I definitely stretched myself more this year to meet more new people and even talked to some of the speakers. One thing that was interesting to me is that I noticed alot of nuances even among those that would be considered "radical" unschoolers. I heard some things that shocked me I and that I would never do and other things that were more in line with the little ways I am not totally radical. I think people new to unschooling often have this sense that all radical unschoolers are of a similar mind, but there are subtle differences.
We also even managed to have dinner with other families a couple of the nights! This was Ron's idea, which was a surprise as he is usually pretty introverted and likes to hibernate at the end of the day. I think he pushed himself even more than I did, and then he was really DONE on Sunday lol, but I think he was glad for it just the same.
I was really touched by Rose Saroshian's story about working in a martial arts studio and hoping to own one someday. It really highlighted for me how things can happen differently for unschoolers and the results of following your passions. And it was personally touching as Ron has a passion for martial arts and has also dreamed of owning a studio. Also, I think this talk might have been a bit of an "aha" for Ron. It was entitled No Fear Unschooling, and Pam started out by having people write down their fears on notecards to be passed in. She read them and addressed them all. After the talk, Ron said to me, "I realize that where I am now, I don't have a single one of those fears." Good to know. :)
One of my favorite times of the whole conference was the day Akasha took a nap in the room and I sat right in front of our door on the floor and chatted with friends. The other kids were playing nearby, and it was just a relaxing, enjoyable time!
Another not so relaxing (but still awesome) hall moment was when Orion and a bunch of boys were engaged in a giant boffing war! He was so in his element and the boys all did so well together, nobody really crossing that line of getting overly serious with the fighting. Best money I have spent in a long time on two boffers!
There was another great Teen Panel this year, and I especially liked it that one of the girls was brave enough to speak up about a kind of "peer pressure" to be unconventional in dress and appearance and such. I have often wondered if the more "normal" looking unschoolers ever feel like they "don't fit in", and at least one I asked agreed that she sensed that when she was younger. Interesting.... Another teen spoke up about how she was glad her mom "pushed" her a little bit in certain areas. She specifically mentioned a regular beach trip the family did. She usually didn't want to go, and would take a book to read in the car, but then always finally made her way outside and was glad she did. She wrapped it up by saying a little pushing is sometimes OK in certain situations, but you have to use your intuition and know your kid. Um, these are TEENS. Better advice than you would get from many adults!
In general, Orion and Akasha both had a great time. Orion did SO much better than last year and really had no major issues to speak of, although he was pretty maxxed out by Sunday and needed to spend large chunks of time by himself to recharge. He also played with some kids we knew from home since we were lucky enough to get a room right across the hall from them! Last year he was pretty much not interested in playing WITH anybody, so this was a big change! Akasha took off with the mother's helpers I hired and hardly checked in at all! Her greatest joy was going up and down the stairs, and up, and down, and up, and down. She gave the girls a workout!
Oh, I just remembered a BIG thing that came up for me in the chat about values. There was some talk about not spending money on cheap plastic junk and what kids might learn from a certain TV show and other such that I expected, but one subject came up I had never even considered! Apparently... are you ready....? There are some children who truly don't like to go outside. And I mean really don't like it. Not just choosing video games or something else instead but might enjoy a camping trip if the whole family was going. No, anything but that!!! That is the closest thing I have to religion, and I honestly have always felt that communion with nature is a necessary part of spirituality. And books like Last Child in the Woods.... Can it be true? Then one adult woman spoke up and said, "I don't enjoy the outdoors, never have, even as a child, and I am fine". Whoa, really? I just can.not wrap my head around that! But there it was.... Couldn't make much of it at that point but to pray that wouldn't come down the road for us. Both my kids seem to like being outside now, so hopefully that won't change as I think it would be VERY hard on me.
(As an aside, at the retreat yesterday, I got to meditate on this a bit. Ironically, it was during a walk in a forest, and I started to think about it again. I started to wonder, what could that sense of being connected to something larger than yourself look like besides nature? And then it came to me.... art, music, dance... many things that could be done all indoors.... It really is possible to find a spiritual connection to the universe in different ways, and that is OK. Acceptance, acceptance, acceptance. Although I still hope my kids are nature lovers. )
This post would be incomplete without mentioning the amazing Kimya Dawson. I had so much fun listening to her music and consequently going and hunting for my favorites on Youtube when I got home. And one of my favorite moments in the whole conference was when her daughter came on stage to ask her a question in the middle of a song. She simply stopped, listened to her, responded, and then picked up right where she left off. I think the audience had a bit of delayed reaction to what happened and then broke into huge applause. She was in the right place for people who get making your kid top priority. :D I ended up not sticking around for Amy Steinberg, but I am sure she was just as good!
The Harmony Holders program went pretty well. Not much got "reported" back to us, and in general I think it was a mellower year than the previous. There were a couple times that support was needed, and the system seemed to work for the most part. Not sure it will be a scheduled thing next year, but I do think it was an overall good idea.
But saving the best for last... wine parties in the room! LOL, OK maybe not the BEST, but one of the most lasting things I took home was from a winey conversation on the last night. (not to be confused with whiney.) I had the joy of having a bit of wine with others on a few occasions, and was glad to have the chance to really talk to some people I hadn't before. Which reminds me, the buddy program rocked for me! My buddy was such an awesome match for me, and I got to know her a bit better one night and liked her even more! I hope I can go visit her in Olympia some time! But the biggest "aha" I had was talking to Jess about how he feels like he found faith through unschooling. I have always had a natural faith in several concepts, but Ron and I have talked on more than one occasion about how he feels he doesn't have faith in anything. So this really touched me, especially considering Ron's reaction to the No Fear talk.... If you have no fears about something, isn't that the same as having faith? Especially when you are talking about doing the best for your children. You are basically saying you have faith that you are doing the best thing for their future. Wow, big potential here. I asked Jess to blog about it when he got home and was really happy that he did here.
OK, that about wraps it up. This stuff probably seems disjointed and is in no particular order, but at least I finally finished writing it up!