Fun On The Farm: Madeline Rains' Interview

Madeline lives in Georgia and she and her husband, Nicolas Donck, are busy raising two boys. And organic vegetables. She blogs at her site, Barn-Raising. The photo above is of their son Jesse.

Mom reports that they love to have laughing/staring contests which is a great game because when you think about it, no one really loses do they?

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

It's been seven years. My oldest, Gillen, now almost twelve, went to one year of a Montessori school when he was four. We started unschooling right after that. Jesse, three years younger, has never been to school.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

The most exciting thing we have gotten to do, as a result of being free of structure and school restrictions, was that last year we went to Australia to visit my brother and his family for a month. We travel whenever we can and are lucky to have family in Europe, Montana and Mass. as well as in Australia.

In addition, Gillen has used his freedom from school to start a few different farm businesses over the years.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

Lately, backyard baseball games with Papa every evening have been a must. We've always had so much fun going to unschooling conferences or visiting friends we've made at these conferences. We are going to the conference in Mass. next month and are driving there so that we can see friends along the way.

Fun and laughter are pretty present here, and look different all the time - from cracking ourselves up with made-up songs and jokes to watching movies (we watched "Bolt" last night and laughed a lot) to having many laughing/staring contests.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

Hmmm. The most recent example is of the boys' poker game outfits. The elaborate poker-face-hiding costumes that they create, with camouflage, bandanas and glasses, so as to be able to bluff well, are as much fun as the game. They just don't hide their joy or giggling very well. They need all the help they can get.

A Life of Magic: Stephanie Sims' Interview

Somewhere near Salt Lake City, Utah, right now, there's probably a little bit of magic going on.

Stephanie tries to help her family live a life of magic and blogs about it here. It sounds to me like she succeeds very well at creating a peaceful and magical place for her family.

But, every once in a while, just for a change of pace I guess, someone might get a little bit cheeky...

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

My children - Trevelyn (son, brand-new eight) and Madeleine (daughter, just turned four) have never been to school. [grin] The closest we've come were homeschool co-op classes or Gymboree where Mama got panicky and stressed about the need for Sitting Down And Listening. Neither one lasted too long. Didn't make much sense for us.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

Flexibility doesn't really come into play for us, as we know no other way.

I mean... even if something isn't flexible or negotiable, it is for us. Which could quite possibly [ahem] be irritating to some of the souls around us.

I don't mean to be dismissive or rude... but Freedom is as needed as breath. Not only from a rebellious (and possibly anarchist, lol) point of view, but spiritually.

I want my children to live their "Grandest Version of the Grandest Vision" they have ever had for themselves, as Neale Donald Walsch so beautifully put it.

I figure learning and living in Freedom without limits (as best their dad and I can manage) will go a long way in facilitating that ideal.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a
few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

When my daughter was born, my mama gave me, or rather, Madeleine, a book called "My Mother Gave Me The Moon," written by Patrick Regan and illustrated by Becky Kelly.

She (my mother) wrote an inscription that said something like how lucky Madeleine was to be born to me, and that she would be loved so, so much.

I didn't feel that I was that "wheel barrow races and butterfly chases" Mama, but I knew that I wanted to be.

I wanted it with everything that I was.

I wanted to provide my children a life of magic... to fill their lives up with so much of it that they took it entirely for granted... and believed that it was the only way to live.

I wanted to transfer special and occasional life magic into everyday Ordinary Life Magic.

In keeping with that wish, I keep track of our days and moments, and do my best to provide my babes with lots and lots of it.

Sometimes I think that others perceive us as just the Ordinary part... :), and that's fine too. If there's so much frolicking and goodness going on in the world that it seems ordinary, that can only be a good thing.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one
of yours with us?

It's a good thing I blog and write some of these things down!
This one seems appropriate...

Upon getting off the telephone from making plans with friends, I go to the den (it was a madhouse back there) and let Eric in on The Events Of The Day. He's in a grump.

"What?" I ask.

"I'm working on my my ipod (library) and Trev just comes and turns off my computer, and laughs hysterically!"

