Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Party

First, another discovery. Interesting shiny thing on the windowsill? Looked closer...
Dead lizard. Another one. Next to a dead one of those big-mosquito-looking things. Oh well. On to party preparations. What you will see includes the fake-blood treated table cloths and curtains (all sheets, later draped here and there), and the "finger food," and the eyeballs (deviled eggs) and Marty as a pirate wench and Ashlee as a Viking (they didn't use any SCA garb; only commercial costume parts, and Marty already owned the wig). Ashlee put the fake eyelashes on him. Then there's Mandy and Josh and Brett. Others are up there now, but I don't want to blast in and start documenting it. They seem to be having fun. Everything is a clickable thumbnail.

If this doesn't scare you no evil thing will

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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm grateful for...

I'm grateful for my houseplants and for Keith setting up a big plant shelf.

I'm grateful for having a reliable car with a heater and an air conditioner!

I'm grateful for music.

I'm grateful for chocolate.

I'm grateful for tea, and having a Trader Joe's to get U.K.-style teabags, pairs of bags without individual packets or strings or tags.

Continuing every Wednesday until Thanksgiving, brought here from Facebook.

Week 1 (last week)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The new improved Monkey Platter Festival schedule

What's new is swimming will be Wednesday night at a city pool with a big slide, and Thursday will be an afternoon at the zoo.

More details, times and links to maps and webpages are all at the link above. There's no longer any fee (because we cancelled the site that needed one), there's no longer any hotel (not counting Albuquerque's full of them, if anyone needs one), but it might cost your family to get into Explora and the Zoo. If you have any memberships (direct or reciprocal) please hunt down and have those cards! The pool costs a little.

Monday, October 26, 2009

When I fall down I call Keith

I have physical therapy here really soon. I got up early, it was dark, Keith had turned off all lights because he does. I didn't turn enough on, tripped on a cardboard box the cat might have knocked down, and fell in the hall. On carpet and on "my good knee," but still...

Had my hands full of phone, wallet, pills, pen, hair ties (stuff that's usually in my jeans but I'm taking a bag and wearing knit pants).

SO I'm on the ground in the dark. With a phone. So I call Keith at work to complain that he should leave a light on and then I cried because my knee hurt. Softly so I wouldn't wake Marty up.

That's clumsiness, immaturity and whininess and still Keith was nice. I figured out how to get up, with two legs hurting, made some tea and toast, and now I'm leaving. The exercises are going to hurt more today than usual. Wah wah wah.

Should've used the phone as a flashlight.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mountain and sky trivia

Photos of clouds are never as great as the straight-on view, but there were some great colors with the sunrise this morning. There was some gold and purple too, but those moments are fleeting and not always photographable.

That white thing on the left is the reflection of the ceiling light in the room behind me. Sorry.

Between the TV antenna and the window frame on the right, there's a bright spot on the mountain ridge. It doesn't show as brightly as it looked directly, but it was the sun glaring off a restaurant window, into my eyes. It was so bright it hit my eye when I wasn't even looking at it and I looked up to see what it was. By the time I got the camera on it was slightly dimmer.

A half an hour later, the sky above the mountains is all blue.

I'm glad to see those mountains out the window.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

African violets, and the Return of the Sea Onion

When I was younger I didn't much like plants and my mom and sister wondered why I didn't. All my aunts did. My maternal grandmother did. I guess I was busy with the guitar and books and friends.. Now in my advancing age I guess I'm making up for lost time. And people keep giving me plants I didn't even know they were going to give me, sometimes that I kinda didn't want. But they're cheaper than cats, and we have room, so I'll share some of the slow-mo excitement here. A few people will care and it's unlikely to offend those who don't.

I received a very nice note today with an order for the Big Book,and I need to share this with my family and with all those who have participated in discussions and contributed things for my unschooling collection:

Very sweet note, and I wrote and thanked her.

Reminders: Monkey Platter Festival (November 10-12, Albuquerque) and SUSS (January 7-9, Santa Fe)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Holly today

New vest, new haircut! The photo and part of the haircut are by Renee Cabatic.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gratitude, Gina, Fall and a Black Polar Bear

I am grateful for the rain on the roof.
I am grateful that the roof doesn't leak. :-)
I am grateful I can walk and drive again after some odd leg problems lately.
I am grateful the cats are starting to get along (we took a friend's cats in in May)
I am grateful for cellphones so I can talk to Kirby and Holly (Marty's still home)

That's my list from a Facebook project Clint Stonebraker started in 2008. If you're on facebook, mine's here:

If you're not on Facebook, we can bring it out here into the open public land of blogs. List five things for which you're grateful each Wednesday (or thereabout) from now until Thanksgiving. If you're Canadian and Thanskgiving has already passed, maybe just follow the lead of some American friend of yours (if you don't have American friends, would that be something to be grateful for?). If you're not from North America and you don't have Thanksgiving, maybe just go with Wednesdays between now and November 25. I suppose continuing to be grateful even after then would be a bonus.

