep early. It might be the last chance.

Soon!! We'll see you soon.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chris and Zoe Sanders

Zoe (15) and I (Chris, 48) are thrilled to have the 2013 MN Always Learning Live Symposium hosted so close to our home. We're from West Des Moines, Iowa and it's just a little over a four hour's drive away!

We have attended two Live and Learn Conferences (St. Louis & Albuquerque,) Sandra's 2009 Santa Fe Symposium, the 2010 Life is Good Conference in Vancouver, WA and the 2011 ALL Symposium in Albuquerque. We enjoy these gatherings for stoking our unschooling fires and for the camaraderie of fellow unschoolers. Rick will be on his Annual Brothers Canoe Trip in northeast Iowa and Zach (22) will be attending his classes at University of Iowa in Iowa City. We'll be leaving our new puppy behind to be cared for by trusted family and professionals.

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 senior in college majoring in History and German and he will be spending an extra year of undergraduate study in Freiburg, Germany beginning in August.

Zoe loves singing, playing video games, drawing, dancing and reading fantasy novels. She's busy most weeks with church choir, church youth group, dance lessons and skypeing with her friends across the continent. She's looking forward to getting a job this summer, traveling to Italy and Germany with her father and me in September and getting her driver's license in November!

I have many irons in the fire at any given time. I work part-time for Pearson VUE as a test administrator, I have provided freelance bookkeeping services to small corporations for the last 22 years and, 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 hang out, 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—this summer he'll be riding across Oregon!) playing volleyball, watching football and spending time with his large family of origin.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The schedule is finished

The schedule page had a mysterious corruption, and the format wouldn't be still. Two days of messing around with it on Word and on my webpage to get the html to settle (without retyping the whole thing)... and changing the blog template... and here it is:


If you see any errors or formatting problems, please don't tell me until Wednesday, because I'm tired of looking at it.


Deanna & Alexander, joined by Kevin

Hello from Duluth! Living in northern MN, we feel lucky to be able to enjoy both city life and wilderness fun, as both are close by. Alexander (15) has never been to school, and we’ve been on the unschooling path for many years now.

Deanna’s former life included working as a speech/language therapist and a massage/bodywork therapist. Her current life includes exploring with Alexander & husband John, cooking, gardening, knitting, hiking, and a bit of yoga. An information junkie, books and her iPad are often close by.

Alexander has long enjoyed gaming and has met some truly awesome friends on the Unschooling Gamers group. He dove deep into computers & programming this past year, working a 6-week internship at a local computer shop, and amassing components for building his own computer. One of his biggest passions is the Melbourne Shuffle, a dance form that has brought him contacts from a wide variety of places and some cool background on the history & sub-genres of electronica music; he looks forward to meeting up with some other shufflers and dancin’ till dawn at the Anime Detour Con again this year. (Yep, manga and anime have been long-time passions, as well.)

We will be joined by Kevin, a gaming buddy from CA. His bio states: “I’m Scooty McGee, I mean Kevin. I did ballroom dance for two years. I’m also into gaming, and stand up/improv comedy.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Food Review

Please review the information about food, here: http://allunschoolingminnesota2013.blogspot.com/p/food.html (If you're reading on the blog, it's one of the tabs above).

The lunch break will be nearly two hours long, so people will have time to go to a grocery store or restaurant. We can't have food in the conference center.

Please read again about the restaurant, and where the nearest stores are. I don't want anyone hungry, especially kids. I wish they would just have let us "monkey platter" it. And their conference catering is way too expensive. :-)

Be prepared, and bring some groceries for the room.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

More families

Two more families have registered this week, from Montana and Nebraska.  I'll do a new head count soon.

Please send bios and photos, anyone who hasn't, if you're interested in doing so.  Send to Sandra@SandraDodd.com


Thursday, March 21, 2013

New page in the tabs above

I've included a page on the focus of the event, following a kind and reasonable request for a description.

http://allunschoolingminnesota2013.blogspot.com/p/focus.html (or if you're reading at the blog, click the "focus" tab above)

My intention isn't to provide an introduction for people who don't know anything about unschooling. It will be easiest and most peaceful if there are no raw beginners, but it's a symposium for unschoolers, rather than an introductory event.