He's frustrated, so I take Trev into the livingroom.

"Bud... how would you feel if you were working on a new really cool Spore creation, and someone just turned off your computer, causing you to lose it?"

"That would just be rude!"

"But how would you feel?"

"I would feel angry...." he says with a non-repentant and mischeivous smirk.

"What's going on?" I asked, wondering if he was feeling disappointed that Eric wasn't playing with him or something (heaven forbid Daddy ever taking two minutes for himself)... "How are you feeling that you would do that?"

"I'm just feeling....cheeky! You know what cheeky means, right, Mom?"

"Yes, I know what cheeky means," said I with a straight face.

I think we all have tons of stories like this - particularly if we respect and encourage our children's individuality... like after a month-long binge of Cartoon Network a little boy turns off the tv and wants to know what a minotaur is. And extends his arm and motions, "Ladies, first."

Life itself is humorous and spectacular and amazing and Magic.... if only we'll honor it as such and let it be.

Counting Planets Can Be Tricky: Gina's Interview

This is Kali on a rock somewhere on planet Earth. She lives with her mom and dad in Massachusetts, which is also on planet Earth.

Her mom, Gina, blogs about her family's life here on Earth at her site, Homeschooling Mom Going Sane. Gina knows a lot about Earth, but she received a suprise lesson recently when the two of them were discussing the number of planets in our little corner of the universe...

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

We have been homeschooling since 12/2007 when we took our daughter - Kali - out of public school midway through 5th grade and we will never return to the chaos of the life that we led prior to homeschooling. Our choice to embark on this journey brought back the daughter that we had lost during the prior 3 years of public school.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

There are so many benefits that it is hard to choose, but I will try to narrow it down.

The flexibility and freedom of choice is HUGE academically for us - we often will speed through or slow down during different areas of study depending on the interest level as well. For example, if I have a week planned out for a unit, but Kali is just not feeling it, we can get it done in a day or two and on the other hand, if she is truly inspired by the topic we could take a month or more to do a really in-depth study.

Another benefit is being able to pick and choose WHEN we do our lessons. If Kali wakes up on a Sunday morning and realizes that there is a solar eclipse that will occur on that day - she can spend the day researching eclipses, why they happen, how often they happen and anything else that she can come up with and that can be considered a school day!

Vice versa if there is a 90 degree Tuesday in May and we want to go to the beach for the day - WE CAN! ~ of course I would probably still count that as a school day as she tends to search through tidal pools and examine everything she finds! But we have the freedom to do that!

Besides academically, the freedom also benefits our family as a whole in many ways. We have a VERY eclectic and VERY extended family and one of the most profound benefits about the freedom of homeschooling is the amount of time that we get to spend with our family members that we just didn't have time to see when Kali was in school.

She has such formed incredible connections with her extended family - aunts and uncles, cousins, great & great, great aunts and uncles- that is so touching to me and never would have been there if she still had to spend 8-10 hours a day being in school and doing "school" work.

Kali's dad has a job in a profession that flows with the seasons and this was always REALLY hard for all of us during the spring and summer months when he gets busiest - however now she can stay up and wait for him to come home or we can go and have lunch with him, which helps a bit. She also gets to see him so much more during his slower times in the winter when he can be involved in her lessons.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

We have fun in just about everything we do now - truly I am not just saying that. The freedom of homeschooling has allowed our family to really connect again and we truly enjoy being with each other! There are so many moments that have occured over the last year and a half that I have thought "This never would have happened if she were in school!"

I think the one thing that truly sticks in my mind is the incredible amount of fun that Kali gets to have with her younger cousins. They spend so much time just being silly, giggling, blowing bubbles, making up games, playing in the rain and just having FUN with each other.

Now I know that a lot of people might think - well wouldn't she get to see her cousins anyway, but really not like she does. Kali is 11 and her favorite cousin -Sophia- is 2 - I watch her for my sister a few days a week and we have all day to play with her on those days, but if Kali was still in Public School she would have left for school hours before Sophia gets here and would be home for about 30 minutes before she gets picked up.

