Saturday, May 26, 2012

Laurie Wolfrum's photos

Laurie sent a note with a link to her photos. She said:
I wish I had gotten a picture of Brie and Michael and Noor together - I meant to, but couldn't find them when I was ready to take pics. It really was so special to me to meet all of you in person and hear you all speak. I love that feeling of being with other like-minded famillies and talking about the philosophy and principles of unschooling! Want to bottle it up!
Her photos and notes are on her blog, here: Thank you for the kind words and for taking and sharing those, Laurie!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thanks, and praise to share

I wrote apologizing for the kitchen floor not being clean enough, and there being a pancake batter smudge under the handle of the stove by the bathroom.

It kinda crossed in the mail with this, though, from the camp supervisor:

I just want to thank your group so much for the care/respect they showed the grounds of our facility over this weekend. I have been here now 15 years and your group is the 1st group to truly leave the grounds as you found them and to respect the centers rules/policies. I did not have to go looking for balls, equipment, supplies, anything today nor did I have to address anyone about anything over the weekend. It was like an angel dropped from the Heaven's today knowing that time was short for me as I continue to work to get the Center ready for the 200+ campers that will arrive on June 25th. I cannot thank you all enough or the participants who came for taking care of our aging center while you were here. I do hope the weekend went well for you too and that all the families were able to spend some time gathering and learning more about their home school efforts. The weather was great and you lucked out there for sure.
Part of my response was
Thank you for the very kind words. I'll share them with the other participants, and so wanted to know if June 25th was an error, since I intend to share the praise with all the others who helped keep kids happy and rules followed and who helped us clean up.
and his:
If I could clone your groups caring/empathy for the center for other groups I would do it in a heart beat.
THANK YOU, everyone who helped with set-up, take-down, food prep and distribution, provision, removal and all sorts of cleanup. Thanks to kids who gathered empty cups and plates, and who took trash bags to the dumpster. Thank you for signs and cheer and moving furniture and assisting people who were tired, hungry, looking for people, looking for something. For the things people did that I didn't even know needed to be done, Thank you very much!!

Found by the gagaball pit

Left after others were gone:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Poster

This poster is here at the Mahowalds' house and George said he was going to make copies for some who had requested it. Here are some photos, to tide people over in the meantime.

My name is along the top of the first "n" in Unschooling. I wish I had signed larger!


Sandra, Meredith and Joyce (photo by George Mahowald)

Brie, Michael and Noor (photo by Sandra Dodd)

If others have better photos of the speakers speaking, I'd love to have them! (Or if you have some uploaded in a public place, maybe you could put a link as a comment, below.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

insect repellent and groceries

Grocery stores aren't so near, so get food before you get there.

Bring insect repellent. Mosquitos are in those woods. Maybe ticks, too.

The caretaker said there is some poison ivy, near the compost pile, so we won't send kids there. Don't know where else there might be some, and pretty much the ground is stomped clear. Be careful of the Lady Slippers (see photo in previous post).

The turn to the last road is right near the Butler-Dearden (BD) paper company. There's a big American flag. Turn left just before that and it's about half a mile to the YMCA sign, on the right.

Camping, wifi, and if you get lost

Never mind this:

-=-Camp anywhere you would like (not by the lake, but anywhere else). Don't leave the car there...-=-

You CAN leave the car there if you camp across the stream (right turn by the office, instead of straight toward the lodge. There is a playground for young children with camping space near it, over on that side.

The only consideration is not to park on top of the above-ground plumbing, but I think that will be easy to see. There are two drinking fountains and a bathroom, so don't park between them, or between them and the office.

We were just out at the camp and there is a lot of room for camping and exploring. The arts and crafts room can be a hang-out for older kids, too.

ALSO... we hear wifi works well in the lodge IF one can change the user name on the computer to the required username/password combo. Windows 7 has a problem, we've been told. So wifi is a maybe, and a probably, depending on the technical savy of the user, and his operating system.

DIRECTIONS: And if you get lost, you can call George for particular directions from where you are: 617-899-7727

Be careful not to pick or stomp on flower like these, if you can:

And there's a big field at that end of the camp. I suppose you could camp on it, and there's a table, but it's not so near the toilets.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tent, trailer, RV?

We have the site to ourselves. Camp anywhere you would like (not by the lake, but anywhere else). Don't leave the car there (see restrictions. Come and get name badges at the lodge, if they're ready, but you don't need approval or anything to set up your camp. (Good question, Fernanda!)

Also, the camp has no locked gate, so show up as early or as late as you want, if you're camping. And keep an eye on your valuables and your kids, because of that no locked gate thing, too, but it's a big site. I'm writing this from Dulles airport. I'm on my way to Massachusetts!

Photos have been added to

George has been doing the local organizing, and will be the site-guy on the weekend. Eileen wrote a great intro do their family.

If you haven't already, and if you have a chance to, look through the bios already collected (and send one if you want to).

private room available

A room has opened up from a sudden situation in a family. If someone who was going to tent or commute would rather stay in the lodge, please write to me at . Mattresses can be put on the floor, and by shuffling rooms, it could be a room for from three to five.

