Monday, September 28, 2009

NBTSC 2009

Now, how to write about this? I have a mild head cold, so my brain feels rather stuffed up and slow, yet I don't really want to put off writing about NBTSC because I'm sure too much of it will slip past my mind if I wait too long! I don't want to write about it in a chronological way, as I have with the conferences I've been too, so I'll try something different...

To start with, as you'll know from my earlier posts, I wasn't looking forward to NBTSC all that much. I felt like I may have been getting sick, and like camp, perhaps, wasn't right for me at this time. However, from the moment I got there, things were vastly better than I'd thought they'd be! I knew a huge portion of the people there, so instead of being overwhelmed by all the people rushing around, I was cheerfully greeting old acquaintances and friends and happily talking to new folk as well! It amazed me that I genuinely wasn't feeling very shy... I didn't feel like hiding in a corner, or only talking to people I knew well. I was quite happy conversing with those both new and old! So the week got off to a good start in that way. And the getting sick bit I'd worried about didn't happen. :-) Also, we were put into our advisee groups that first evening (advisee groups are groups of about 10 campers and one staffer who meet daily to check in about how they're feeling, play games, or just generally do whatever they want within that group), and the staffer for my group was actually the person I was hoping I'd get after reading the staff bio's on the NBTSC website!! He's a green anarchist, and just a totally awesome guy all around. So that was really cool. :-) Also, I simply loved my advisee group as a whole! The people were awesome, and it was just a really nice atmosphere.

The first night was fucking COLD! That wasn't so cool. I slept badly, was really sore in the morning, and although I was fine in the daytime, that second evening was the worst I felt in terms of mental well-being the whole week. I wasn't really homesick, but I sure as hell was warmth-sick!! However, my mom had dropped off extra blankets around supper time on the first full day (she was staying at a local campground for a couple of nights) so despite my worries that I'd have another horrible night, I slept just fine. :-)

From then on out, the week was just great! I had some wonderful conversations about anti-civilizationism/green anarchy with multiple people, listened to a very interesting debate about anti-civ stuff between other people, had conversations about freeganism, nontraditional paths (i.e. not going to college and/or getting a normal job), unschooling, politics, and a ton of other awesome things. I love the fact that at camp, Monsanto is a bad word, and that if I made some comment dissing corporations, mainstream media, government, or similar, it was practically guaranteed that at least one or two people who heard would instantly jump in with agreement! That freedom to state my opinions openly felt really good. Now, that doesn't mean that most peoples opinions were as overall... extreme(?) as mine, just that I found common ground with many people. I have to thank Julie for her Utopia workshop, and Mike for also being a green anarchist, because those two things made me brave enough to openly talk about my views, when usually I'm not willing to in big groups since I *know* everyone will disagree vehemently and I'll end up feeling bad! After that first time, being open about my views was much easier for the rest of the week. :-)

I also just really felt that I made a lot of good connections with people. Some were small connections, with people I never really talked to, but we'd always share a smile. Others I felt a really strong connection with, whether or not we talked much, or simply spent a lot of time with each other! That felt really good. And I really, really want to keep in touch with people. I also think that anyone from camp who's ever in the area should come visit me. ;-)

Oh, and I also exercised a lot more than I usually do. I was up and down the rocky hill to my cabin multiple times a day, and also went on a great but quite difficult hike (up the side of a mountain. The view from the top of the trail was incredible!), canoed out to a rope swing and swam (now that was tons of fun but damn, that water was COLD!), and just generally wasn't nearly as much of a couch potato as usual. :-P Something I'm actually missing already about camp (besides the people, which is a given) is the amazing, healthy, 100% vegetarian food! So. Good.