Kali has also made a TON of true friends through our homeschooling network - not that she didn't have "friends" before, but they were more based on what kids were put into her class that year and not because they had things in common. Now she has friends that she truly likes and has things in common with, that she can have fun with, doing things that they are all interested in.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

We have had several situations where things like this have happened - While looking up information on the planets Kali and I had a heated debate over the number of planets. She said 8 and I was positive that there were 9. We then proceeded to list them and we both got them all until we got to Pluto - little did I know that in 2006 it was demoted to a dwarf planet.

About 2 weeks later we had a very similiar conversation that happened when we were discussing the oceans and again about a month later when the topic of Australasia came shows that you really should look over the material if you want your kids to think you have the ability to "teach" them!

Who knew so many things had changed in the world since I was in school - just a little over 12 years ago! I actually enjoy the fact that we are learning so many things together. My strength lies in Mathematics and I am pretty sure those theories will not be changing anytime soon - as long as I keep her away from that "Public School" version of math that is!

She Thought It Was Only Temporary: Tara Wagner's Interview

Tara thought homeschooling was only going to be a temporary option at first, but her family is just having too much fun to quit now. She blogs at The Organic Sister and lives with her husband and son in Las Vegas, Nevada. By the looks of this photo I bet they are a lot of fun to hang with, don't you?

could we be any weirder?

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

We've been unschooling for two and a half years. Zeb went to a private school for 2.5 years (from age 5 to 7.5) before we finally admitted it wasn't working. Homeschooling was meant to be a temporary means, until I discovered unschooling. The happy faces and joyful stories of unschooling families and their connections was my biggest inspiration to take the leap.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

Unschooling has changed the way we view our lives. We've prioritized. We've all found things that we're passionate about and don't allow "shoulds" and "should nots" to rule our choices. It's given us a freedom to be more authentic, more room for spontaneity and space to just breathe it all in.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

Wow. How do I narrow it down?! There's the group hikes or camping trips, swimming parties and games, plays and movies and sleepovers. Stand-up comedy and other silly videos on YouTube, fairs and shows, gardening (okay, that one is only fun for me and the Hubs!), bike rides and scavenger hunts, too. We're not trapped into time frames or arbitrary or boring tasks. Our days aren't rulled by someone else's clock and we try not to do anything that isn't enjoyable (except cleaning the bathrooms - I'll never enjoy that).

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

I think the funniest moment was when we had only been unschooling for a few months. Zeb was still deschooling and was very verbal about his distaste for anything he thought resembled school. My mom asked Zeb how he liked homeschooling and with great enthusiasm he replied "It's great! I get to learn whatever I want and right now I'm learning nothing!!"

Don't Box Her In: Nance Confer's Interview

Today's interview is from Nance Confer, who blogs over at Cocking A Snook with JJ Ross.

Poor Nance had a hard time with my questions.

I think the format boxed her in too much. Maybe it seemed too much like a test. For whatever reason, she just wasn't comfortable with the box I gave her so she did what any resourceful, independent homeschooling mom would do and simply punched her way out of it.

When Nance wrote back, she apologized for tearing up the box and said she would understand if I didn't use her response. But I'm running a blog that focuses on freedom, flexibility and fun, so as long as she had fun with it, then I'm certainly flexible enough to give her the freedom to respond in her own way.

Besides, I have plenty of duct tape.

Now let's take a look at what Nance had to say about her family's homeschooling experience after she kicked that box of questions out of her way...

Enjoying Life and Each Other

We live in a very small town on the East Coast of Florida. There are four of us: DD (dear daughter), DS (dear son), DH (dear husband) and me. And the cats. And the fish. And the hermit crab. From the outside, we look like an average suburban family.

DH has his own business in construction. I help with the office side of things. I also run an umbrella school for unschoolers and other homeschoolers in Florida. And I volunteer once a week as a literacy tutor.