I'll be flying today so might not be able to respond very quickly.

See you all soon!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eileen and George Mahowald

We are the Mahowald’s. I am Eileen and my partner of 23 years is George. We share in the joy of our family and have 3 children. Felix is our 12 year old son and Ericka and Carly are our 9 year old “fraternal” twin daughters.

I am nurturing and a lover of learning and creativity. I enjoy spending time at home where I play with Feng Shui and love tending to house plants.

As a young person I took care of toddlers for years and thought I might like to be a teacher. I became a hairdresser by trade and a few years later after my mother’s untimely death, I studied the Liberal Arts. English Literature and my love of Studio Art became my focus as I earned a Bachelor’s degree. College for me was a space for healing and George supported my pursuits.

I am grateful to have learned to relish the joy of my children’s personal growth and learning without an attachment to my ego (something learned through radical uschooling writers). As we began our homeschooling journey Felix’s abilities became somewhat trophy like to George and I. I am ever grateful to Joyce Fetteroll (and with researching countless others), as her site gave me the recharge and new tools for parenting and partnership. Our controlling ways had eroded Felix’s natural learning and our relationship with him as we began to learn to home school. Soon, we began to see that school at home was detrimental to our family. I was able to regain joy as I implemented the ideas in Joyce’s writings which then led me to Sandra’s voice and that of so many others!

Sandra helped me recognize the bullying style I sometimes use as I relate with George. We were at Great Big Happy Life in NJ when Sandra stated how appalled she was to hear how someone spoke to their husband. Immediately and regardless of whether it actually was me, I saw myself in this mirror. I read about the importance of marital relationships on the Always Learning list and it has become cornerstone to my confidence in the hope for success in radical unschooling within my family.

It is usually easy for me to extend space and peace to my children but more challenging to do this for George. My eyes are wide open to this as a result of Sandra’s outspoken honest ways. My understanding of radical unschooling has led me to a learning connection to meditation and my personal practice has become a new tool.

Sometimes, I am shy / awkward in social settings (interestingly I have usually paired myself with very outgoing friends and wait till you meet George, LOL). I am always excited to meet other families who share a common interest and of course kids for my kids to play with. There is much learning to be had in our family’s journey and the support we garner. I look forward to spend time among Sandra, Joyce, Meredith and Brie and the many unschoolers who have chosen to spend their weekend together.

George is an optimist and a happy-go-lucky guy. He is adventuresome and creative in his life approach to most everything. He is a connector of people and a great resource to many. Always looking to the future George has found and created a lifestyle for himself and our family that is admirable. He was laid off from his employer 5 years ago as the economy began to slump and has worked diligently, building his partnership in his current business. It is fascinating for me to see him operate and it is a privilege to have him work from home. We have had the pleasure to tag along on many business trips and daily we hear the communications with clients and the many people he engages with. George likes downhill ski racing, tennis, rowing, kayaking and bicycling. George loves Harp music, practicing yoga, organic gardening, good food and the Arts. He is a great dad and a loving husband.

George and I are proud to be approaching our 20th year of marriage. Radical Unschooling as a philosophy has improved our marriage and our relationships with our children. The generosity of ideas and what I consider wisdom gathered on Joyce Fetteroll’s “Joyfully Rejoycing” website and Sandra Dodd’s “Always Learning” list, “Just Add Light & Stir” blog have been my most trusted and inspirational sources for clarity.

Our ways of being have become sweeter (on a good day) as we cultivate our process of living a life of learning in an environment that brings joy and peace to each of us. We now have a greater awareness of how to nurture learning, peacefully because of the efforts of fellow radical unschoolers like Meredith Novak and Brie Jonty who share their ideas and continue the dialogue and discussions that take the principles to real scenarios of radical unschooling with school-aged kids.

Felix is interested in Geography. He has created several versions of the game Risk. His precision and attention to detail is awesome. These games are a work of art. Felix is very happy in hours of solitary endeavor and is a sociable guy. He loves Metropolitan areas and talks of living in Manhattan, Cambridge or Chicago. He loves the night, Skype and video games, Ebay, Youtube and things Macabre. Daytime activities include cops and robbers on bikes in the neighborhood, the made up version of Hunger Games and wrestling on the trampoline. He loves to have friends over to hang out.

Ericka’s creative imagination and communication skills lend themselves to hours of play in original games and fun with friends. Ericka likes frozen strawberries, to play outdoors, jump on the trampoline and loves animals. She is a soccer player, has played Dorothy in a local play and is great with expressing herself. She loves to make things with paper, recycled material and tape. She loves ATC cards and playing cards. She adores the companionship of her Dad.

Carly loves to be close to me. It is an honor for me to meet this need as I recall the same trait in myself as a kid and cherish the memories of closeness to my own mother. Carly draws beautifully and her style has evolved with lots of amazing design elements. She is my super neat and organized babe. She and Ericka sing together often. Carly has dabbled with the ukulele, tennis and is a gorgeous swimmer. She loves to play outdoors with friends and has a bunny named Summer. Carly prefers to wear her hair short, looking Chic and garners lots of compliments with her style. She recently drew a small two girl motif that I blew up poster size that I am inspired to transfer to a large canvas for a larger than life painting.