This is my niece, Gina, and her longtime best friend and partner Sonya. My sister sent the photo, so maybe she took it. But Gina and Sonya are photographers, so maybe they took it by magical/electronical remote. And Sonya's grandmother is a photographer so... Here's what I'm trying to say: I didn't take this photo.

It's a great image of New Mexico in the fall, and of happy people I know and like!

Very nice to see you, Gina and Sonya, in a photo from Irene this morning!

I want to bask in the joyful humor of the item below without being critical of people who know more languages than I do. Even one and 9/10ths of a language is almost a whole language more than I know. So I respect the bi-lingual and tri-lingual people around me, and if they can't spell, so what? Lots of people can't spell. And if they don't know a polar bear from a black bear, so what!? Bi-lingualism doesn't guarantee a knowledge of the wildlife of North America. (And to be fair, maybe they ordered polar bears and the factory was out of white plastic.)

But wait... Color doesn't matter. How did it become a rhinoceros? Maybe a clerical error. Perhaps they had a rhinoceros last year, and the catalog editor changed most of it and missed that one. Probably, huh? No problem.

WHOA!!!! I thought it was just a little bobble-head bear, but it's a totally morphin'-power shapeshifting toy and for only 49¢! (Plus $5 subsidized shipping, from Hong Kong.) You don't see that every day.

You might want to re-read if you missed the exciting transformation, which I will review for you here with cheap clipart:

Well that was fun. I'm grateful for black polar bears and their Chinese keepers, and a photo of Gina, and the rain that's still falling on the roof that's still not leaking.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Book of the Month" at Parental Intelligence!

Curious to know what "unschooling" is really all about?

Read Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling

(That was on the sidebar. The review is below.)

Bob Collier's Parental Intelligence Newsletter (no longer available), a website with an e-mail front (subscription information on the sidebar here: is one of my favorite reads. It's a catalog of what's out there about parenting and alternative education, and every month there are some things I knew about and more that I would have missed.

Bob is a homeschooling dad in Australia who's interested in the examination of what's what and why, and who's generous enough to freely share his collection with others in a easily accessible way.

It's not unusual for Bob to link something from my site, either something new (often written by someone else) or something older that has come to light for him that month, but this time he's actually written something about me and my kids and that's newsworthy to friends and relatives, I guess. So for those of you who read this because you like me, not because you're unschoolers, some of this will be "blah blah blah" but for those who are homeschooling, please do sign up for Bob's monthly newsletter.


Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling

I don't recall now where or when I first encountered Sandra Dodd on the internet, but I've been a member of her Always Learning discussion group since April 2007. It's one of my favourite online places, and I nearly always return from a visit there with an idea or two to ponder upon.

Sandra is the "unschooling mother of Kirby, Marty and Holly, who never went to school." At the time of writing, Kirby is 23, Marty is 20, and Holly is 17, and they're all fine young adults and an asset to the world according to everything I've seen of them and read about them.

In other words, as far as "unschooling" is concerned, Sandra has 'been there and done that' very successfully. Now she's written a book from her experiences in which she paints as clear and complete a picture of what "unschooling" is really all about as perhaps there can be. Is it simply an alternative to the school classroom? Is it an educational philosophy? Is it a parenting philosophy? Is it a lifestyle choice? Now you can be the judge.

I have to say, personally, I don't use the word "unschooling" to describe my own situation. It seems to me a somewhat misleading term now that its historical significance is usually overlooked. But I certainly appreciate that, even so, it's a long established and widely used term that is gaining currency in society at large and I think those viewing the world of the unschooled child from the outside will benefit greatly from having what is meant by this increasingly familiar term explained to them as fully as possible - what is it that actually lies beyond the description "unschooling"? Or whatever else we might choose to call it. In that respect, Sandra Dodd has done a marvellous job. Her book is, however, not necessarily for bewildered members of the general public. It's primarily a book of wisdom for those who are already "unschooling" or who are thinking about it.

Given my admiration for what this lady has achieved and for the depth of her knowledge and understanding, I hope Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling becomes "The Unschooler's Bible". It deserves to be. As well as being an inspiring read in any event, I think it answers every question anybody could ask about "unschooling", or at the very least puts them on the right track to an answer.

