Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Within the hotel, they've moved us

Rather than being up beyond the mezzanine, we are down below somewhere…. Larger space, but not as easy to find UNLESS YOU'RE LOCAL!

Locals have it easy. Enter on the east side across from Victoria's Italian Restaurant NOT ACROSS FROM, but on that side. Near. Next to. Under. I honestly don't know. Go down to the Heritage rooms. We're in #2 and #3, and we have the lobby area outside there.

NOTE, please: Our rooms are in the third (lower level) map. And they have east at the top. But once you find the direction and the floor…. you can find the place!

(Click for greater detail.)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Geographical Spread (who's coming to Rochester?)

21 families are represented by one to five people.

Here's where they're from:

Five Canadian, sixteen U.S.

Of the Canadians:

3 Ontario 3
2 Manitoba 2

Of the Americans:

8 Minnesota Of those, three are from Rochester and Alex gets her mail in Byron (VERY near)
2 Wisconsin
2 Iowa
1 Illinois
1 Kansas
1 Washington (state)
1 New Mexico

(There was a New York registration, but the plan fell through. Still it's a big spread.)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

I painted this one

This is on a canvas bag I painted in 2011, and will auction subtly (silent auction at the book table) on Friday before the pizza party. The blue paint is shiny. It's pretty nice, and could be used for groceries, yarn, toys, lunch, books, dirty clothes (not all at the same time).

Here it is against my mailbox and van, for scale and to prove it was in New Mexico at my house. :-)

Head count

First pass at a head-count, including the speakers. The proportions are much like other Always Learning events, though there are fewer parents without children than sometimes, at this one. There are several family intros, and it's not too late to add more! E-mail me with anything you'd like to share.

Moms 20
Dads 11
Girls 19
Boys 17 (one is a young man, but not a dad)
Grandparents 2 (one of each, same family)

I'll come back with ages of non-parentals. They won't be on name badges, but for a general idea of who to expect to meet…

(*check back in a bit, if it's not here when you looked*)

Nineteen girls of these ages:

17 months
2 months

Sons of unschooling families, adult to toddler:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stopa/Neary, Oshkosh

We are the Stopa/Neary family from Oshkosh Wisconsin. Our children, Pearl and Casimir, have always been unschooled.

For the past 16 years Larry has enjoyed a career in search engine marketing, an industry that did not exist 18 years ago. Because of this experience, Larry knows how important it is to learn on one’s own because schools cannot keep up with today’s rapidly changing needs. That is one reason why Larry is proud that Pearl and Casimir can explore where there curiosities lead them.

Jennie enjoys hanging out with her fun, funny teens (and with Larry too!) She enjoys theater, whether she is onstage, backstage, or in the audience. She loves traveling with her family. (The photo of us was taken at Yellowstone National Park in front Mammoth Hot Springs. What a great trip that was!) Jennie is grateful for the writing of Sandra and many others who introduced her to and helped her to understand unschooling. And she is grateful to her husband for financing this enterprise!

Pearl is 16. She enjoys many forms of art including but not limited to drawing, painting and beading. She also enjoys playing video games and practicing archery, as well as learning about geology and the Japanese language. She would love to connect with others at the conference who share her interests.

Cas is 14. He enjoys acting, playing the drums, and playing video games.

Here they are in context:

Teresa, Rose, and Fiona Hess, from Langley, WA

We are coming from Langley, Washington which is a small town on Whidbey Island, 25 miles north of Seattle. I (Teresa) grew up in Minneapolis and am so happy that a return trip to my home state can include attending an ALL Symposium!

I first discovered unschooling when my oldest daughter (now seven) was two. As more and more situations arose for us in which traditional parenting called for traditional discipline methods, I desired an alternative parenting approach. We were already doing attachment parenting, but even within that community, I wasn't finding what I was looking for. I didn't want to use punishments, rewards, anger, guilt, shame, or "gentle discipline." But then I was left wondering...what can I do? How can I handle these situations in a way that is best for my child and our relationship? After looking around online I found Joyce Fetteroll's website and it make so much sense to me: be your child's partner, see the world from your child's perspective, say "Yes!" more often. By the time my daughter was school age, we knew we wanted to unschool.