And I spend the rest of my time juggling kids. The fun part. :)

We started homeschooling over 10 years ago when DS, now 16, “dropped out” of Kindergarten. We lasted seven months in school. The problem was that he could already read. They were pleasant but had nothing much for him to do and no really good suggestions. So we started homeschooling and, after spending way too much time studying state standards and trying different curriculums and study programs, we discovered unschooling.

And have lived happily ever after! Well. . . close enough. :)

One of the best things about homeschooling is that we are free to come and go as we please. We have a limited budget but we aren’t on anyone else’s schedule. So we have a very easygoing lifestyle. Until one of the kids decides to join a drama camp that has five-hour rehearsals every day. Or the other one decides he needs extra workout sessions to train for a national Tae Kwon Do tournament. Then it’s a bit of hustle and bustle but all by choice.

DD, 14, and DS are each lovely, intelligent, warm human beings. They are a pleasure to be around, to talk with, to learn from. They have always had very different personalities and interests but, because we unschool, we haven’t really had to force any square pegs into round holes. We’ve just been able to follow interests as they have come up, keeping what works and discarding the rest.

I suppose I could go on about reading milestones or artsy creations. Black belts achieved and library cards melted. But I don’t feel the need to justify what we do or brag on the kids that way. They are special and wonderful children who are smart, funny and kind. Not through the magic of any particular kind of schooling but because nothing has gotten in their way. Not because of their various achievements or interests but because that’s who they are.

And that’s who we are -- your average happy suburban family next door. And, yes, we happen to be homeschoolers. :)

Living and Learning Together Everyday: Katherine Anderson's Interview

Today we meet a family from a small rural town in South Carolina. Katherine is married to Brian and they have one child, Karl. They are kind of on the front end of homeschooling since Karl turns 6 this month. Happy Birthday Karl!

Mom blogs about their lives at Essentially Unschooling and reports that one of her favorite things about spending so much time with a curious young boy is that it gives her a good excuse to have fun getting messy, especially with food.

I just hope she leaves Karl's birthday cake alone.

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

Officially I've only just started really. Karl will turn 6 in July.

I came to unschooling, which I'd never heard of at the time, via a mention online of it on an attachment parenting e-list. Attachment parenting was a no-brainer for me, as I'm hard of hearing, and putting Karl in a crib in another room just wasn't feasible for me. I'd never be able to hear him from my bed. There was no way I was going to do that.

So basically I started learning unschooling at the same time I was researching attachment parenting, which was while I was still pregnant! So I had in mind this wonderful idea of the whole family living together everyday from the very beginning and we love it more and more all the time.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

Since coming in contact with unschooling boards, I've never looked back. Unschooling was an easy concept for me to grasp because I was an unorthodox thinker and had a hard time fitting in school myself, so I knew exactly what all the talk about visual spatial learner and things like that were getting at.

Karl, and all of us really, have been learning so much together all along on our unschooling journey. We love it more and more all the time. It has benefitted me in countless ways, not least because it fit the way I was already living even before I met and married Brian, and it fit the direction I wanted to go in making changes to make our lives even better. I could see myself being able to do it.

It's hard to imagine a freer more flexible route to take with regard to education and just plain living life than homeschooling, and unschooling is an uber-style of homeschooling when it comes to freedom.

We're not missing Karl all day in school and he's not missing us. We're together. That's the first freedom we like about it. That's wonderful in itself. At this point, I can't imagine putting Karl in school unless it were an adventure he wanted to go on.

The very basis of unschooling is creating freedom of choice for children. Anybody who wants to know more about that should look up John Holt who coined the word and laid a solid foundation for why children need choices and then how to make that happen in a world that doesn't take freedom of choice for children very far.

It's gradual though. We started when Karl was just a tiny one. Things we could do that would answer what seemed to be what he wanted, we would do. It's more in depth than a simple definition and a set of easy to follow steps though. The freedom benefits the trust between us parents and Karl, it benefits our family connection.

What we're doing here has benefited our marriage and the closeness between Brian and me too. Brian and I came from strict religious backgrounds, so allowing freedom has been a long process for us both and the benefits are numerous, and not the least is to enjoy lots of happy times with Karl.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

You have a lot of f-words for us to touch on... freedom, flexibility and now fun.

