June 3, 2008

Home Again

We drove home from Sacramento yesterday and now I'm faced with putting into words everything that's happened in the last two weeks--namely the Life is Good Unschooling Conference! I did start writing a post after Day One of the conference, but never managed to finish it. Here's what I started with:
Our First Unschooling Conference, Or Thank Goodness For Pokemon

It's the end of day one at Life is Good in Vancouver, Washington. Here's how things are going so far. But first let me just say that I know this is only day one and without a doubt things will change before the conference is over on Sunday.

Right off the bat we had a brilliant stroke of luck. It turns out Diana was meeting a 15-year-old unschooled girl from Maryland in Vancouver the day before the conference. They had met a few years back at Live and Learn and Olivia, said girl, was flying out to stay with Diana for the Life is Good conference. Luckily for us Diana was delayed and was looking for someone to host Olivia in their room for Wednesday night. We offered our extra bed (Warren won't arrive until Saturday morning) and Olivia took it. So we spent our first night in the company of a smart, gregarious, friendly, interesting and interested nearly sixteen-year-old girl with dreadlocks and a fabulously strong sense of self. It was great. I think we might have felt kind of lonely without her. So thanks Diana for hooking us up!

Today the conference officially started. I was hoping we'd find some friends for Jerry yesterday b
That's it. The "b" was for "but we didn't." I was going to go on to say it was hard making friends for the both of us. It was touch and go in the beginning for Jerry. He was really overwhelmed by all the kids. I worried that he would stay in the hotel room the entire time but Jerry braved the crowds and made some terrific friends. One of his favorite new friends was a 9-year-old girl just down the hall from us named Violet. They had a great time together playing their Ds's (Jerry's using his old one now) and talking about Pokemon. There were lots of Pokemon fans at the conference, by the way, and I think that's part of what helped Jerry to connect with people. He also made friends with a girl named Michelle who, in addition to loving Pokemon, was into Manga and Anime (two more of Jerry's favorite things). Then there was Simon (from England). On Sunday afternoon Jerry went with Simon's family to a shop that sold Pokemon and Digimon cards. He loved it so much we went back on Monday. (It took us two hours to find and then it was closed when we got there so we had to go back two hours later! At least we knew the way the second time around. Can I just say Portland, Oregon is not the easiest city to navigate?)

So anyway, Jerry made friends and had fun. He even stayed out later than me a couple nights which I was happy about because it meant he was having fun and feeling free, but which also gave me a taste of what the teenage years must be like for parents--and I wasn't liking it. I knew he was in the hotel--somewhere. And I knew he'd come back to the room--eventually. But I didn't know exactly where he was or when he'd be back. I hadn't given him any instructions about where to stay or when to come "home." I was completely in the dark and relying 100% on Jerry's own good sense to keep him safe. When he finally came back to the room (and it wasn't even that late) I still had a hard time sleeping. It was just so weird to totally let go of my control like that and trust that Jerry would make the right decisions and come back to me all in one piece. I'm bound to get plenty of practice with trusting him as the years go by. And I suppose starting out by trusting him to learn what he needs to know will make trusting him to keep himself safe a little easier. Maybe? I hope so anyway!

So that was Jerry's experience at the conference--overwhelming but good. My experience was similar. I found that the people who already knew each other tended to stick together. It would have been nice if there'd been some kind of gathering for the people who were new to the unschooling tribe to get together and introduce themselves because that was the one disappointment--it wasn't as easy as I'd hoped it would be to connect with people. It's just so weird to go up to people you don't know and start talking to them--for me anyway. But that's what I ended up doing in the end so I managed to make some friends, too. Oh and I met some fellow bloggers, which was really cool. 

The presentations were good but there wasn't one that especially stood out for me. I really enjoyed hearing what Alliison McKee and Mary Lewis had to say. Both of them did a lot to assuage my fears. Warren went to the Secret Society of Unschooling Dads discussion and I think he got a lot out of that. He finally agreed that unschooling makes a lot of sense, but I know he still worries. It's great to feel like we're finally on the same page, though. 

I didn't take any pictures at the conference but lots of other people did. Mary, the conference diva, has lots of pics on her blog at Zenmomma's Garden. I'll post more links to photos as I find them. All in all I'm really glad we went. I still hope to go to Live and Learn but I'm not sure if Jerry is going to want to go. I know I can go on my own but I can't decide if I want to. I think I'd really miss the experience of being there with my family. Part of what made Life is Good so good was the fact that we were there together. Really, the main reason I want to go to Live and Learn (aside from hoping I'll be inspired by the speakers) is that I want to meet my blogging friends in person. But it's going to be sooooo expensive in the end I'm not sure if I can justify it. We'll see.

Since I haven't managed to describe the best parts about the conference at all, you should go here for a terrific description of what was best about being surrounded by like-minded adults and children. It's written by one of my new friends, Robin.

Once the conference was over Jerry and I drove about three hours north to visit my aunt and uncle. They just finished building a house on some lakefront property they've had for years. They used to camp on it but now they've sold their house and are living full-time on this little slice of paradise. It was lovely. I helped out in the garden. My uncle very graciously gave Jerry free reign to create his own account on their computer and helped us try to discover what went wrong with our mousebot (aside from problem with the melted on/off switch, which is pretty obvious). We paddled around the lake. I saw an eagle and lots of other birds. We watched So You Think You Can Dance. We read the first book of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. And now we can't wait to go back!

So now that we're home here's what's on tap: building that computer, fixing our mousebot (it only goes backwards), keeping my worms alive in the vermicompost bin, cleaning out the garage, going to the Griffith Park Observatory to look at their GIANT periodic Table of Elements because I'm reading all about atoms right now, resting, reading some more---------

Oh my god how could I have forgotten to mention the highlight of my visit to Portland!? We went to Powell's book store!! (Can you hear the angels singing in the background?) It was huge and wonderful and I want to bring my sleeping bag next time we're there so I can hide out in a corner at closing time and spend the entire night roaming the 77,000 square feet of stacks and stacks and stacks of books. I LOVED it. I get all giddy just thinking about it....

Okay, I guess that about does it for now. We're home for a month before we head back to Northern California for my parents annual July 4th party, then in mid-July Jerry starts his three weeks of summer camp at an absolutely idyllic ranch in the Shasta-Trinity Alps, and by the time he comes home summer will be nearly over. I'm about to experience my second summer in four months (one in the southern hemisphere and one in the northern) and I still feel like the season is too short! How is that possible!?

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