I am home with my kids full-time and am passionate about parenting, writing, performance, walking outdoors, meditation, and connecting with friends over a good meal.

Rose (7) loves gaming, mostly Minecraft and Roblox right now, and would love to meet other kids who would like to game/Skype together. She also enjoys playing with Barbies and Monster High dolls and making up elaborate fantasy stories that the dolls act out. She likes making up her own songs, doing free-style dance, swimming, acting, and playing on the beach.

Fiona (3) is often found running around outside our apartment in nothing but a tutu. She loves puzzles, painting, balancing on things, Barbie movies, playing games on the Nick Jr website, and riding her new scooter.

My husband Corey is unable to attend. He'll be back on Whidbey, where he is a SOMA Bodywork practitioner.

We are really looking forward to meeting more unschooling families, being involved in the talks/discussions, and meeting Sandra, Alex, and Pam whose writing and wisdom I have found so valuable on my parenting journey so far.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Jackie Heim

Jackie Heim attended last year, and is returning this year by herself. Le Sueur.

She's a stay-at-home mother of four children. She lives in Le Sueur, Minnesota and has an MA in English.

The "People" tab, filled in has a list of the bios already in, with links. If anyone else would like to share a photo or some information about your family, or both, send it to me at

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Vigil family from Kansas City

We are the Vigils. Javier, Amber, Mateo (4), Mariana (1) and Denali (Siberian husky, who sadly won't be joining us)

We live in Mission, KS, in the Kansas City metro area.

Javier (Jav) is a high school English teacher by day and a handyman by night. He is always fixing/renovating something at our house or someone else's. He enjoys reading, watching YouTube repair videos and public television.

I (Amber) like reading. Especially the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon - I can't wait for the next one to come out! I'm interested in local food - for the sake of the grower and the consumer. I enjoy seeing the world through my children's eyes and exploring with them.

Mateo (Teo) loves puzzles, exploring how things work, helping daddy with anything tool related, running, riding his trike, blowing bubbles, watching Rescue Heroes, fishing and making scrambled eggs - which he refers to as his specialty.

Mariana likes to climb things and then launch herself from them, playing in the sandbox, wrestling and playing "chase" with Teo, and taking baths.

We have always aimed to be gentle and attached parents and unschooling seems to be a logical extension to that. Our children aren't "school-age" yet, but it already seems obvious to us that their love of learning is deeper and less structured than what school would allow. We hope this conference will help us grow as a family of joyful learners and perhaps steer us away from some newbie pitfalls ;)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Checklist, by Alex!

  • Power strips for computers and electronics
  • Headphones and Headsets for computers and tablets
  • Games and activities that are not messy and you are OK sharing with others in the game room
  • Quiet toys for little ones to play in the back of the main room( I will have some I am bringing too)
  • Laptops and Tablets for you and the kids. We will have free wireless and kids love to play in the game room.
  • bathing suits for the pool- note there are no lifeguards so a responsible adult needs to be with the kids at all times.
  • Snacks and drinks to have in your room- NOTE there is a NO outside food policy in the Game room and Conference room.
  • Art supplies that are not messy- I will have some paper, coloring pages, crayons and markers
Money to buy books.
We will have Pam Laricchia's NEW BOOK, Joyce Fetteroll's Unschooling Toolbox ($10), Sandra's books.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Mueller Family

We’re the Mueller family. Our family of seven lives in a little house, on six acres of land in Slinger, Wisconsin, with a Collie named Gus, four cats and some chickens. Always having home educated, we started our journey as relaxed-eclectic types. Fall 2014 will mark three years of unschooling and deschooling. My shift in thinking began when my son became school age and was decidedly not interested in my educational agenda. I am truly grateful for online writers and friends in the Always Learning and Radical Unschooling Info communities for sharing their experience and wisdom. They have been a tremendous help and support in making our transition a peaceful one.