Playing computer games, watching Karl cook and do experiments, talking about all kinds of things, watching movies, TV shows and going to the theater, drawing and puzzling out things on paper, watching Karl do puppet shows, play dress up, making videos, finding some really beautiful parks to play in with shade and water and places to run and walking trails, visiting so many people and places even being a one-car family (we use car availability on the weekends to the max!), going on trips out of state and taking side trips on the way up, and there are lots more things that we do.

And it's all fun mostly because either Karl likes an idea we have or he has one of his own to try out. Yo-yo's, magnets, blobby stuff like Silly Sludge and Silly Putty. Those are all very fun and being a girl in a strict home, well ... let's just say, now *I* get to play with it too. Ha. Playing with food and making up meals and shopping lists together. Anything to do with food! Mud, dirt, sand... we love to mess with it.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

Karl was making one of his recipes. Some are successes by his standards and some are not. A recent one had to do with eggs and water. Karl thought it was so funny. We laughed and laughed and laughed as the dog, looking suspiciously at us since we were all going a little crazy, ate up the concoction. The mixture looked so funny and the dog thought it was DElish! Well I guess you had to be there.

Mysterious Guru on a Mountaintop: Beverly's Interview

This is Beverly. She lives in Minnesota with her family and likes to sit on the tops of mountains and answer in riddles.

She blogs at Homeschool Image where her kids are known as Princess, Gameboy and Cookie. I'm sure mom has lots of riddles about how those names came about too.

But the biggest riddle of all is how she and her husband have managed to avoid owning cellphones. Even her 4 year-old has one for goodness sakes...

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

I imagine that sometimes when I answer queries about our homeschooling life, I must sound like a mysterious guru on a faraway mountaintop who answers only in riddles.

If you ask, "How long have you been homeschooling?" I might answer, "My oldest child is 10." I think all parents are homeschoolers, and a child's education begins even before birth.

But I'm not so dense as to not understand the question. You're asking, "For how many years since your children have been school aged have you not enrolled them in school?"

And the answer to that would be that this coming fall will be my eighth year. But even the simple answer could be more complicated, still. I registered my oldest child as a homeschool kindergartner one year early because he has an October birthday and was already reading so well.

A few years later, I declared him to be in second (or third?) grade two years in a row so he'd be back with kids his age. And another complication in this answer is that in our state, Minnesota, education is not compulsory until age 7, so I didn't need to register them until that age anyway, so perhaps that is when homeschooling began.

So I have an answer, but I'll say again: My oldest child is 10. I have two others, ages 7 and 4. None of them have been enrolled in school.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

Freedom for our family unit is perhaps the number one reason for choosing not to enroll the kids in school. It can be hard to explain to people, but I don't see homeschooling as a choice so much as I see school enrollment as a choice. After all, the baby is at home, toddler is at home, the family is living at home. Keeping them there is just maintaining the status quo.

Choosing to pursue an education outside of the home seems like a big choice for a family, and a choice that most people make. I trust that families know what works best for them, and I support others people's choice to send their kids to school. I don't think school is necessarily a bad place.

But back to the freedom homeschooling allows. There are practical matters, such as being able to go on vacation anytime.

My kids have been in several plays, and it never stresses me if they're at practice very late because I know they can sleep in the next morning.
Beverly uses nicknames for her kids on her blog. Pictured: "Princess" (left) and "Cookie" (right) join "Gameboy" in the lobby of a theater on opening night of a play in which he played a queen's royal adviser.

I work part-time at night, and it's nice the next day not needing to get children ready for school.

There are aspects of freedom that are more philosophical, too, such as the freedom to teach matters of faith and personal family values in the context of whatever they're learning.

There's the freedom to follow a child's curiosity and find teachable moments that happen every day. There's the freedom to quit things that aren't working.

Children experience freedom, too, I think, when they are able to avoid peer pressure at a young age and develop a strong sense of self.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

A memory that has stuck with us happened a few years ago when I was reading "Eragon" out loud to my son, a book about a boy and a dragon, and one which we were enjoying together.