So yes, NBTSC was good this year. I still don't really feel like it was *life-changing* as such, but it was certainly good. I befriended amazing people, had some great times, and yeah, it was just generally really *good*. :-)

Now, remember how I said I managed to stay healthy the whole week? Well, on Saturday when my mom picked Emi and I up from camp, I felt fine. However, not long into the drive home, my throat started feeling scratchy. Talk about timing! So I do have an actual cold now, but so far it's mild (*knocks on wood*) so I'm not overly bothered. I'm just hibernating for a few days while I get better, and then I'm going to go out into the world! :-) I do feel inspired in some ways, and I've committed myself to making some changes in my life. Many fairly minor, one or two more major. And, well, I'll just have to see how that goes. :-)


Friday, September 18, 2009

Gone for a week...

Leaving for NBTSC tomorrow morning, and will be back on the 26th, hopefully with cool pictures. Feeling draggy, clogged up, and like just curling up under a blanket with a warm cup of tea and not going anywhere. Yes, I seem to be coming down with a cold. I've already had loads of very sweet suggestions for cold-fighting things to eat and do (zinc, vitamin C, garlic, honey, no sugar, no greasy food, drinking lots of water, etc. etc.), so hopefully this will pass fast!

Have a good week everyone!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Unschooling in the news

A week or so ago, we got a surprise call from a local newspaper looking to interview my mom for an upcoming article about homeschooling. After checking with Emi and I that we were okay with being in the paper, she said yes. The reporter did a phone interview (which kind of annoyed me because I couldn't interject more :-P), and my mom did her best to get across the concept of unschooling. The photographer came today (actually he just left), and got shots of Emi with her Japanese learning book, me with my tribal peoples book, and both of us talking with each other. The fact that a 'studying at the kitchen table' shot wasn't even mentioned made me very happy. :-P and now we're left to see how the article turns out.

Lately, unschooling has been in the news a lot, and because of that it seems a lot of unschoolers are talking about about whether or not the exposure is a good thing! I've seen people say that because the mainstream media never properly grasps unschooling, they shouldn't bother. Or, that the extra exposure opens unschoolers up to more hassling from people who don't understand. The message behind both of these things being that unschoolers are better off staying under the radar, not letting themselves be interviewed, and just generally keeping quiet about things.

I see and understand those points (I'm really worried about how the article we're in will turn out!), and I definitely understand if a family simply doesn't want their personal lives laid open and judged by the careless hand of a reporter, but I don't personally agree with them. If we (unschoolers) want to always be considered the "freaks" of the educational world, the ones held up as the far extreme of the spectrum, then laying low is a good thing. Otherwise, I don't think it is! Knowledge and exposure are the first steps to understanding, and I think unschooling really does need more understanding! Yes, every time that an article about unschooling comes out there will be many people who are horrified by the idea, and proceed to call it child abuse, neglect, plain idiocy, etc. etc. etc... However, there are also always a handful of people who are interested, no matter how badly the article is written. A handful of people who decide to Google it themselves, who look into it and realize that this is the educational path they always wanted, but simply never knew it existed! For those people, having unschooling more "out there" is a wonderful thing. And since Emi and I are too old to get hassled by the government (Quebec has pretty shitty homeschooling laws), our family is the perfect one to do it!

Now I'm just left to worry if it'll be absolutely horrible... If it's not too bad, I'll link to it once it's published! :-P


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thoughts on NBTSC

I leave for Not Back to School Camp on Saturday!! My feelings on going are really mixed, and honestly, right now, I'm not really looking forward to it.

Last year was my first time at NBTSC, and I really didn't have as good a time as I could have... I found being in such a large, high energy group with no one whom I knew well to be incredibly stressful, and then I got a nasty cold on top of that. I wrote very honestly of my experiences last year here if you want to check it out. Come late Winter, however, I really wanted to do it right. To actually be more social, and really get all that I could get out of being with a large group of unschoolers! However, about a month ago, basically when I realized NBTSC was so close, I started feeling that it really wasn't right for me, for where I am in life right now. Now, I don't really feel that I do know what's *right* for me right now, and as a wise friend pointed out, perhaps I'll discover that at NBTSC! Then of course there's also the issue of sleeping outside in two walled cabins in the cold September nights of Vermont, the open air showers, and the outhouses, none of which make me terribly happy. I like camping usually, and don't fuss about stuff like that, but I'm having a hard enough time adjusting to the fact that Fall is here after a ridiculously short Summer, and I'm really not enjoying the colder weather, so the thought of being dumped outside in the cold makes me grumpy! :-P

Complaints about small things aside, I'm a very different person from the one I was last year. I notice it, and the people who've known me a while notice it even more! So I'm sure that my experience this year will be very different from last year. Whether it'll be positive, negative, or mixed, I do not know. I just know that it'll be different!