A bit about us as individuals:

Phil (who won't be attending) is a mechanical engineer. He owns and operates a chimney cleaning and repair business. He served 34 years in the Air Force and Air Force Reserve, retiring as a C-130 Engineer. He enjoys gaming, watching sci-fi, and reading all manner of technical magazines and home improvement journals. When the weather is nice, he is usually outside tending to the garden or fixing a piece of machinery.

Gretchen is a classic introvert. Her interests include natural health, decorating, home renovation, and hanging out with her family. She volunteers for La Leche League International and a large local natural food cooperative. When she’s not doing any of that, she can usually be found organizing something.

Since discovering cosplay last year, Sarah (16) has found a love for costuming and enjoys dressing up as favorite characters from different anime and TV shows. She is an artist and an avid gamer, her current favorite games being Bioshock Infinite, Portal 1 & 2 and Assassins Creed.

Joy (14) is an enthusiastic reader of just about anything, but particularly likes fiction, anime and comics. She also loves to watch anime, along with Marvel, DC Comics and Disney productions. She enjoys both attending theater and being on stage and this year had roles in two local productions. She dabbles with Minecraft and gets lost on Pinterest. She also works part time as a mother’s helper.

Andy (11) is into all things weapons and military related. He is an avid gamer, currently enjoying Minecraft (pc and xbox360), the Battlefield series, the Assassins Creed series, The Call of Duty series, the Halo series, and many more. He also loves Nerf gun battles, YouTube, military documentaries (WWII) swimming, summer camp, acting, and going to water parks. He is inspired by Carlos Hathcock for his bravery and courage during WWII.

Grace (8) loves playing Minecraft, watching Minecraft videos and playing Animal Crossing on her 3DS. She enjoys singing and acting in plays, riding her bike, swimming and also going to water parks. Her current favorite band is One Direction – she really likes their music videos.

Faith (4) is an outside kind of girl. She likes taking care of our chickens, walking Gus, playing at the park, swimming, and long baths. Her favorite shows are My Big Friend and Futurama – which she likes to watch both in and out of the tub.

Unfortunately, Phil won’t be coming with us to Minnesota, but the rest of us are looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Dolina Family

Hello! We're Ann, Dan and Sam Dolina. We live in Hopkins (a western suburb of Minneapolis) in a small bright yellow and blue WWII house along with my mother Jean, her two cats (Tika and Sweetie), one black molly fish (Blackblood) and our black lab (Easy).

Sam is our active seven year old. He enjoys Minecraft (especially the Pixelmon Mod), Terraria (just beginning this interest), watching Minecraft videos (Stampey Longnose and Ballistic Squid are favorites), collecting Pokemon cards, doing anything with dragons, movies, swimming, biking, bouncing on his mini tramp, camping, and playing with neighbors, friends, cousins and especially Dad.

Dan is an IT guy for United Health Group (and all of our extended family haha.) His work is only three miles from home so he bikes half the year. Dan loves reading science fiction, watching movies, camping, biking, playing soccer, learning Kung Fu, and being DJ when we are in the mood to dance.

Ann is me. I am an at home mom with a small knitted toy business on Etsy ( I love knitting, spinning fiber into yarn, dyeing yarn naturally, reading, camping, gardening, scrapbooking, watching movies and spending my days with Sam.

This is our first year of homeschooling. Sam spent his first few years at a Waldorf school in Minneapolis. We discovered unschooling in January so are quite the newbies. We're really looking forward to learning more about unschooling at the conference as well as meeting all of you!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Bergers From Iowa

Hello! We are Mike, Jen, Cole, Tanon, and Elliot. Norwalk, Iowa, a smallish town just South of Des Moines is our home. Our small house is a busy one, overflowing with boys, toys and computers. We love animals and share our space with two cats and an intelligent, old canine named Misty. She and Cole are best buds.

Our time together is made up of adventures in the nearby wooded state and county parks, frequent visits from neighborhood friends, gaming, movies, legos, and plenty of smoothie and bacon consumption.

Mike works outside of our home, developing software for annuity illustrations at an insurance company in West Des Moines. He is attending college in the evenings for a degree in computer information systems. Mike is a great cook, specializing in comfort foods and barbeque. He makes a raspberry chipotle sauce that is very popular with our friends and family. He really gets excited about gardening and has us off to a great start for this season!