If someone is already registered, though, or really wants to attend, and unschooling IS new, the "help" link on the page above will help. The best current intro is Pam Laricchia's, and if you sign up now, you'll have time to receive most of it before the symposium! It's a timed series of introductory e-mails, elegantly designed. I really like it.

And there's more about Pam Laricchia in an interview I did for the California HomeSchool Network's magazine:

questions, and a photo

I've added a photo to the Fender Family introduction.

Between now and our gathering, please consider very brief answers to these questions. I'd like to do a couple of intro rounds on Friday, alternating with some introductory (fairly basic) unschooling ideas from the speakers. No participant will be required to speak. "Pass" is fine. :-) You can just gesture us away if someone asks you a question, but I will be inviting those who are willing to share something personal.

I will probably ask for people to name a person or two who helped them move toward being a better parent, or understanding unschooling better. Sometimes a friend who didn't even go on to become an unschooler can have said something that helped us substantially. For me, two La Leche League Leaders and a friend who didn't end up unschooling said things that were very short, but that caused me to think very differently. I will name them, there, in that round. We can fill the room with simple gratitude.

Another question I think would be helpful in a go-around-the-room way (and you can pass) is "What do you wish you had known sooner?" Think of something if you can, and of a way to word it succinctly so that others in the room then Have It. :-) We can fill the room with wisdom.

And on Friday I'll collect questions in writing for the Saturday sessions, and share them out with Jill and Alex. One or two of us can address each question any participant might have.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reminder and *sorry*!

Remember to send a bio and photos if you want (more photos can be added, too): Send them to me at Sandra @ SandraDodd dot com

We're not allowed any snacks in the public areas of the hotel, so please remember to have snacks in your rooms or (if you're not staying in the hotel) in your car, in case kids get hungry. Food can help keep the peace. :-)

I've changed the settings for comments, because of some spam, so if you leave a comment please allow for a few hours (half a day at nighttime) for me or to see it and let it through. Sorry some of you got copies of the spam posts.

I'll thank her again, but I wanted to say how grateful I am to Alex Polikowsky for finding the water park for us, and helping to organize things, and to Jill Parmer for going with me to inspire you all and share stories of older unschoolers'experiences!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sonya and Luca

Sonya Austin is a single mom to a 9 year old boy named Luca.   They have been unschooling for almost 2.5 years after choosing together to discontinue his schooling in 2010. They are both diagnosed with autism. They are from Minneapolis,  just about an hour away from the conference site.

Luca really likes all aspects of video and arcade gaming including playing, history, marketing, design, and sociological impact.  

Sonya likes to grow heirloom veggies, cook, sew, sing karaoke at her favorite local dive bar, study economics and human sexuality, and listen to top 40s music at deafening volumes.  

They both love their pet kitten, Fio, and their pet husky, Frankie.

The Mueller family

Hi, we're the Muellers: Phil, Gretchen, Sarah (15), Joy (13), Andrew (10), Grace (7), and Faith (3).

Phil is a mechanical engineer. He owns and operates a chimney cleaning and repair business. He recently retired from 34 years of service in the Air Force Reserve as a C-130 flight engineer. He enjoys gaming, watching sci-fi, reading Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and home repair type magazines and journals, and family gatherings. 

Gretchen is also a former C-130 flight engineer, and former student of Phil's, – which is how the story of the Muellers began. She was recently accredited as a La Leche League Leader. She enjoys reading, writing, surfing the internet, painting, organizing, eating good food, lazy days at the beach, and hanging out with her family.

Sarah enjoys reading, writing, pottery, surfing the internet, tumbling, drawing, role-playing, cosplaying, and anything that has to do with Skyrim. This year, she attended an anime convention for the first time, which is an experience that she will never forget. She looks forward to a time when she can attend another one. She also supports Superwholock.