We are frequently complimented on the demeanor of our family when we are out in public as I think folks see that we enjoy our zest for life and our relaxed way of interacting with one another. We very much look forward to meeting everyone at the conference.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Sturman family from Ithaca NY

Hello! We're the Sturmans: Mike, Kelly, Caleb (15), Amelia (13), Mark (12), and Samantha (11).

Mike is a university professor, who teaches human resource management, compensation, and research methods courses. He enjoys cooking, playing guitar, martial arts, and playing games with his family.

Kelly is a former children's librarian who enjoys playing games on and offline with her children, being sous-chef when Mike is cooking, watching TV (especially Science Channel, Travel Channel, History Channel, and Comedy Central), surfing the web, and the company of her dogs, but most of all, she likes hanging out with her family.

Caleb loves playing games, especially Warhammer 40K, but also D&D (version 3.5, and NOT 4.0), chess, Dominion, and many others. He also enjoys playing violin and fiddle; he volunteers regularly at local nursing homes/assisted living facilities, playing violin and fiddle music for the residents there.

Amelia's passions include reading sci fi and fantasy, singing, playing role playing games (online, tabletop, and live action), sewing, cats, and playing tag and other "disorganized sports".

Mark loves anime and manga (Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Yu Yu Hakusho and others), computer games (especially Roblox and Minecraft), video games, and chatting online with friends. He also appreciates a good game of tag, Red Rover, or H.O.R.S.E.

Samantha enjoys reading, playing computer games, video games, Hide 'n' Seek, Freeze Tag, H.O.R.S.E., and chatting online with friends. She loves pop music and popular culture and is very patient when explaining these to her mother.

We started out as relaxed, eclectic homeschoolers after pulling Caleb out of kindergarten after one semester, and some time later made several false starts at unschooling before Mike and Kelly were sufficiently deschooled. Now that we are better understanding what it is that we are trying to do (namely, foster healthy relationships and promote natural learning), we're all happier, and learning is flowing better too. We're all really excited about this upcoming symposium, and looking forward to learning a lot and making new friends!

If a photo show doesn't appear above you can enlarge these:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Reminders and requests

Soft or quiet toys

The dining room will be where the presentations take place, and next to that is the living room, of the lodge, where younger kids can play and still be near parents. So for that we need some quiet, interesting things for kids to play with. If people with older children have something around they would be willing to lend for the gathering, or those with younger children have something the child wouldn't mind sharing, please do bring it.

At the Albuquerque event, my family provided a roomful of things, but we were three miles from the site and could ferry as much as we wanted over there. Now I'm flying, so I'm depending on the generosity of those of you who would benefit from having happy children around. (That's everyone, I guess!)

Review restrictions

Before you get there, and then on site where the things are visible please explain to your children about the swing, the bell, the water, the basketball hoop, the quiet times:

Let them know how they can help

You might think of other ways your particular child could be helpful to the group, but I have a list of ideas here, too:


There won't be good internet; maybe none. Except what might waft over from the caretaker's house (his wifi), the site has is unconnected, so if your kids love games, be sure you have some that work without internet.

Even though there will be other kids to play with and things to explore outside, sometimes a kid wants the comfort of doing a familiar thing next to mom or dad.

At our house we've been playing Flip Pix Art. It's a logic game for small devices (maybe others, too; not sure) like a cross between sudoku and master mind, but easier, and pictures are involved. There are three free sets and three at $1.99. I mean Marty takes my iPad away from me for hours, and even Keith will play it. Kids can do the 5x5 grids. I can hardly do 15x15 myself.

Some adults can listen better if they're playing a game, doodling, knitting... It's not a problem to bring something to do during the talks, and there will be tables.

What are we forgetting?

Is there anything I'm forgetting?
And is there something you might be forgetting?

I have a checklist here:

Maybe if you or your children are uncomfortable sleeping in a strange place, soothing music with headphones might help? For those staying in bunks, might an electric fan help? I don't know the weather there, but it might be worth considering.

A flashlight can be comforting and useful, too. Finding unfamiliar toilets at night with others sleeping is best done with a flashlight! (I'll add that to the list.)

Could tea and coffee drinkers please bring some of their favorite to share (small amounts) to add to a tea and coffee station? If I try to buy a variety, we'll end up with way too much. I'll bring a box of English black/caffein tea Julie brought to the last conference. The one that's left, of several she brought. :-)

Juice would be another good contribution, if your kid have a favorite. Maybe stash some by for them, and bring some to put out in public, if it's convenient and you can afford to.

Tissues and toilet paper... the lodge will furnish paper, but my kids always found it comforting to have familiar tissues available.

Please leave a note below or e-mail me if you see a gap in the plan.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Where are people coming from?

We're mostly coming from the same place, philosophically, but geographically...

