Sunday, January 8, 2012

Always Learning Live 2012

Day One: Pam Sorooshian, Jill Parmer and Joyce Fetteroll

 Holly Dodd coloring before things get started

On the first day of the Always Learning Live Symposium, I was a nervous wreck.  Sandra Dodd came to my house before Thanksgiving and the conversation led to the negativity online about her as a leader in the radical unschooling community.  I like Sandra Dodd, and sometimes I've felt attacked just for liking her! I can't imagine the harshness she gets directed at her for being her.  The conversation made me want to do something special because, although there may be some who don't care for Sandra Dodd, there are many more of us who love her and are thankful for her presence. 

I reached out to Pam Sorooshian for help.  I wanted to reach out to the members of the Always Learning Yahoo! Group to ask users for a story or thank you for Sandra.  Pam helped me; and I spammed the list.  The response was astounding.  So much love and gratitude.  Monty helped me compile a beautiful book, and my plan was to present the book to her on the first day of the conference. 

"I think I'm going to be sick!"

Pam was the first speaker and suggested that should I follow her up. We would start the conference with a show of gratitude to Sandra.  Yikes! Speaking in front of a crowd! Thankfully Pam was there to tell me that even though she has been a professor for many years and spoken at many conferences she still gets nervous.  That was really comforting.  The good news is that I survived it, even though my voice was a bit shaky and my hands were a bit sweaty. 

Pam Soroosian gave a talk about things her unschooled kids didn't learn.  Things like, collaborating and helping others are considered cheating, physical needs should be ignored and how to BS your way through a paper or "show your work." 

 Austin with his iPhone.  The bracelet he has on is a glow-in-the-dark bracelet that came in our welcome bag with our name tags.  It says "Always Learning".  :) 

Jill Parmer
Next was Jill Parmer.  I was super excited to meet her.  I try to attend a weekly chat hosted by Sandra Dodd and that's where I originally met Jill.  It was nice to put a face to her name.  She gave a talk on infusing fun.  The best story was about taking out the garbage.  I think easy to look over making the little things that need to get done everyday, like taking out the trash, fun.  In Jill's family because she has found a way to make it fun, if she asks if anyone wants to take the trash out with her, her kids will actually stop what they are doing to help take out the trash!  What a radical idea, give kids a choice to help with chores and be pleasant and fun to be around and kids will join in the chores fun!

Keith Dodd playing with Lily

Sandra and Joyce
Joyce's talk on how we naturally learn by breaking things down was SO much fun.  Monty was bummed that he missed it, but Austin needed some downtime.  I went down to the conference area early to socialize and Monty and Austin never made it down.  Joyce had us make a mind map diagram starting out with the word Japan then we all shared what we listed.  Although there were similarities, every diagram was unique. 

She started to read the Wikipedia page for Japan and asked how many of us listed the things that are on the Wikipedia page making the point that facts like population, location, size and what a country import/exports is not what we connect with.  It's not what we remember.

The Japan Wall.  It fell down during the night and the next morning people were coming in saying, "Japan fell down!!"

Renee Cabatic

Captivated dads. 

The Minecraft table was a popular place for the boys to hang out.

Day Two: Deb Lewis and Rose Sorooshian

Deb Lewis

Deb Lewis gave a talk on becoming courageous and it was a good one! She stirred up a lot of conversation when she talked about not glazing over things, that people can tell when they are being handled.  Mostly applying this to when talking to people about unschooling.  When we are honest about being unschoolers we don't give the impression that there is something we are hiding, or that we are doing something that it wrong.  We give ourselves power and confidence when we are completely honest about being unschoolers.  Her book suggestion on lying was "Lying" by Sam Harris (the Kindle version is only $1.99).


Holly infused some fun by starting a game with the kids where they had to get a clothespin onto someone without getting caught.  If the person you are trying to tag sees you trying then you have to give up your clothespin.  Looks like Pamela Corkey is so enthralled in the session that she failed to notice that she was part of the game!

 You can feel the deep thoughts being thought in this picture.
Rose Sorooshian
Rose Sorooshian gave her first talk on her own ever. She is the youngest daughter of Pam Sorooshian and she talked about things she DID learn as an unschooler.  The thing I remember the most was that she learned that if it's been 20 minutes since she last ate and she's hungry then she's hungry and that if it's been six hours since she ate and she's not hungry then she's not hungry.  She learned to listen to her body.

 Marty Dodd joined in at then end of Rose's talk.

Someone got Deb while she was listening.

Austin playing Minecraft.

Deb Lewis and Adam Daniel.
Deb brought a canvas bag for everyone to sign and draw on.  A lot of people who attended added piece by piece to the drawing and thus the story.  Here is what she told me about the story of the bag:
  "A magical fish ate a mummy seaweed and a daddy seaweed and nibbled a baby seaweed.   Some magic got into the baby seaweed and changed him into a magical sea creature."

Lots of people added to the art work of that bag. Mairi Sasaki added the magical fish, Adam drew the ocean and the seaweed and the magical glow around the baby seaweed. Sandra added a jellyfish. Some people added to the sea creature or to the sky or to the ocean.

Day Three: Adam Daniel and Sandra Dodd

Adam Daniel
Adam Daniel gave a talk on how he learns and the connections he makes.  It was nice to have the point of view of two people who were unschooled, as opposed to the people who unscooled them.  One from a child and one from an adult, in college, who has unschooled her whole life.

Sandra and Holly
Sandra closed the conference out talking about connections made.  Something that happened at this conference that I've never seen happen before (and maybe because it was so small) was that speakers would welcome others up to join them.  It happened throughout the conference and it really added to the closeness and openess of the event.

Adam and Austin acting out an action scene.

Austin and Adam.

Austin getting some air.

All the boys joining in some post conference rough housing. 

There was a room to the side set up with laptops for playing Minecraft.  The majority of the time they were quiet.  I think once the speakers were all done they needed to let out all of the energy that built up while they were keeping quiet!

This is the last thing we saw before leaving the conference.  It's from a stained glass window coloring book.  Through out the conference people were drawing and doodling and someone would hang them up throughout the conference area.  It really added to the feel of acceptence that this conference offered. 


  1. Very sweet, and thank you again for that stunning book.

    It's the 9th of January and I'm still tired, but I'm also already taking notes for next year!!

  2. You captured the conference perfectly!!! ;-)

  3. Thanks Heather! It was a lot of fun to put together.

  4. Thanks for sharing Heather! I cannot wait to have Sandra and Jill here for our Conference. Thank you also for getting that book together!! That was so sweet!