There are many descriptions in the book about what kind of food two characters are eating as they travel a long distance on foot. On a sunny day, we went to a store and bought homemade dry sausage, a fresh baguette and block of aged cheddar cheese. We took this food on a short hike to the basalt top of the highest peak around.

As we sat there eating the food, my son's imagination was filled with the image of the dragon flying around us. Reading the book, buying the food and traveling to a place similar to the book was really fun and created a special memory for us.

In an academic sense, I suppose it instilled in him the feeling that books can transcend their pages and affect your real life with emotions and shared experiences. I don't try to break things down academically too often, though. I just enjoy our time together.

Another example: My oldest two children have been in several community theater plays. Last year, I decided to audition, too, and the three of us were in a play together. People would ask, "Is it hard to get your school work done while you're all in this play?" and I'd say, "What do you mean? This *is* school!"

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

I tell funny stories on my blog, but I don't separate "life stories" from "homeschooling stories," I suppose.

I like the funny games the kids invent; right now there is a target taped to the end of the hallway. There are different points in different zones. The game is, you run down the hall with your arm extended, hand pointing. Wherever your pointing finger lands, that's how many points you get. You'd think it would be easy, but actually, when you're running, it's kind of hard to control where it goes.

All three of my kids independently invented the game where you crawl around with a laundry basket on your back and pretend you're a turtle.

My 4-year-old was on a pretend cell phone yesterday, calling her boyfriend named "Muscles." This struck me as extra funny since my husband and I don't have cell phones.

So to me, the kids are the funniest bunch on earth. Our homeschooling is just a part of our life, my husband and I being aware that they are children who need to be taught so naturally, we teach them.

The College Decision

This is a very thought-provoking article:

Is A College Degree Worthless?

The author covers a lot of ground and not just on money issues but he also gets into the whole idea of what it means to be educated in our society.

This article has attracted over 1000 comments too. Education is so darn controversial, which really makes one wonder why we continue to believe in so many one-size-fits-all options.

NOTE: I don't know what's up with blogger but the scheduled posts option does not seem to be working right. For the past few weeks, I've had to go in and publish the posts manually even though they've been scheduled. If anyone knows anything about this, I'd appreciate any help.

If It's Not Fun, We Don't Do It: Gail Higgins' Interview

Gail and her family live in Jacksonville Florida and she blogs about her life at Hummingbird Haven.

(In the family photo to the left is Brenna McBroom, Broc Higgins, Gail Higgins and Logan McBroom.)

Like a lot of families, they didn't start out having lots of fun with their education, but they soon figured out that if you just follow your interests and have fun, learning happens.

Like the title says, if it's not fun, Gail's family is probably not going to do it, unless you get stuck on a boat out in the ocean...

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool?

We started homeschooling when Brenna was 8 and Logan was 5 and they are now 19 and 16. We started with a more traditional homeschooling approach and happily discovered radical unschooling when they were 13 and 10 and never looked back.

Logan is busy these days playing guitar, Rock Band, World of Warcraft, and enjoying both virtual and real visits with unschooling friends all over the country. He is very computer savvy and is my go-to guy with anything computer related. Recently, he has traveled with his good friend, Cameron Lovejoy, from Florida all the way to Rhode Island with many stops in between to attend an unschooling conference and visit with friends He is a weekly contributor to a Youtube vlog created by seven unschooled teens called Our Seven Cents.

Brenna is home for the summer from her first year of college at New College, a small liberal arts college in Sarasota, Florida. It's a perfect fit for her as it allows her to continue to explore areas of interest at a college with no grades. She's a potter, and is exploring acting, photography and becoming an ASL interpreter.

It is evident in spending time with them that they are both happy, content and confident.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

It has impacted every area of our lives and the freedom has allowed us the opportunities to have time to travel whenever we wanted and to explore every interest that we came upon. We have met other unschooling families from all over the world at unschooling conferences and we spend much of our free time getting together with them. The friendships that we have developed and the connections we each have made through them have enriched our lives in ways that I never imagined.