The two most distant are me and Meredith, from the first two places. Others, I'll list town and state from my notes. If you have a friend in an unlisted town who was planning to come, please contact them/him/her and say REGISTER! Come on! (Thanks.)

If I've spelled your town incorrectly, please let me know because I'm making name badges this week.

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Dismal, Tennessee

Medfield MA
Northboro MA
Hamilton MA
Middleboro MA
Melrose MA
Holliston MA
Southbridge MA
Newburyport MA

Chadd's Ford PA
Easton PA
Glenside PA
Bryn Athyn PA
Lancaster (Mountville) PA

Stillwater NY
Ithaca NY (two families)
Berne NY Queens NY

West Hartford CT

Milford NH
Nottingham NH

Camden ME

Headcount and food note

UPDATED 5/11 with a two-year-old girl from Queens and her parents

I was asked who's coming. I'm uncomfortable sharing names, though anyone is welcome to write an intro!! In tabs above this (or if you're reading e-mail, click the post title to get to the blog) are links to information on speakers and on attendees who have send bios and intros.

The count, though which is in "give or take a couple" mode (three families haven't paid; Joyce's husband Carl might come, one teen and one younger boy are maybes) is below.

Six families are represented by one or two parents, but the kid(s) will be elsewhere. Those adults are included in the counts below):

24 moms
16 dads

17 girls (ages 6 to 15)
19 boys (ages 3 to 15)

Ages of girls:
13 (3)
9 (3)
8 (2)

Ages of boys:

15 (3)
13 (3)
12 (2)
10 (3)
9  (3)
8  (2)

So 40 adults, 37 kids, more or less; 76 people total.

When you bring food to share for Saturday's lunch and monkey-platter station, it does NOT need to be enough for 76 people! Something enough for 15 or 20 would be fine, if everyone brings some. And please make it finger-food and nothing stringy, hot, wet, messy or that needs bowls or spoons (not counting breakfasts, I mean).

And whether you're in a bunk, a tent, camper or commuting, a private favorite-food stash would be a good idea in case your kids (or you) don't like what's on the table.

The Wolfrum family—Jim, Laurie, Katie, Li, Makana and Kanoa

Jim and I fulfilled a dream when we moved to Maui in '96- '97, taking the time to travel across the country and visit so many of the places we wished to see. Money was tight on the island and after I became pregnant with our first child, we thought it was best to move back to NJ where Jim could get his former job back, I had a chance of staying home with our child and we'd be closer to our family. We still refer to our trip to and from Hawaii as our "trip of a lifetime" and still have hopes of traveling those routes again one day.

When we had our first daughter Katie in 1997, we lived in NJ and I was involved with La Leche League. We coslept, I nursed on demand, and we were almost always together meeting new people, doing interesting and fun things, and exploring our area and beyond. I became a LLL Leader and met many nurturing parents who homeschooled (some unschooled, but I didn't know what that was yet). In 2000 when my daughter was three, we attended Nancy Plent's Unschooling Conference. Although my husband was already aware of how much learning our daughter was doing, he became more comfortable with the idea of homeschooling after attending David Albert's presentation at the conference which was based upon his book "When The Skylark Sings." Shortly thereafter we went to a Not Back To School Picnic where we met other local homeschooling families who invited us to park days and other gatherings and activities. One park day afternoon, there was a conversation about living and learning with children and a friend said she thought I would enjoy reading about unschooling and should look up Sandra Dodd, Kelly Lovejoy, Joyce Fetteroll, Ren Allen and Danielle Conger. I've been learning and reading ever since. (Thanks Roxanne O'Donnell!!)

In 2001 we had our second child Keli'i. We felt like we wanted a lifestyle change and wanted to Jim to be closer to where he worked. We searched for jobs in the two places we considered relocating to, Hawaii and Camden, Maine. In 2003, Jim was offered a job in Camden, Maine, but turned it down. In 2004, it was offerred again and he accepted it. We moved in 2005 and are so glad his commute is short, that we are surrounded by a more natural environment and that we live close to the water, schooner boats and lighthouses.

My husband Jim (50) has been a fervent lighthouse enthusiast since he was a child. He enjoys reading about them, visiting them, photographing them and sharing information with other lighthouse lovers. He is also a history buff, enjoys reading, being outdoors and loves going on trips - his 1990 soft-top jeep has gone almost 375,000K miles! He has a passion for dogsledding and follows the Quest and Iditarod.

I (Laurie, 43) enjoy ballet and jazz dancing, walks, hikes, biking or scootering with the kids, going to the beach or lake to swim, skip or throw rocks, reading, playing Boggle, logic type games, zentangles, and star gazing. I teach ballet once a week and use my certification in elementary education to do portfolio reviews. I love reading, thinking and analyzing, especially with regard to how to live a more joyful and peaceful life and am still learning and applying better ideas and choices. I share Katie's fondness for chocolate and enjoy Li's tasty desserts! And I'm often Kanoa's dance partner.