Please find out more and read some comments on Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling at this page:

Monday, October 19, 2009

A year... news of a year

(Moved here from Live Journal and backdated.)

I don't know why things disappeared. Maybe that's part of a fee account--that photos dissolve over time. I don't know.

Today I was at physical therapy and a doctor, and that's nearing the end of a month's pain and mystery, but had to do with pinched nerves front and back of my right hip. Blah blah, blah. Not as bad as Carolyn's back injury in Egypt, for sure. I was only in southern California when mine took me down. That was a month and a few days ago.

Holly has been in Oregon since then. She'll be home November, when she will have been 18 years old for three days. She might have a tattoo, on her back or side, when I see her. Leaves or a tree, I think. Or not.

A couple of weeks and some days after her return, Holly will go to England for a several weeks, then back here again in January. She won't really be living here, this next time. We have guests from India who'll be staying in her room.

Hema and her family were the catalysts for the Monkey Platter Festival, three days of unschooling messing-around in the middle of the second week of November.

In January, Keith and all the kids and I are involved with an unschooling symposium in Santa Fe. I'm looking forward to it! Sandra's Unschooling Symposium in Santa Fe.

Looking back the other way, I spoke in Phoenix in March, London in July, and San Diego in September. I'm glad to be home, and glad to be able to walk and do some things around the house and yard.

News of the year might should have included that Holly went to Iowa for ten days or so, then to Austin to get Swine Flu from Kirby (not the original plan, but...) and then home to be deliriously sick, and then Marty and I were sick for a week and a half, together. That didn't help my hip any either.

Also "London in July" was the pinpoint, but the surroundings involved Wales to Norfolk and some places in between. I got to stay with Schuyler, Carolyn, Joy and Julie, and that was fun!! And tiring. And wonderful and memorable.

Leaves are fluttering around the back yard, Marty is sleeping in the other room, probably Kirby is sleeping in Austin (or getting up to go to work; he works from afternoon until after midnight), and Holly might be waking up from a long sleep following 40 hours or so awake and discussing evolution and learning, dreams and memory, parenting and Being. Keith's at work; we've spoken twice today. I'm feeling half still and half agitated. Seems it would be a balance, but it's not comfortable. Still, I love my life and my family.

(OH! And I have another unschooling book, a bigger one: The Big Book of Unschooling)

Tags: family, monkey platter festival, suss, unschooling
Current Location: Albuquerque
Current Mood: pensive pensive
Current Music: wind and water; no music

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Being and knowing and passing it on

My daughter Holly called and said she had a new favorite quote: "Calm yourself with the awareness of what's important." It's on page 205 of The Big Book of Unschooling.

When she called I was already gathering and scanning things for this post, so her recommendation fits right in. I've been moving things from one room to another, but I don't just move things, I go through piles and boxes. I found three things that went together really well today: two quotes from an unschooling discussion, my birth announcement, and what I wrote when I went with a friend to a workshop on "Ethical Wills & Legacy Letters." They're all about being, knowing and awareness.

The quotes I found are by Jenny Cyphers and Lissa (Melissa Wiley), from March 2008 on the Always Learning list. I printed this out.

I've had a lot of huge life changing things happen over the last couple of months, and somehow things seem different and I seem to suddenly "get" it, even though I've "got" it before. A new enlightening of things that I've grown to understand and re-understand in new and different ways.
I know exactly what you mean. There's getting (intellectual understanding) and GETTING (putting ideas into practice).
For some reason I've ended up with the birth announcement my mom sent to her best friend when I was born. It was a hallmark card, three and a half inches square. As greeting cards were in those days, it was printed all on one side of the paper, folded in fourths, and then die-cut into the cradle shape. When I scanned the inside I put colored paper over it so you could see the shape better.

I was at a workshop, not as old as some of the people there, and we were to compose something for our children to read someday. I wrote this, read it aloud, and nobody else wanted to read theirs then. I didn't mean to do that to them. Writing is just something that comes easily to me, and thinking about my kids in this way is something I've done for a long time, too.

It was only written well enough for me to read. In case you can't decipher my handwriting, I can transcribe to machine-font:
Being a mother changed me.

Whether you have children or not, please know that the way I saw the world after you were born was through the eyes of a mother. I had the perspectives, thoughts and values that came of seeing the world in terms of its dangers and wonders and opportunities for you. If you can live compassionately and kindly and help make the world safer and more comfortable for those around you, I will feel a little immortal.

Thank you for making my life sweeter and for carrying some of my words and songs and stories into times and places I didn't get to see.