Joy’s passions include painting (anything and everything), pottery, making her own cards and gifts, princess movies, reading, Pinterest, and other on-line sites like Doll Divine and Animal Jam. She enjoys attending theater and acting, and is currently part of a local production of Ben Hur. A highlight of her year is attending summer camp.

Andrew is into all things weapons and military related. Most days he can be found sitting on the exercise bike playing (multi-player mode) the following X-box games: MW3, Battlefield 3, Black Ops 2, Black Ops 1. He also loves Nerf gun battles, military documentaries (especially WWII), YouTube, swimming, summer camp, and going to water parks.

Grace likes dancing, singing, trying out for plays, drawing, painting, playing with her American Girl Dolls and Bitty Babies, and all sorts of games. Her favorite on-line games sites are Doll Divine, Animal Jam, Girls Go Games, and Star Wars Clone Wars. Her favorite board games are Cadoo and Rummikub. Her favorite T.V. show : The Jonas Brothers.

Faith likes to talk. She also likes singing, playing dolls with her sister, holding our new kittens, playing outside, and going to the pottery shop with her older sisters. Her favorite shows are Shawn the Sheep, Curious George, and Oscar's Oasis. Most of all, she loves to go to the midweek youth program at our church.

We look forward to meeting all of you and making some new friends!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Natalie Jackson's family

The Jacksons, Ben, Natalie, DD 5 and DS 2 1/2

We live and learn in the Twin Cities. Ben is a software engineer who loves gardening and reading and time with friends and family. I am a former high school teacher and current student at a technical college studying apparel design and production. I manage the messy household and try to keep up with the kids and my own school work. DD loves art projects, rhyming games, numbers, and playing outside. DS loves anything with a cord or motor, listening to and making music, and helping in the kitchen.

I started thinking about homeschooling over two years ago after a play date with a friend who was touring Kindergartens for her son. After researching homeschooling styles and philosophies, we realized that we had been unschooling the kids -- and ourselves, to a large extent -- all along. Our plan is to keep doing what helps our kids thrive and learn until it stops working for them or for us. So far, no sign of it stopping.

I look forward to meeting the other families at the conference, and to learning more, and to having some fun at the water park. --Natalie

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Fender family

We are the Fender family, Jeff, Rachel, Jordyn, and Levi. We have been homeschooling for three and a half years, moving towards unschooling in the last year. We live in southern Indiana.

Jeff is a quality director at Cummins, an international engine manufacturer. My background is in education, I taught elementary school for several years then went back to graduate school and earned a Masters and an Education Specialist degree in School Psychology. I worked as a school psychologist for three years immediately prior to us beginning to homeschool.

We were never a family that intended to homeschool. When our daughter went to Kindergarten and I cried every day for the six months before she started I was told that was normal, all moms were sad about their kids going to school, you just had to deal with it. Our daughter progressed through Kindergarten, first, and then second grade, but I missed her. I felt her growing apart from us, but, again, everyone around me just said that was normal, and good for her to be developing her independence, so I was sad but we moved on. Looking back I wish now I had listened to the very small voice in my head and heart that was urging me that these feelings were not normal, that my children needed to be with their mother.

The year our son was set to start Kindergarten we moved to a new town. The move was very difficult for us and was not a move we sought, but was necessary because of my husband's change in employment. We knew our son was already struggling, but, again, we just continued to go with the norm, and hoped he would settle out after our move was completed. Well, he did not, but continued to struggle more and more. He was sick literally every day for the four months he was in public school. Eventually things came to a head, and I collected my son and daughter from school on a Friday determined that they were not going back.

That night and all weekend my husband and I talked about our options. There is only one private school here and the tuition is exorbitant. However, I knew in my heart that my son needed to be out of the classroom setting altogether, at least for a time. Homeschooling seemed our only option. So, I resigned from my job, we pulled the kids out the week before Christmas, and we started homeschooling.