Moving on to something different, and totally wrecking the flow of this post, I realized that I don't think I ever actually announced that I have a Twitter account. I kind of snuck it into the links on the sidebar, but who reads those anyway? So, my point being, I have a Twitter account, so if you want to connect with me there, that's great! :-)

There are also a couple of cool things going down, but I'll save writing about those for another post...


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Shy, not bored. Honestly!

Lately, it seems that many people have been surprised when I say I'm shy... Because I'm always very open/honest, people seem to think that that somehow cannot go along with introversion! And that assumption that I'm not shy, because of my openness, is not a good thing, since my shy behavior is then interpreted as me being aloof, distant, bored, or not liking the person in question, none of which are true!

Because I've recently discovered that multiple people have mis-judged me in this way, I've been thinking about it a lot... It bothers me, since I'm a very social person in many ways, and really do love people in general, so I want to come across as friendly, not bored! Sometimes my natural shyness annoys the f**k out of me.

I've also been thinking of how my honesty/openness relates to my shy side, and I've realized that it's kind of my attempt to balance things out. Since people can't usually figure me out simply be meeting or talking to me, and can often get the wrong impression of me, I'm very, very truthful when I talk or write about myself. I explain why I am the way I am, why I behave in certain ways, how I really feel, in the hopes that I can be understood better.

By the way, having recently taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality thingy (thanks to Michael for the link! :-)), and having come up with INFJ, I blame everything on my rather unusual personality type. ;-)

Hope you guys don't mind my mini-rant/explanation/this rather pointless post. :-P


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Interesting articles

Some interesting articles I've found recently are:

The Left? No Thanks! by John Zerzan. A short critique of the left as a whole.

Parenting... A Radical, Political Act by Tabitha Tucker is about how very radical being a stay-at-home-parent actually is.

Mourning a Daughter, Celebrating a Son by Adriana Barton. A cool article about transgender teens.

Education Needs to be Turned on its Head by Leo Babauta is a good introductory article on unschooling. As usual for these types of articles, some of the comments are very frustrating!

Home Birth With Midwife Safe as Hospital from CBC. Overall very positive article on the safety of home births. From what I've read, home births are actually safer, but at least more people can see that they really are at least as safe as hospital births!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

A list of blogs by teenage and grown unschoolers

I've been asked fairly frequently for links to other teenage and grown unschoolers blogs, so I decided to put a bunch of links together in one post!  I try to keep this list updated with current blogs, so I add new ones as I discover them and remove blogs that are no longer active.

Eli Gerzon's Worldschooler Blog Eli is a grown unschooler from Boston who blogs about unschooling, worldschooling, and travel, as well as leading Worldschool Travel Tours.

Follow That Dream is a blog by Elisha, a grown unschooler who blogs about a variety of subjects, including unschooling.

The Organic Sister is a blog on natural living and unschooling by Tara, a grown unschooler who's now unschooling her own son!

College Rebellion is a website and blog by Jessica, a grown unschooler, who writes about uncolleging, travel, goal setting, finding employment, and similar interesting things.

Brighter Than a Buoy is a blog by grown unschooler and terrific songwriter Carsie Blanton.

If you're a teenage or grown unschooler who has a blog, or if you know of a teenage or grown unschooler who has one, just let me know and I'll add it to the list!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Super Soak the Olympic Torch

I love this show. I'm sure the style would turn some people off, but if you can get past that, it always has wonderful info, fascinating interviews, and is put together in an engaging way. Check out past episodes and other cool stuff at

This particular episode deals with some of the shit that Obama has been doing, as well as having extensive info on the 2010 Olympics and why they're a bad thing. The previous episode, Blame Canada, was also good.

