Friday, October 30, 2009

About the symposium in January

I've kept meaning to say some things about the symposium in January and why I'm being picky about who attends. There are several factors. Some are my own experiences at conferences (I think I'm up to 40, or this one might be 40). I'm going to write a bit about pace, isolation, exhaustion, food costs, focus, "advanced unschooling," and expectations.

Often they're so busy people don't even get to see their friends, and there's little time to eat or sit and visit. People can attend the same conference and have no shared experiences at all. There's no time to consider what's just been said, heard, seen or thought.

That can be fun, but it can be exhausting, too, and often people are sick at the end of a conference. I can't guarantee that won't happen here, but we could try to avoid it.

I have enjoyed the three-ring-circus atmosphere of large conferences, but have also longed at times for the quiet retreat possibility.

Food at hotels can be more expensive than the room. Fort Marcy doesn't even have a cafe. With a kitchen, people can eat familiar, easy food, or kids can snack out of the fridge between times. With a freezer and microwave, teens can use the freezer food they might have become accustomed to. The site provides a little breakfast, and early risers can go and have coffee together each morning and talk. Dinners will be shared on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The site in Santa Fe is not large. The main room holds about 120 people and we have 40 condos, potentially. Any not rented by November 26 will revert to the regular rate. There is a natural limitation.

Once years ago I was criticized ("out there," in discussions on the internet behind my back) for having set out to give three talks, at a conference on the east coast. They were to have been called beginning unschooling, intermediate unschooling and advanced unschooling. Regular conference attendees had said they were tired of the same old basic intro talks and needed to hear things for people who had already done it for years. As it turned out, someone who had shown up at the conference wanting to plug a book talked the organizer out of one of my slots, so I combined intermediate and advanced, and said much less than I could have. There are advanced topics, though, and there are people who would like to discuss them.

Sometimes newer families come to a conference wanting to see what unschooling looks like, and they end up seeing kids who aren't unschooled yet or who just lately started and are pretty much running around wildly, figuring their parents are only trying unschooling for a while and it will be back to the old grind soon. My kids were threatened once at a conference by a boy who wasn't really being unschooled and didn't want to be at the conference.

I heard from some dads once that newer-to-unschooling dads were kinda taking over a dads' talk and irritating the more experienced dads with bad advice. I'd like to tip this event toward extreme experience and confidence.

The site isn't great for toddlers. We don't have an all-in-one-building set-up, some of the condos have steep steps and fairly fragile art.

For those reasons, I asked families with teens and five years of experience to sign up first. We have several.

Now I'm willing to take reservations from others who don't fit those criteria. The closer the better, though. I still don't think a family with a baby and a toddler who are just thinking about unschooling would have much fun, nor would they contribute much to the body of knowledge. ON THE OTHER HAND, one of those parents attending without the children might benefit a great deal, and I think there's no better time than shortly after Christmas to consider leaving children with one parent or with relatives, if there are new toys and movies and music and video games. It's a thought.

So families who have been unschooling for a while, who have children who are fairly self-sufficient and who might be interested in the talks, or who could stay in the room or go walking around without the parents worrying are welcome to register now. Parents who can attend without children can sign up too, regardless of the ages of their children.


If there's another adult you could bring to take care of the kids, Santa Fe has a great children's museum. There's a mall not far from where we'll be.

At night there will be shared food and activities and any younger kids who are there will be welcome to share in all that, definitely. Different kids have different temperaments. An eight year old who can sit for two hours reading or playing gameboy is a better match for our daytime conditions than an older kid who's noisy and needs the parent every twenty minutes. I know kids like that; I've been a kid like that. I wouldn't have had fun at this conference.

There's not a rule against bringing younger children. There's a dayglow recommendation to avoid disruption or frustration if you do bring them. The conference is designed for in-depth discussion of longterm unschooling.


The schedule is here:

If anyone has questions or problems, e-mail me or leave a note below.


Thystle said...

This sounds awesome! But I'm a new unschooler with a small child so won't be attending. However, I would love to hear everything that's discussed. Will there be any sharing of information afterwards?

Sandra Dodd said...

I'm sure people will blog and discuss their favorite parts. With long discussions, it's not a good forum for recordings. No doubt some cool ideas will come out of it, though!