Cole (14) is a long time World of Warcraft enthusiast. Unfortunately, he's taking a break from this until we can get him a new gaming laptop. He's known since he was nine that he wants to be a designer for Blizzard. He loves playing, watching, and talking basketball. An avid Iowa Hawkeye fan, he'll be attending basketball camp at the University of Iowa in June. When he's not shooting hoops at the park, he enjoys his Playstation games: NBA 2K14, Madden, Gran Turismo, and Need for Speed.

Tanon (11) loves his Minecraft. He's figured out how to create his own servers so that he has more control over who he's interacting with. A talented artist, he can sit and draw for hours. As the weather has improved here, he's been spending more time at the lake with friends and learning to fish. Tanon is a very outgoing, social guy and gets to know everybody.

Elliot (6) is a huge fan of ducklings. If we were just a bit further out of town I'm sure we'd have a few pet ducks. Legos are a daily activity for him. He also has quite the collection of lego themed video games (Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Indiana Jones, Batman, Marvel Superheros, and Pirates of the Caribbean...). A big fan of superheros, his favorite is usually Spiderman. Like Tanon, he also enjoys playing Minecraft.

My name is Jen and I work for the Downtown Community Alliance, the non-profit group that puts on the Downtown Des Moines Farmer's Market and several other events in the area. The Farmer's Market is my happy place. I love everything about it and am thrilled to be a part of it every Saturday. I love to read, try new foods, and meet interesting people. Speaking of interesting people, I'm currently involved with the Iowa School of Burlesque, not as a regular performer, but as a member of the crew. I am fascinated with the history, the costumes, the comedy, and especially the creativity that goes into producing the shows. I read about self-sufficiency and perma-culture as we plan to have our own small farm someday. I'm sure that ducklings will be included in our plans. :0)

We look forward to meeting you all!

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Benesh Family

The Benesh Family (Saint Cloud, Minnesota)

Only the parents will be attending.

My name is Bret Benesh, my wife is Christy, and we have a four-year
old son and a 2.5-year old daughter. I am a mathematics professor,
and Christy is a former mathematics professor. The main reasons why
we are planning on homeschooling our children are because we think we
can do it better than a school (if only because their education will
be customized to their needs), we want to spend as much time with our
kids as we can, and because our children have been expressing a
preference for homeschooling.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Chris and Zoe Sanders

We traveled to Italy in September 2013. Zach is not pictured
because he was studying in Germany at the time.

I'm Zoe's (16) and Zach's (23) mom, Chris. We live in West Des Moines, IA with their dad, my husband, Rick. Zoe and I are excited to be attending our third Always Learning Live (ALL) Symposium!

Our family has always homeschooled and we've been radically unschooling for the past 11 years. Zach is now working on finishing up his undergraduate degrees in History and German at the University of Iowa and preparing for graduate studies after that.

Zoe loves singing, dancing, playing video games, drawing, tumblr, swimming, cooking and cleaning "clean" meals, reading and learning about astrophysics, and watching TV with the family. She's busy most weeks with our local Unitarian Universalist church choir, youth group, dancing on a Hip Hop competition dance team and skypeing with her friends across the continent. She's considering getting a job this summer at a local grocery store. Finally, Zoe adores her pet dog, Ginny.

I have many irons in the fire at any given time - I work part-time for Pearson VUE as a test administrator; I recently retired from my 23 year freelance bookkeeping business; As an Iowa licensed teacher, I help other homeschoolers by serving as their supervising teacher; I facilitate an online and in-person local unschooling support group as well as a group for Central Iowa homeschooling teens; I enjoy reading and doing all things on the internet—keeping up with technology, current events, politics and social networking.