I tried to embed the video from the subMedia site, but since it's not working from there, I embedded it from YouTube. To see the full video, you'll need to go here.

My sister and I have decided that we're going to check out the protest when the torch passes through Montreal, since we both want to lend our support...


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Just how welcoming, or not, is the unschooling community?

So, I said (or at least on Twitter I did... I'm not sure if I did anywhere else) that I was going to write a post on the unschooling community, and how welcoming, or not, it is. It's a big, as well as touchy, subject, but I'm going to take a stab at it, and hopefully I won't insult anyone, because that's really not my intention! Instead, I'd simply like to bring attention to something that is very important (at least to me) yet is rarely talked about, or at least rarely talked about openly.

Long before I became involved in the unschooling community in real life, when all of my interaction with fellow unschoolers was through the internet, pretty much everyone online wrote about how very welcoming and accepting the unschooling community was. That everyone was welcomed with open arms, despite their differences or personal oddities. Because of that, I think that both I and many other people who had yet to be a part of a large group of unschoolers had rather unrealistic expectations. I can't know if this is the case for a lot of people, I can only accurately speak for myself, but I have also encountered a couple of people online who felt the same. Because the truth is, unschoolers are still, when it comes down to it, a fairly normal (feel free to interpret the word "normal" however you like) group of people. There are most definitely cliques, and there are often people who get left out or feel ignored. That's not to say that there are not tons of awesome unschoolers, because there most certainly are! My problem is that the unschooling community as a whole portrays itself as something it is not. The unschooling community is by no means perfect.

At the Northeast Unschooling conference, which I attended recently, this was actually a fairly common topic, as I had discussions about cliquey-ness and acceptance with multiple people. Many of the conference goers, both young and old, had known each other for years, so it was especially hard for newcomers, who, it seemed, had a tendency to feel rather left out, since everyone was happily socializing with old friends and often forgetting to make an effort to include the newer folk. Those who are new to the community do most definitely need to make an active effort to get to know people, but I think the important thing is that they feel welcomed. This wasn't really an issue for me personally, as I made friends and quite enjoyed my conference experience. I know that is was an issue for one or two people though, and even a couple of people feeling unwelcome is a big deal to me, especially since this is a place that's supposed to be a haven, somewhere where people actually understand the life path that they're on! Just something to think about.

Another common discussion topic was welcoming "the minorities withing the minority", as one person put it. Welcoming those from different ethnic backgrounds, those with different sexual orientations, different economic backgrounds... Another thing that the part of the unschooling community that goes to conferences (and this is a big point. I think there is far more diversity in the greater unschooling community, just not so much in the group that shows up to conferences) really needs to do is recognize that it is really not a very diverse group. The great majority of conference attendees are white and middle class, and I'm rather embarrassed that this fact didn't make more of an impression on me when I first started attending unschooling gatherings (though admittedly I haven't attended very many!). I have Erika Davis-Pitre to thank for that. She has so many important things to say on a variety of topics, and such wonderful insights. I enjoyed every talk of hers I attended and every conversation with her I had!

My point in all of this is not to be judgmental. I do, however, get exasperated whenever I see someone raving about the absolute perfectness of unschoolers, because that simply isn't the reality. I believe one-hundred-percent that unschooling is the best option out there. That doesn't mean that just because you unschool, you, or your life, will be perfect, and it certainly doesn't mean that if you take a whole bunch of unschoolers and dump them in one place that you're going to get a perfect community. There's always room for improvement, and there will always be important issues to address. I think what we need to do is recognize that, admit it, and then see what we can do about it!

I want to thank all of the people whom I talked to at the Northeast conference. I had many wonderful conversations, important conversations, and conversations that really got me thinking... There are quite possibly some more posts coming thanks to all those fascinating people...