Our family life just flows naturally. We play games, we cook, we travel, we share ideas and things that we discover individually, we encourage each other's passions and usually that leads to another avenue that one or all of us wants to explore.

It sounds easy after all these years doing it but getting to that point was intense for me especially and it took a lot of questioning, reading, and just taking the leap of doing it every day. I often tell the story of how I met all these unschooling families at a conference and just knew in my heart that I wanted the kind of relationships in my family and with my children that I saw there. I trusted that we could get there. And we did.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

There really aren't many fun memories for me or for the kids when we were doing more traditional homeschooling. I think more damage came from that than might have come had I just put them in school.

This may make it sound simple, but it's mostly all been fun since we started unschooling and early on it became evident that if it wasn't fun, we just wouldn't do it. We just lived our lives, explored things of interest to each of us and learning happened continually.

It was a gradual realization that it really was a simple yet amazing and fun life.

We have traveled to Boston, New York, Niagara Falls,St. Louis, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, Oregon, Washington State and Washington,D.C. in the years of going to unschooling conferences.

Both Brenna and Logan have also attended Not Back to School Camp on the east coast for several years.

Some of our recent fun has been been playing Bananagrams, going to house concerts, playing Rock Band, getting a pottery wheel and throwing pots, building a square foot garden, and last evening our whole family went blueberry picking and brought home 12 pounds of blueberries. I can't think of anything we do that isn't fun.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

We do just live our lives so it all counts and it's not separated into homeschooling and non-homeschooling times. The first thing that comes to mind occurred when we went to our second Live and Learn Conference in Peabody (close to Boston)Massachusetts in 2004.

We had been unschooling for only a year and so this was our first conference really meeting other radical unschoolers and we truly had the time of our lives and met people that have now become some of our dearest friends.

The last day of the conference, many of the families took advantage of going on a Whale Watch which sounds like so much fun! Just put a large group of people with lots of young children on a small boat and go out into the ocean and look at whales.

I had given the kids Dramamine in the hopes that it would keep them from getting seasick and it became evident quite quickly that was the kind that makes you drowsy! So Logan and I were both drowsy and nauseous and I think Brenna was asleep at a table on the lower deck.

In our drug-induced state we did catch a glimpse of a whale or two. The first one was cool but it quickly lost its charm as the boat would race to another area to see yet another whale and the people would run to the other side of the boat to see it while dodging spewing vomit from the upper deck as sick children and adults were throwing up! I'm not sure how long we were out there but it seemed like days!

Logan was maybe 10 years old and had spent much of the conference playing Yu-Gi-Oh until we went on the Whale Watch. Apparently though, he had used a post card from our hotel room to write a short note to his cousin back in Jacksonville,
Florida. As we were checking out of the hotel the morning after the whale watch, he handed me the post card to mail and I read this short message:

"Cailin, never ever ever go on a whale watch!" Logan

In September of this year, we're headed back up to Boston for the Northeast Unschooling Conference and I think there is another Whale Watch offered.

Logan is now 16 and I can guarantee you that we will not be going on that outing.

Herding Homeschoolers In Texas: Susan Frederick's Interview

Howdy Everyone! Today we get to hear from Susan Frederick, a homeschooling mom who has been running the oldest Texas homeschool email list and website, Texas Advocates for Freedom in Education, also known as Taffie.

Susan and her husband, Gary, have also been very involved in robotics team competitions and you can get more information about those activities here.

I don't know how she did it, but over the years Susan somehow managed to corral large numbers of Texas homeschooling families for many interesting field trips and events. She must know some great riding and lassoing techniques.

The only thing I've ever done quite sucessfully with a horse is fall off...

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

We homeschooled our daughter all the way through and she is currently attending college. We decided to homeschool before she was ever born after meeting some homeschoolers in AZ that introduced us to books written by Raymond Moore and John Holt.

