Monday, December 31, 2012

The Always Learning Live (ALL) Unschooling Symposium

I found out over 6 months ago about this symposium and planned our whole trip around it! I could not wait to meet Sandra Dodd, Pam Sorooshian and Joyce Fetteroll in person!! I had been on Sandra Dodd's discussion list (Always Learning yahoo group) for years (mostly as a lurker) and read many, many pages from her Website as well as Joyce's Website. They are a major inspiration for me and they all have grown unschooled kids that I could not wait to meet too.

Sandra had really good deals at the hotel where the conference was held for the participants and we were glad to book a room since it was freezing outside. The best part was that we could take a warm bath every day, a luxury we really missed in the last 6 months!

We spent 3 full days at the conference and we had such a great time. The girls kept saying that it felt like an unschooling celebration, and it truly was! There were games, crafts, a table always full of food, lots of discussions and laughter, and wonderful, wonderful families.

Rose Sorooshian panel with Marty, Kirby and Holly Dodd and Rose, Roxana and Roya Sorooshian : unschoolers in jobs and in college classes. A very interesting discussion! Those kids are so awesome!
:: Pam Sorooshian and her 3 daughters : Rose, Roya and Roxana ::
:: Rose Sorooshian led a discussion on Learning from TV and movies and had everybody write all the TV shows they remember watching and then we all wrote on post-it things we learned from each of those shows. Everybody had a blast! ::
:: The girls spent a lot of time crafting, knitting, painting and drawing during the talks. Mathilde surprised us all by playing quite a bit with the other kids even if she could not communicate in English with them. Our little social butterfly! ::
:: One night, Sandra had rented an helium machine and we had fun with balloons (some with superballs in them!). Everybody, kids and adults alike, were smiling from cheek to cheek! They other night she had glow sticks for the kids. We played late in the hotel room's bathtub with them! ::
:: We met wonderful people that could have easily become friends if we did not live so far from each other. Their little Peregrine was such a happy baby! And he was just adorable! ::

I don't have any good photos of Joyce Fetteroll's talk on the unschooling toolbox, but it was one of my favorite talk. I loved when she said that when they start unschooling, many parents have that idea that unschooled kids read the classics, do science experiment in the kitchen (or build nuclear reactor in the basement) or something that you can tell the grand-parents... not play video game, watch a lot of TV and tell fart jokes!! When this is what happens, they say that their kids are simply not cut off for unschooling... Then she went on to say that when there is ENGAGEMENT (if the child is engaged in something, whatever it is he is doing), important learning is going on.

:: Sandra Dodd writing about what she learned from TV shows ::
:: Sandra Dodd and Pam Sorooshian on Why they do not always answer people's question the way those people expect them to on the discussion list ::

In her talk, Learning is learning: Unschooling everything, Pam Sorooshian said that thinking about what an 11 yo should know is as ridiculous as thinking about what a 52 yo should know. There is no specific age for specific learning. Here's a good article by Pam on unschooling.

:: The amazing bunch of grown up unschoolers, the Dodds and the Sorooshians ::
There were many more interesting conferences. Jill Parmer and her son Luke talked about multi-player online games and the discussion opened up on TV viewing. Renee Cabatic told the story of her family and shared inspiring moments of their beautiful life together (Xumai and Xander, their twins, are such beautiful and smart kids!). Joyce and Carl Fetterol (who is a math teacher in a community college) discussed what's wrong with school math. The Symposium ended up with the Dodd Family Panel, where they shared bits and pieces of their stories and generously answered all of our questions. It was really funny to hear Marty and Kirby talk about old fights they had... and it demystified for me the idea that uncoerced (unschooled) kids are always happy and do not fight with each other

JF spent two evenings playing card games with other people that attended the conference (Dominion) and I really enjoyed learning to play 5 Crowns with Sandra, Keith (Sandra's husband) and others. It almost felt unreal to me to be here, sitting with Sandra and chatting, playing cards with her, I just felt so lucky! I had the same feeling as when we stayed with Leandre Bergeron (my other unschooling mentor) last summer. It feels really awesome to meet the people you admire!


Penny said...

It sounds like you felt really supported and happy at this conference, and had a blast to boot - I'm so glad for you!

Trista said...

Catherine! You got some great photos there! Are you on Facebook? I know a lot of these people would be happy to be tagged in these. It was so good to meet you guys and I'm bummed I didn't get to sit and talk with you and J-F more. I would love to do more traveling and have lots of questions! Alas. Perhaps next time. :) Excited to be able to follow your adventures on your blog!

Catherine said...

Yes Penny, this is exactly the experience I had. Thanks for putting words on it!

Trista, that's a great idea! I just did that! Yes, it's too bad we didn't have a chance to sit and talk... I feel it could have gone on for a whole week!!

lored said...

Catherine je suis tellement contente que tu aies pu vivre une expérience aussi enrichissante avec tous ces gens aux convictions semblables aux vôtres.
Merci pour le partage. Tu me donnes envies de lire Sandra Dodd, Pam Sorooshian et Joyce Fetteroll.
Je suis heureuse pour toi !

Catherine said...

Laurence, je t'invite fortement à le faire (lire un petit peu chaque jour, une page du site de Sandra ou de Joyce) dans la nouvelle année. Ce sont des femmes qui ont eu une incroyable influence sur mon style de parenting et je suis tellement reconnaissante du travail (tout bénévole!) qu'elles font! Je t'invite aussi à joindre la liste de discussion de Sandra, j'y ai tellement appris!!

Sarah-Our Island Home said...

Very interesting! Thank you for sharing! Great photos!