My mother's blog

My mommy is actually posting again on her (extremely) long forgotten blog!! Check out her post Some Thoughts on Unschoolers Fitting in. I enjoy reading what she has to say, so I think I'm going to start poking her to write more! :-P


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Overview of the Northeast Unschooling Conference 2009!

(This first paragraph was written last night. I ended up giving up after then and postponing the rest until today! :-P)

So, you know how I said I was going to write a daily journal entry unless I was having too much fun? Well, I was having too much fun! I'm honestly torn about whether or not I should write about the conference now, because I only arrived home today at about 7:30 pm and I'm ridiculously tired (hanging out with people was the priority at the conference, not sleep), but at the same time I really want to write about it while everything is still fresh in my mind! So I'm going to plow through the exhaustion, and hope that what I write isn't complete crap! (As I said above, I gave up on that idea. Instead, I'm writing Wednesday, when I'm slightly (only slightly) less sleep deprived!)

Day 2 (I counted the first day of travel as day 1) which also happens to be August 27

The 27th was Emilie's 16th Birthday, as well as being the first day of the conference! I felt really bad when I forgot to wish her a happy Birthday in the morning, but a friend of hers had discovered when her Birthday was and made her a lovely card, then got it signed by a ton of people at the conference. It was really sweet, and made Emi happy. :-)

Conference registration opened, and people just hung around the registration area talking. I didn't really know anyone well, so I was being pretty shy... My mom started talking to people so I just trailed around bouncing between my mom and Emi, until I got into a conversation, along with my mom, with Erika. I have to thank her for being the first person to make me relax and laugh!

I went to Eli's World Travel Photos session, and although there wasn't a great turnout (apparently the first time slot in a conference isn't necessarily the best), I enjoyed seeing the cool photos, and I had some interesting conversations with the people who were there about Montreal, Quebec, our culture and history, family history, and similar interesting things... I also got a henna tattoo, which is something I've wanted to do for a while, so I'm happy I finally did! It's mostly worn off by today, but it's still visible...

The whole afternoon my mom was stealthily arranging a surprise for my sister. In the evening, just before karaoke started, they played Happy Birthday and pulled out a cake. She was completely surprised, so that was awesome. :-)

Since I'm not exactly much of a karaoke person, I headed outside to throw a Frisbee around with a bunch of people instead. Now Frisbees, I like. :-)

After that, I headed to bed... Probably my earliest night of the whole week!

Day 3 (august 28)

This day was lots of fun, but so long it almost felt like two separate days! First off, I stumbled down to the Tie Dye workshop, where I greatly enjoyed dyeing my shirt in cool ways. I'm thrilled with how it turned out! I also got my feet and legs dyed, thanks to some very enthusiastic young kids with squirting dye bottles! :-) I then went to the Artist Trading Card funshop. I'd never heard of ATC's before, but I LOVE the idea! You take a small card (2 1/2 by 3 1/2 I believe) and do whatever you want with it. Collage, painting, drawing, basically creating a miniature work of art, then trade it with someone else for their miniature work of art. That way, everyone ends up with awesome artwork from all different people. Really cool!

The card at the top (I couldn't get the picture to rotate for some reason) has the most wonderful little story. It reads:

A lone fisherman sat on a stretch of beach. His single fishing pole was planted in the sand. Along came a businessman on vacation. "Why don't you have two poles so you can catch more fish?" the business asked. "Then what would I do?" asked the fisherman. "Then you could take the extra money, buy a boat, get nets and a crew, and catch even more fish." "Then what would I do?" asked the Corsican. "Then," said the businessman, "you could move up to a fleet of large ships, go whole-sale, and become very rich." "Then what would I do?" asked the Corsican. "Do whatever you want!" shouted the businessman. And the Corsican replied, "I am."

After lunch (or in my case most probably after hanging around with people or something, since I was either too busy or didn't feel like eating most of the time while I was there!) I went to a discussion called Unschooling Teens, then to one called Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol, both of which were interesting. THEN I went to a session with Michael about GLBT issues, which ended up being more of a presentation on transgender issues, which I'm glad of. It was a great session! I think that too often people focus entirely on sexual orientation, and forget that gender identity is something extremely important that more people should be talking about! EDIT: Bonnie wrote a cool post on that here.