Looking back it was too much change at once. Everywhere I read I learned about deschooling, but being new to homeschooling, and determined to do it right (read perfectly) we jumped right in with curriculum. My kids were fine at first, because honestly doing textbook style learning at home with your mom is still better than being at school, or at least that was our initial feeling. Then after about six months they started to resist doing their school work. My son and I pretty much battled over school every day, my daughter would do her assignments but without much enthusiasm and just wanted to get them done. There were many days that ended in tears. Once again, I persisted, because I thought I was doing what was best for my kids.

In 2011 I somehow stumbled upon the writings of John Holt. Reading his work was like having a window opened to a beautiful vista, and because of my background in teaching and extensive work in graduate school learning about how people learn everything he said made perfect sense to me. From John Holt I started researching people who were writing about unschooling, and Sandra's site was the first one I came to. I began reading, and thinking, and reading, and thinking. I prayed, I had long discussions with my husband, who, to my great surprise was supportive of giving unschooling a try. However, even though I was thrilled with the possibilities that unschooling offered I was afraid. Afraid my kids wouldn't be prepared for college if they wanted to go, afraid they would never have a job, afraid they would look back and say, "Mom, why did you do this to us??"

We continued with school at home methods, although by now much more relaxed until the fall of 2012. All that time in between I continued to read, to think. I joined a Facebook group of Christian Unschoolers, because another hurdle I had to get over was if I could be a Christian and an unschooler. There are voices in our community that say you cannot be both, I had to settle that in my mind as well. By November of 2012 I began to attempt to unschool. All the time between now and then I have continued to read, write, think. Watch my children, tweak things, try again.

I know this is a long introduction, but I think you will have a good idea at this point where we are in our unschooling journey. I hope to learn even more at the conference that I can take home and apply in our home with my children. I am thrilled that my husband has decided to accompany us, as he does not have as much time to read and research, but wants to be an active support to us. We are looking forward to meeting everyone.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy updates!

Greetings, all attendees and interested parties!

We have eighteen families thusfar, and I'm really looking forward to this.

If anyone who has signed up is not a member of the Always Learning discussion group, I invite you to join. Please do read some at my site and Joyce Fetteroll's. If you've accidentally signed up for a radical unschooling symposium without knowing you did, let me know so I can send a refund and save you frustration.

If anyone is new to unschooling, an excellent introductory series is available by e-mail from Pam Laricchia on her beautiful little site here: Living Joyfully.

I will add a tab up top here with links to any bios families choose to share (send info to me, and photos if you wish), and some rough stats on who's signed up (when I know ages and have confirmations). "PEOPLE" (in the tabs at the top of the blog).

If you receive this by e-mail, click the blog title to get to the blog. Thanks!

Quick, emiLy and family

We are emiLy, Ryan, Delia and Henry. We live in northeastern Minnesota about five hours north of the conference location. We'll be driving our RV down. Henry's 6th birthday is May 2nd, and Delia is 9. Our website is foggypondfarm.com 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Introductions, please!

Any family willing to introduce themselves should send me some information, and photos if you wish, and I will put them here on the blog, so we can all begin to learn names and faces. If you have a family blog, please send me the address to that too.

If you'd like to see samples of what some families have sent for other ALL Unschooling events, here are some links for inspiration:

A couple of families here are very likely to be in Minnesota as well. :-)

And Massachusetts last year: http://allinmay2012.blogspot.com/p/other-people.html

I didn't collect an archive for the recent one here, but you can look through and see some:

Some information on Jill and some of her writings are here: Jill Parmer

and me: Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cold outside... Spring is coming!

It's 2013!

Eight families (or at least a mom, from a couple of those families) are registered already for Always Learning Live in Minneapolis!

Reminder, on a cold day:

The basic conference room, at our discount, has two queen beds for $89 plus taxes.
Each room comes with four waterpark passes. (up to four)

The Albuquerque symposium has just ended and I'm really tired, but in a couple of days I'll be ready for another round.   (Now I just need to wait four months!)