Katie (Katherine Leilani, age 14) has chosen to attend public school since March 2011. She has always been such a energetic and positive minded person and sees her cup as half full! She is interested in design and likes hanging out with friends, longboarding, tumblr, video games, reading, shopping and chocolate. I am not sure yet if she will be coming with us or staying with friends instead. Katie often says things to me that I may have said to her years ago at just the right times. She is a dear! And she loves listening to music, especially by "One Direction."

Li (Keli'i, age 10) loves to play Roblox, Minecraft and Wizard101 with Makana and others, especially while skyping. He has been a vegetarian since birth and cares deeply for how living beings and creatures are treated. He enjoys baking homemade chocolate cakes, gymnastics, swimming, drawing and watching favorite shows while he eats. He loves listening to stories before sleeping, especially the Percy Jackson books as he is interested in Greek Gods and Heros. He likes playing Age of Mythology and watching Fairly Odd Parents. He's often interested in what he can do to make money and usually has a list of new items he is interested in purchasing. Currently he is interested in saving money for a big flat-screen tv and learning about bladesmithing. He also hopes to volunteer at the local animal shelter with Jim to help care for and play with dogs.

Makana (age 6) enjoys biking, scooter riding, listening to the Little House series of stories while snuggling in bed, painting flowers, shows and stories about mermaids, playing with dogs, doing crafts, gymnastics, dancing, swimming and playing with friends. Makana likes playing Roblox, Minecraft and Wizard101 as well as other games with Li and her friends while skyping. She likes watching Barbie videos and playing Just Dance on the Wii with her siblings. Lately she has enjoyed drawing and coloring fashion designs. She loves to wear crocs. She also draws hearts with the names of those she loves next to them.

Kanoa (age 3) wants to do many things by himself. He is beginning to use the potty and to sit on the big swing by himself a bit. He likes to race and come in first, loves to watch Fairly Odd Parents and Dragon Tales, play SpongeBob and Angry Birds, watch others play Kirby's Epic Yarn and dance along with his siblings to the Just Dance songs. He is physically active and likes to throw things - watch out!! Some of his favorite games to play are hide and seek, freeze tag, catch, baseball, and kicking the soccer ball around. He often gets frustrated if things don't work out the way he wishes or if we have trouble understanding what he says. One of the sweetest ways he shows affection is holding our heads with his hands and giving us a kiss on the nose and a pat on the head. He also loves to high five when he accomplishes something.

We all think Barney from "How I Met Your Mother" is extremely funny.

Katie on the swing

Li at the forge at nh farm museum
Makana with our neighbor's dog Lucy
Jim in pool with Li and Makana
Laurie with Kanoa on her back
Kanoa on the sled



Reminder to bring bedding and toiletries.

But to the balls....
There are basketball hoops.
There is a gaga pit. Friday before dinner sandwiches and games in the lodge, I'd like to gather some critical mass of people over there to try it out and discuss how it works, so there will be a lot of people (especially kids) who know the rules.

It looks pretty easy. One is "out" for being hit at or below the knee, or for hitting the ball out of the court (unless it has bounced off someone). The ball is hit/slapped, not thrown, so don't catch it, just knock it with hands (not kicking).

I'll bring a couple of balls, but if you have a playground ball or just a summery grocery-store ball, that would work. (Don't bring a single favorite gift ball that would break a child's heart to lose, because balls can pop, and if one accidentally goes toward the lake, it's gone. We're not allowed anywhere near the lake.)

Here are some videos. In this game, there are advantages to being smaller! Other people's legs are a large target, and your own legs are not!

A simple set of rules and suggestions is here:

Some more serious, practiced play, with a very low wall:

Briggs Family—Ken, Marla, Amy (13) and Lily (8)

Our family includes Ken, Marla, Amy (13 yo.) and Lily (8 ½ yo.). We live in Knox, NY, about 17 miles sw of Albany, NY. We live in a log cabin in a rural area with our many animals, including: 2 dogs, 2 cats, 3 hermit crabs, a chameleon, a leopard gecko, a garter snake, 2 oriental fire-bellied toads and several fish. Ken works as a computer programmer and I'm primarily at home though I do work occasional part-time jobs for Audubon International and The Olde Corner Store (a small natural foods/ country store near us). I have a masters in wildlife biology and environmental studies and love being outdoors and watching nature unfold. I also love to read, garden, roller skate, and bike ride with the girls. Ken is the leader of a blues band, Nite Train, that I sing in occasionally. He also has hiked 38 of the 46 high peaks (over 4000 feet – nothing compared to out West) in NY state. He also is a huge Giant's fan and was at the playoffs this year. Ken and I grew up on the same street as kids and have been together over 30 years (and have many shared memories of our crazy childhood with wild friends).

I became certified in Secondary Biology and Chemistry, but the last thing I wrote in my teaching notebooks at the end of the process was “Homeschool!” We learned about unschooling at our first unschooling conference, the Live and Learn in MA in 2004, when Amy was 5 yo. and Lily was 1 yo. . It felt so right, it was amazing. We've been hooked ever since and have attended several Live and Learn, Northeast Unschooling, Unschoolers Rock the Campground, and Unschoolers Waterpark Gathering conferences.