We are fortunate that Rick's commercial photography business is based out of our home so that between the two of us, there is almost always a parent home and available to hang out, talk, drive, prepare food and host social events. We're a stay-at-home team! Rick also enjoys bicycle touring (his goal is to ride border-to-border across each state—he's riding across Alabama at the end of this month) playing volleyball, watching football and spending time with his large family of origin.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bragdon—Tina, James, Stephanie and Jonathan

We are the Bragdon family, from here in the southern part of the province of Manitoba, Canada….within a days drive away from Rochester. Our clan consists of dad James, (myself) Tina, and our children Stephanie (turning 14 the day we hit the road on May 29th), and Jonathan who will be 11 a few weeks afterwards. We are looking forward to attending…I attended the Toronto Unschooling Conference in 2007 by myself and remember what an impression it made on me to hear the words of people I only “knew of online” like Pam Larrichia and Anne Ohman, to talk to other attendees, and what a boost that was to me when I really needed it. I am excited to bring my family to attend this symposium (after very longingly reading reports on Sandra’s site about past ones), and for us to be encouraged and share with you all.

We go a fair ways back with unschooling, with our children never attending school. We came to unschooling by practicing attachment parenting. Unschooling was a natural extension of that for us once our children reached school age, and especially once we quickly realized, in turn with each of them, that neither of them would fit the expected mold at all in a traditional structured school-ey setting.

I found a few of my past words about unschooling immortalized here at Sandra’s site, down along the side of her “getting it” page, This was written when my children were 8 and 5…I am TinaB/canuckgal on this page. Funny to read these words as my children are now older. I would vouch my feelings are still as true as what I wrote then. Even so, as my children reach new stages, James and I (especially ME more so…I so love my husband for “getting it” in the areas that I find more difficult and vice-versa, and for helping me to straighten out my head over the years) still have some things that creep up that we see we need to examine and change and deschool on.

Over the years I have seen how valuable it is to “read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch…” as Sandra says. When I see my posts from message boards years ago with the same type of questions….a few months later….(!)…..I can see that it is sage advice Sandra gives, to let stuff “digest”, then DO IT, and evaluate and repeat…not just keep reading. I continue to strive to get better at that!

As far as a little bit about us individually, I am a registered nurse at our local hospital, who works an average of 5-8 shifts or so a month. We have always been fortunate be able to arrange and tweak my schedule over the years, so that the vast majority of the time, one of us has been able to be at home with the kids. I love to cook and bake, exercise, read, and flex my novice green thumb by (attempting!) gardening.

James has had a varied life, having been everything from a health care aide/orderly, to a security guard in a gold mine, to now working in a pharmaceutical plant, and loves things like camping, survival skills and outdoor lore, and an eclectic mix of Netflix documentaries ranging from war movies to tattooing, LOL.

Stephanie has a wicked sense of humor that we love to share and leads to all sorts of interesting discussions (think of things like the Oatmeal, Sanitaryum, and Cyanide and Happiness), loves animation/anime/cartooning both on paper and by computer, online games of all sorts (the more logic and strategy games the better), storytelling in all forms and ways, and reading a mix of all sorts of things. She also LOVES interacting with babies and young children, so if you have some, she will probably not be too far behind!

Jonathan is currently into things like playing Mario, Roblox, and other computer games and board games, loves going to his Scout troop, is a deep thinker delving into all sorts of world issues, and has a sweet tender heart that is uncannily intuitive towards any sort of anyone with hurts or troubles around him and he freely gives the hugs and helps out! Both are looking forward to meeting other kids and sharing their interests and learning from each other.

That is us in a nutshell….we are looking forward to meeting everyone!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Greg, Lynn and Emily Easter

We are the Easter's
Greg, Lynn and Emily (6)
We live in the Twin Cities--Minneapolis, Minnesota

Lynn works as a freelance photo stylist and nutrition educator. Greg works as a contract designer and handyman. We have enjoyed trading off work and care for Emily since she was born. When we decided to homeschool it was a natural transition for our family.

We enjoy spending time in nature and exploring museums and other attractions, as well as spending time with our extended families.

Homeschooling is only new to us in the sense that Emily is still young. We are intrigued and interested in learning more joyfully and with more freedom as a family and therefore we are drawn to unschooling.

We look forward to meeting and spending time with many of you ;)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Discount at the grill in the hotel

News from Alex today:

Attendees will have a 15% discount at the Grand Grill. Just show Conference badges.