That evening, I stayed up late talking to people and listening to beautiful music played, and sung, by Julian (check out his stuff here).

Day 4 (August 29)

Went to Erika and Kathryn's Even More Different talk, which was great and really got me thinking. After that, I spent most of the lunch break having fascinating conversations.

I picked at food a bit, talked to people a lot, then went to Eli and my discussion, Untraditional Adult Paths. There was a really good turnout, which tells me that this is something that should be talked about more at unschooling conferences, since apparently it interests a lot of people! I feel it went really well. Most people were a lot more interested in Eli's input, since he's been doing things "untraditionally" for a while now, but I'm happy with what input I did give, and it was great to hear from several people who have managed quite well without either college or regular jobs. :-)

After that, I went to a photograohy funshop! There were only a few of us, so basically we just hung around chatting about photography, then wandered around a bit taking pictures. It was fun.

We fed a couple of people sandwiches, then it was on to the entertainment of the evening. An absolutely AWESOME band called Fishing With Finnegan, made up of grown unschooling siblings, was playing, and they were tons of fun. They play Irish, Scottish, English, and American folk, and they do it with much humour and a unique flair. I highly reccomend that you check them out! After the concert, I sat around talking with a couple of of the band members, as well as the other cool people I'd been hanging out with. Even once the band members were dragged away by the rest of their family, I stayed talking to people for a while more... Are you noticing a theme here? Another long but good day.

Day 5 (August 30)

The last official day of the conference, I was finally relaxed enough to pretty much just be myself. That always seems to happen with me. I only ever relax at the end of an event! After closing remarks, I, can you guess? Yup, hung around talking to people for a couple of hours! Then I played a game that was quite popular, especially with the moms (they were intense at that game. Scarily intense. O_o), called Bananagrams.

Annnd after that, virtually everyone who hadn't left right after closing remarks went out for Sushi! It was kind of funny actually. Someone called the restaurant ahead of time to make reservations, but the restaurant understood the reservation to be for 3 to 5 people, when really it was for 35!! Luckily, they managed to fit all 45 of us in (more people went then had oroginally said they would). My table played hang man (with much laughter and joking around) while we waited for our food, and the sushi was really good. Fun times. :-)

Having entirely given up on getting any decent sleep while still at the con, I was up late with a bunch of people who decided to not sleep at all... I was actually one of the first to bed, at 2:30 or so!

Day 6 (August 31)

The last conference activity was a picnic in Salem, right on the beach. I played Frisbee, hung around with peeps, and went for a long walk on the beach...

I also came very close to heading straight to Texas for the Rethinking Education conference with a couple of friends! It was a crazy plan that ended up not working out (airfare was just too expensive), but it really brought home the fact that it's very possible to just take off across the country when you feel like it, so I've decided I'm going next year. That conference looks awesome, and there's no reason why I shouldn't go!

It was sad saying goodbye to everyone, and the hotel felt so very quiet and lonely that night...

Day 7 (September 1)

We drove home. Pretty simple, really.

Now, this post feels like such a skimming of the surface (and I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot of the surface stuff as well). I had so many wonderful conversations, such a wonderful time overall, so many new thoughts and realizations, that I can't possibly fit it all into one post. There are several issues and things that I plan on devoting whole posts too, but for now this will do. Some interesting posts you may want to check out, that are to do with this conference, are Jean's post on "unparenting" at the conference (it was pretty bad), and Bonnie's posts entitled Shit Happens. Even to Unschoolers. and Highlights from NEUC 2009. Eli also wrote an overview of the conference here.

As I said, more to come soon!


New issue of unschooling blog carnival

The latest, "Not-Back-To-School", issue of the Carnival of Unschooled Life is out. Check it out here!


50 Eye-Opening Unschooling blogs

I was notified today of a new collection of unschooling blogs, including mine, entitled 50 Eye-Opening Unschooling Blogs. Check it out!