Amy, our 13 yo., is a talented artist and loves animals. She is a passionate modern dancer and loves her chameleon, Zen, who is every color of the rainbow. She loves her mother's-helper job taking care of 3 children which just turned into 5 children with the addition of just-born twins! She is currently working on several steampunk projects. She loves reading, biking, trampolining, walking, yoga, and watching you-tube videos, playing video games, and watching documentaries and true crime and paranormal stories. She also plays bass guitar, just like her dad.

Lily, our 8 ½ yo., is a firecracker! She is always on the move, always involved in some project, always jumping, singing, biking, zip-lining, trampolining, narrating her life, creating stories, etc. She loves animals and helps out with a wildlife rehabilitator and is a Junior Birder at our local state park. She loves to bike all over. She enjoys playing Bioshock 2 and watching “Family Guy,”American Dad,” and “Invader Zim.” She is also a huge fan of horror movies and loves “Face Off” and “Ghost Hunters.”

We will be staying in our 1967 tincan travel trailer. Stop by and say Hi!

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Descriptions of the presentations are up now, in a tab at the top of the blog.

And please send an intro, if you haven't, if you want to!
Read others' intros here:
Seven of nineteen families have sent intros. Speakers' information is linked in the speakers' tab and the schedule tab, both.


Notes on MEALS for the Always Learning Live event in Massachusetts, May 18-20

Breakfasts will be provided (see below).

Friday night, some people might come after they've eaten, but for others, there will be sandwich opportunities in the lodge (and contributions are welcome).
Saturday morning, George Mahowald will make pancakes and provide maple syrup! Come to the dining room between 7:30 and 8:00 to help set up or to eat, if you want to. (Some people might rather eat in their camp, or sleep through it; that's okay.)

Saturday lunch will be a big shared monkey-platter buffet, so bring finger-foods for that—leave your contribution in the kitchen Friday night or Saturday morning, please, so it can be set up. This is your only food-related obligation.

Saturday night, you're on your own. We're not far from town if you want to go out, and there might be leftovers from lunch and Friday's sandwiches, but don't count on it. Provide for your family, Saturday night. (I hear there is a local pizza place that will deliver to the camp; we can provide that information at the site.)

Sunday breakfast will be co-ordinated by Michael Masterson and Brie Jontry. There will be eggs, toast, bagels, oatmeal with raisins, tea and coffee. Come to the dining room between between 8:00 and 8:30 to eat, and earlier if you want to assist with prep or set-up.

Food left from other meals will be available for lunch, perhaps out by the rope climbing, depending on the weather and whether people want to set some food up outside. Contributions to this lunch are also quite welcome. Campers might have leftovers to contribute, or we'll send someone to the store if we're out of food.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hotel option

George Mahowald, unschooling dad and our local coordinator, has reserved some rooms at The Courtyard Marriot in Marlboro, MA. He wrote:
The manager is a cutting us a deal that I appreciate…Normally, they charge $159 a night and she is bringing it down to $119…they have a salt water pool and nice dining facility btw….if it were a time they were not packed with graduations, I could get the $49 rate, it’s just not that time now…
When we first talked about doing this gathering, George was pretty sure he could get rooms VERY inexpensively, but when all the factors like weather, my schedule, and availability of the camp came to bear, we ended up in graduation season. So *IF* you want to stay in a hotel and you can't find a better price than $119 (I'm guessing that doesn't include all the taxes), write to me or to George and get in on his group of rooms.

At some point he'll need to let the rooms go back that won't be used, so please don't wait too long! Thanks!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tinker Family

This is our story!

My name is Trisha (43). My Husbands name is Bill (43). We are parents to two daughters, Julia (12) and Sinead (10) and we hail from Southbridge MA.

Me-I was born here in the USA but raised in Ireland, and when I was 22 I moved back here and worked in Day Care centers. I met Bill when i was 28, and began the best years of my life! I love to cook, and garden, and read and sometimes crochet, and I love to plan out our trips and adventures. Bill loves to eat what I cook, helps me in the garden, and he works daily (Electrician/ fire alarm technician) to pay for our trips and adventures! We even manage to bring him on some of our adventures!

Julia loves to read, play piano,listen to music, play with her sister, play computer games and the PS3, and Wii, and also to research the games. She loves to swim, especially in the ocean, so we plan day trips for that as we live inland. She is currently taking hip-hop dance lessons with her sister. She has a black cat called Orion who she dearly loves and spoils. She loves to tell her friends the funny stories of our cats! Julia loves travel, and we travel far and wide to see friends! She likes to hike with friends, or just with family, and has an interest in archery (but cant imagine actually shooting a real animal...) Julia loves to go camping, and riding her bike, and she has a rip stick skate board she like to play around on! Julia's favourite thing is skiing, whether is snow ski or water skiing!