Although we are officially done with homeschooling, we continue to support homeschoolers in TX and beyond.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

We weren't unschoolers but were very eclectic and relaxed in our approach to homeschooling. We were able to go at our own pace and follow interests. We coached robotics teams for several years and hosted robotics tournaments, it was nice to be able to fit times that worked for us and not be tied to a standard school schedule.

It was great to be able to visit museums and other field trip venues at off-peak times. Here in TX we have great freedoms and can fit what works for the child and not be bogged down by standardized tests, teaching to grade level and if something wasn't working, you could slow down or try something else.

For our homeschool graduation, instead of just a bunch of names being called one by one, the parents got to give out the diplomas as their child walked across the stage. We set up display tables for each graduate, did caps and gowns and had a very nice ceremony for 42 homeschool grads.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

I set up the Houston Rockets homeschool day each year, that will usually involve a tour of the facility, getting to shoot hoops on the court and seeing a discounted game that night.

There's been numerous field trips, especially those related to TX history, then there was Dolphin Watching on Galveston Bay and behind the scenes tour of Sea World in San Antonio.

I once set up a private showing of Lord of the Rings for 600 homeschoolers, we had a costume contest and it was nice having the theater to ourselves.

I coordinated homeschool proms 3 years in a row at a nice convention center, we had a dj, great food and everyone had a great time. It didn't matter if people had dates or not, or if they knew each other, it was nice being in a room with other homeschoolers all nicely dressed up, some even came in limos.

A photo from one of the semi-formal events Susan organized.

A few years ago, our homeschool robotics team won at state level and went onto nationals. We won the research award for our project related to coming up with ways for robotics to help a city. Part of our research involved touring the local sewer/water wasted treatment, the team was also able to present their findings to the local city council.

A photo from one of the robotics tournaments Susan and her group hosted. They ran local Robofest events for several years.

I also set up homeschool theater discounts for Broadway shows. Houston has the 2nd largest theater district in the country. We've seen numerous shows and have been able to coordinate discounts for Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. We use performing arts as part of our curriculum and to develop interest in the fine arts.

We also participated in a homeschool book club where the teens got to pick their own books and discuss them.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

Although it wasn't funny at the time, I had set up a field trip and while I had told the venue we were an educational group, they assumed we had a sale tax id number, which we did not. So I had to go around and collect another 50 cents from 100 people to pay the sales tax before we could get in the gate.

There was also a time when I had a field trip to a science museum for about 150 people, the venue wanted all the kids and adults to line up single file. Homeschoolers don't do straight lines well, that isn't something we have lots of practice with. ;-)

Poke, Prod, Measure and Test

The European Union really seems to have a problem with the natural variations of fruits and vegetables. Actually, they did recently relax the rules somewhat, but they still have amazing rules and regulations over the specific size, shape and color of produce that is sold at retail stores.

Some say the reason it's gotten so ridiculous is that you can't touch produce in the shops so someone has to do something to rate them. But hardly any of these regulations have anything to do with whether the produce is edible and nutritional.

Here's an example for apples in Class I and the slight defects allowed:

slight skin defects which must not extend over more than:
- 2 cm in length for defects of elongated shape
- 1 cm² of total surface area for other defects, with the exception of scab Venturia inaequalis), which must not extend over more than 0.25 cm² cumulative in area
- slight bruising not exceeding 1 cm² in area and not discoloured.

And here's one for onions and their sizing for Class I:

Size is determined by the maximum diameter of the equatorial section. The difference between the diameters of the smallest and largest onions in the same package must not exceed:
- 5 mm where the diameter of the smallest onion is 10 mm and over but under 20 mm. However, where the diameter of the onion is 15 mm and over but under 25 mm, the difference may be 10 mm.

And one more example, cucumbers:

- reasonably well shaped and practically straight (maximum height of the arc: 10 mm per 10 cm of length of cucumber).

So as we can see, they poke, prod, analyze, measure and test, in order to rate quality purely by numbers, always looking for conformity and standardization, giving little consideration to the true value of the produce and individual uniqueness.

Boy, I'm sure glad we don't treat the education of kids that way. Wouldn't that be a rotten thing to do?