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Video from California's HSC conference

I'm not in it, I had nothing to do with making it, but it's well worth sharing. I love what Pam Sorooshian says near the end, so if you're in a hurry, slide over to the last 10% or so of it. The editor was Jay Hamilton-Roth, and the great still photos are creditted to Luke Girard. I lifted it from Cindy/Krusula's page on the Radical Unschoolers Network site (, where she announced that Pam Sorooshian has just been made a member of the board of directors of the Home Schoolers Association of California (HSC).

If you have relatives who doubt the value of homeschooling, this will help them understand why so many people think it's a great idea.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bardolf's newest Award

Marty, in his guise as Bardolf Gunwaldtsson, recently was made member of the Order of the Hammer of al-Barran. It's for medieval-martial-arts prowess, and good-guyness (definitely the former, and I think the latter).

The scroll is by Ymanya Murray and was based on a stone in Gotland.

(click to enlarge in other windows)

Thirty-two years ago Keith and I met in that same group (as Gunwaldt and AElflaed). For the bemusement of my friends from those days, here's an image of Marty/Bardolf from a year and some ago. His hair isn't long these days, but the combination of the hair and the hat are sweetly reminiscent of those days long before he was born. He's grown up to be strong and good, smart and kind.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kirby's Work History in Fridge Magnets

I cleaned off the refrigerator. It had magnets back to Disneyland when I was pregnant with Holly, and that was two refrigerators ago.

I have all of Kirby's jobs but the current one. (So, Kirby... try to snag me a Blizzard magnet if you can. Christmas is coming.)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Me at my house this week

I hardly have any kids, though I talk to them a lot. Marty's here but hangs out with Ashlee and plays video games and music, and isn't the most talkative of the group. I do hear from Holly a time or two every three days or two. Kirby, every couple of days. But as to obligations, it's mostly just me and Keith, and I'm gimpy. Here's our cat Mina, who came to live with us in May and used to hide. Now she will climb on people, and lie between me and the computer and purr and groom me. She chews my hair. Both cats go all over the house now, though the pre-existing cats disapprove. The new cats will be in the same room with Gudrun (the dog) now, and Gudrun was on the couch in the library yesterday, sleeping. They didn't used to let her in there.
Some of these photos were taken with Holly in mind. Here's the very end of that months-blooming false sea onion: Then I took the plant and divided all the bulbs and they lived in water for a few days and now they're all transplanted into various pots, and I've put the "mama plant" back in the kitchen, but noticed just as I went to hang it up that it's... ...starting another bloom stem. Keith's brother retired from his job with the navy and now he works at WalMart. He brought us a shelf from the garden department, that they rejected for being too ratty. It's getting cold outside, and I'm starting to move plants in that have been out all summer. Some don't look so good. No doubt the shelf will fill up and those plants with the capability to entangle themselves in the expanded steel will do so. It's fun to have, though.
Holly, remember those big white signs in the windows at Kinko's that said "We Mean Business" but we used to see them right to left when we came around the corner? That's them, in the pile to the left. I'm using them to put on either side of copies of the Big Book of Unschooling. I went to Kinko's looking for cardboard to cut up for that purpose and found those three huge foam-core boards in the dumpster. Keith helped cut them up.
And there's my WWII paper cutter, which I was given as surplus when I was working at Española Jr. High in the 1970's. That table is what used to be in the sunroom where the big shelf rack is. The baskets were bought after Easter, at various thrift stores, for use for kindling at the Unschooling Symposium in Santa Fe. Had I waited until winter, they'd've been real money, but after Easter, they were fifty cents or a dollar. We'll take them in the trailer to Santa Fe, and then bring back extra firewood (if any). We're ordering a cord of stovewood for use of conference attendees. Each condo has a fireplace or wood heater.
This is how I'm remembering whether I've taken the etodolac (anti-inflammatory pills I'm to take with food morning and evening). Marty has noticed twice when I missed one, and I appreciate that. This is the third week's worth I've taped up there. Nice system for me. I'm using old envelopes which I sealed and then cut in half with the afore-featured paper cutter, and then mark them, put one pill in each, and tape them shut with box tape. Tadaa! They're taped either left, right or middle so they can be staggered and tape isn't on tape. The kitchen cabinet doors are old and ratty and the tape isn't hurting them anyway. That's about all the news here, except that I've sent copies of The Big Book to New Zealand (today) in addition to the exotic other places from before: Scotland, England, Wales, Denmark, The Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and India. There have been a few dozen to the U.S. and Canada, but they're not as exotic, from here. There was a really sweet review of it that included this: "It is a household necessity. Like a toothbrush! Or a flashlight! Yes, it’s just like those two things, because you need it during ordinary times and during emergencies." (It's longer, and here.)