Sinead also likes to read, listen to music and play computer games, she is also learning the electric guitar, and doing the hip-hop dance lessons, and (snow/water skiing lessons) She is currently doing trampoline classes, too. Sinead is still big into imaginative play with her Barbies, american dolls, and whichever other, stuffed animal / littlest petshop toy she fancies at the moment. Sinead loves animals too, she owns a rabbit (Cookie) and a cat (Twixie). (We actually own five cats and we have chickens.) Sinead loves to colour and has always something shes working on, whether it's a picture or a recipe or a dinner menu—because Sinead's talent is cooking. She loves to bake, and to cook. If she isn't cooking it she's planning it. Or drawing a picture of it! She also loves to fish with dad, and will get up with him real early to do just that while we are camping, another favourite family thing!

We are about to undertake cake decorating lessons! Yum!!

We have always unschooled, before we even knew what it was called. I have read up on it extensively, my husband hears about it second hand from me, but we are both enjoying the results! So this conference is to let Bill see and hear more on the subject, as there is always something more to be learned! And we wanna make even more friends!! We can't wait to meet you all!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rebekah and Dan Clark; Ezra, Ivan and Jonas

We are the Clark family from Glenside, PA.

I am the mom, Rebekah, and I am 39 years old. I hang out with my kids most of the time and I love to make things. I knit, crochet, draw, sew, paint, make dolls....anything I can get my hands on. I also love my garden, thrift stores, and costuming plays.

My husband Dan is 40. He works from a home office for a research company located in San Francisco. He loves music and plays lots of instruments. He also loves maps of all kinds.

Ezra is 15. He loves board games and role playing games. He spends many hours a week at a game store near our house playing games with people. He has been a stagehand for some plays and is currently working on lighting for an upcoming play. He also loves MMORPGs and x-box games. He appreciates good food.

Ivan is 13. He has always loved nature and animals and the world and space. He is a vegetarian. Lots of his time is spent listening to podcasts like This American Life and Radiolab while playing games at the same time. He loves to draw and also shares the love of theater production. He looks forward to being in more plays. He reads a lot.

Jonas is 8. He loves to play with Legos and make forts on the couch. He is passionate about Star Wars and can talk about it for hours. He considers himself a nature lover and really likes playing in the creek by his grandmas house. He likes jokes and drawing and playing computer games and Wii games.

We stopped school a little over two years ago and have never been happier! Unschooling suits us very well. We have a couple of unschooling families we spend some time with, but we have never been to a gathering of unschoolers before. See you soon!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Shan Burton, Annalise and Jeremiah

Shan Burton, age 42. I am passionate about words – reading them writing them, playing with them, reveling in them; Paul Simon and Spock; and my family (including my chef husband, Jim, who will be working to support our fun). Other interests include singing, animals, travel, laughter, photography, hiking, swimming, camping, gardening, and being outside; communicating and exploring ideas, emotions, and personal philosophies.

Annalise Burton, age 7 (8 in early July). She is passionate about wildlife and wildlife habitat, being outdoors, dramatic play (especially with stuffed animals and Littlest Pet Shop companions); fashion, challenging herself physically in many ways, art, storytelling, and horses. She very much enjoys girls in the 6-9 year old age range and dressing in her brothers' outgrown clothes, often mixed with her own.

Jeremiah Burton, age 10 (11 in September). Jeremiah is a minimalist. He enjoys gaming - especially on his 3DS, but also online, computer, and other systems. Recently, he's become interested in playing and creating board games. He enjoys animation, especially anime, and is interested in learning Japanese and Japanese culture. He is interested in physics and chemistry; technology and gadgetry; inventing; and online, text, and word of mouth research. He also enjoys a variety of outdoor pursuits, especially camping, biking, and swimming. He enjoys time with a variety of playmates and time alone.

As a family, we are currently all passionate about The Big Bang Theory. =)

Shan lives in Stillwater, New York.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Progress, and topic-call

Eleven families have paid, and eleven of those who have indicated intent to attend have yet to finish that registration. Pass this blog address on to anyone who might be interested, and you can register at the registration tab above, if you don't need bunks on site.

Camping is free.

Joyce and Brie have topics (I'll get descriptions up before long) but Meredith and I were going to see what some of you wanted to hear. Any requests?

I plan to talk a bit about what we're doing that's not so obvious (the bigger picture, of this kind of unschooling), and other than that I'm open to ideas.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nearby hotels

Not all, but some:
The Wulfrums have decided to stay here:
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites
265 Lakeside Avenue
Marlborough, MA 01752
Telephone: (508) 481-3000 Fax: (508) 480-8530 shows how close the hotel is to the ymca center:
320 Sewall Street Boylston, MA 01505 (ymca)
265 Lakeside avenue, marlboro ma (hotel)
15 minutes, 12.18 miles
119 for two double beds, 10 xtra/night if a cot brought in

Speakers might be staying at Classic Suites, in West Boylston (George is the one who knows those things, and I have a note out to him for other recommendations.)

Some of the hotels are nearly full because of weddings and graduations (the trouble with May).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The James Family—Doug, Karen and Ethan (9)

This note arrived May 13:
I feel very sad to say that our family won't be able to make it to the ALL gathering in Massachusetts this May. We were all really looking forward to coming. My uncle passed away this morning. The funeral will be held that same weekend in Montreal, Canada.

Doug and I met over 20 years ago. We married ten years ago, and had our son, Ethan a year after we wed. Attachment parenting came naturally (but not necessarily easily) to both of us.

When Ethan was 4, he attended a coop nursery school three mornings a week. We had just moved to Ithaca, NY, and this seemed like a nice way to meet new friends and to help us jump into our new community. Most days, I stayed with him at the school, helping out the teachers and the children where they needed me, and making myself available for Ethan.

When Ethan finished nursery school at five, he was finished with school. He was very clear about that. He had fun at his
nursery school, but he didnʼt want to go to kindergarten, and we didnʼt want to make him. For the first couple months of our “kindergarten” year at home, I planned a few activities every day, but it soon became clear that what Ethan needed was someone to support his explorations, not plan his day.

I began reading more about unschooling. It has taken me a long time to deschool. I think I still have a ways to go, but I can now clearly see and appreciate the learning in everything we do. Doug has always been very supportive, and I believe we make great partners in this unschooling journey together. Ethan loves his life, and that has been a fabulous incentive for us both.

Doug is a professor of computer science at Cornell University. He studied physics, applied math and computer science during his undergraduate and graduate years in Canada. I studied visual arts and english literature. I am an artist. Both Doug and I have maintained a love of learning and curious natures. Although going through school in a conventional manner, we were both highly motivated to pursue each our own interests in each our own unique ways. We are best friends, and have long enjoyed
playing together. We have a happy home, and feel quite blessed.

I donʼt remember when I started reading on the Always Learning List, but I do know that it has changed the way I parent for the better in so many ways. Consequently, it has changed me for the better in so many ways as well. I am excited, and a bit nervous, to meet some of the people who have written such inspirational, yet humbling, revelations on parenting and learning. As well, I am looking forward to meeting families that live as we do. Doug is looking forward to meeting the people I am always talking about.

The Cummings Family

Hi! We are the Cummings Family. Chris (Dad), Bonnie (Mom), Meredith (12), Tess (10), Emmett (4 - although he has decided to be 5 instead :) and Vaughn, Bonnie's stepson, (17) who stayed in school until this year and who will stay home to work at his new job. We live in Easton, PA.

We decided after Meredith's first few months of Kindergarten that homeschooling would be a much better choice. We had thought she would want to finish Kindergarten, but Meredith had other plans and told us very clearly that she would prefer to start right away. That was 6 years ago and we've never looked back! We started out as 'eclectic homeschoolers' and quickly moved to unschooling, then to the realization that it was the whole lifestyle for us, not just 'not doing school'.

The girls run an American Girl Doll club.

Meredith loves to draw, currently anime & manga; to play with and redesign Monster High Dolls; and listening to music and learning to play her guitar; she is currently helping the family to become more earth-friendly.

Tess loves doing gymnastics and anything else climb-ey and bendy; is interested in everything about music and likes to play drums; she loves to draw; and caring for her many dolls and her tremendous stuffed animal collection; she plans to own a bakery one day.

Emmett loves Thomas trains; anything to do with garbage trucks; digging in the dirt; playing with collections of anything; and pretending to be all kinds of exciting things (a pirate, a knight, a ballerina princess, and a construction truck driver are some recent favorites).

Chris is the world's greatest Dad, a drummer, a senior manager at Verizon, and an awesomely fun guy.

Bonnie loves being a Mom and stepMom, likes to crochet, loves taking a gazillion pictures of the kids, and being silly whenever the mood strikes.

Here are some pictures from last week's backyard circus :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A few more notes (site rules)

Pets are not allowed

Cars should be parked near the lodge or in the parking lot, after unloading. Don't do anything that would block emergency vehicles.

The Lodge

The main building for our use is The Lodge. You can look at some photos here: We'll use the dining room for speaking, and leave the living room for kids to hang out during presentations (though they're welcome to be in either room).

There are more photos of the lodge here:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Registration opens slowly

I have nineteen pre-registrations. I'll go through those in order, negotiating what needs to be paid for for each family, depending on sleeping arrangements and ages of kids.

There are very few private-bunk-room situations, so that will be a first-requested (and then paid) order. If you're camping or commuting, that's easier.

The basic rates are:
One person:


Two in a family
age four or over


Three in a family


Four or more


Plus, if applicable:
$10 per bed in a private room or $5 per bed in a shared bunk area

Each family will be asked to bring some food to share, and to help with the maintenance of order and happiness.

There are some restrictions on our use of the site; any family finding them too limiting might not want to attend.
Those who do attend will be expected to help their own children and others keep the peace and safety as stipulated by the site manager.
  • NOBODY near the lake, at all, in any way. (We would have to hire their lifeguards, and it's quite expensive.)
  • Quiet after 10:00; REALLY quiet after midnight.
  • Those under the age of 12 should be in the presence of adults.
  • No dunking, in the basketball area. Playing basketball is fine, but dunking could break the equipment.
  • Stay off the wooden swing near the caretaker's house. It's private property.
  • There is a bell hanging in a wooden frame. Don't play with it.
Questions can be sent to me or left as comments below.