Category Archives: conference

Conference R & R

It’s been almost a month since our fourth Free to Be Conference.  I would say fourth “annual” conference, but I don’t like the word annual.  Too much commitment.  🙂  It’s always been a new decision every year.

Last year, the conference was… well, it was honestly painful in a lot of ways.  The program itself went well, I think.  All the talks, workshops, etc pretty much went off without a hitch.  But the hotel hated us and threatened to kick out our group on the very first day, there were behavior issues, and there was personal … ickiness.  (Ickiness, by the way, is the technical term.)  We were very certain that we weren’t going to do it again.  Except:

We had to.  We needed a do-over. We needed a Hail Mary.  We chose a new hotel, looked at it as a fresh start, and hoped for the best.

Still, I didn’t know what to expect.  I really didn’t.  After 2016, I almost didn’t want to have any expectations. Registration was highly stressful this year because so many people waited till the last minute.  (Was it a mistake to do it again?  Was no one going to register? Were we going to end up in the poor house because of this?) And then, one month before the conference the bottom fell out of my own life, so it was all I could do to keep afloat, let alone think about anything conference related.

But then it came – funny thing about planning things like that.  They come whether you’re ready or not – and it was… well, it was magic.  I honestly could not have asked for a better conference.  Or attendees.  Or experience.  Were there tiny wrinkles?  Sure.  Were there little issues, complaints, comparisons to other conferences?  Of course.  That’s all part and parcel of hosting an event for 400 people.  But overall it was largely, and overwhelmingly… OVERWHELMINGLY… positive.  And the amount of healing it brought?  Ridiculous.  It was truly a redemptive year for us.

And the thing is, we don’t do it for us.  We do it for the money (KIDDING!  We don’t make any money to speak of.)  We do it for the attendees.  We create the vision and the framework; the speakers, the funshop hosts, and the volunteers bring it to life; and then the whole thing is gifted to the attendees, to do with what they wish.  This year though… this year, it was gifted back to us.  And it was beautiful and it was healing, and it was honestly one of the most positive and empowering feelings I’ve ever experienced.

People keep asking if we’re all recovered.  People have actually been asking since a few days after it ended.  And by all means, I feel good, and I feel peaceful.  But recovered?  Well, no, I’m not.  Mike, being the more logical, business-minded of the two of us, says that he’s back to normal.  A couple weeks back to work and he was good to go.  But me… I invest way too much emotionally to be recovered in a couple of weeks.  Plus, it was a year’s worth of blood, sweat, and tears.  You don’t just get over that in a couple of weeks.  Especially when life doesn’t stop in order for you to do so… when you have to get right back to school, and life, and appointments, and running kids around.

I know that just attending the conference is exhausting and requires its own recovery.  For real. We’ve been on that end of it, too.  A four day event is no joke, no matter how smooth it is.  You’re running around like crazy, you’re sleep deprived, you’re not eating right. But it’s still not quite the same thing as planning, executing, and running said event.  (Um, on that note, my apologies to those I may or may not have grumbled to – I hope good natured-ly – when they complained to me about how tired they were.  Do you know about the ring theory of venting?  Ever since I learned about it, my venting mantra is “Never vent IN”.  I miss the mark sometimes I’m sure.  But I try.  Really really hard.)

And now it’s been a month, and I’m still working on re-entry.  A weekend at my cabin would be lovely, but … real life beckons.  And so, rest and recovery is happening in the pauses.  In the quiet mornings on the days when I don’t have anyplace to be.  With my happy playlist, and a venti cup of coffee in the car.  With a good book and a long bath.  In the stolen meditative moments of chopping vegetables for dinner, or washing my hands longer than necessary in the bathroom.  In the smiles brought by a rapid text exchange with a trusted friend.  In the hibernating.

In the breathing.  Always in the breathing.

I will rest, and I will breathe, and then I’ll be ready to do it again for 2018.  In the meantime, I will watch this.  And I’ll remember.  xo


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Free to Be 2015

Last year, I devoted four long, detailed posts to the conference… how it went, how I felt about it, what it meant to me.

I’m in a different place this year, with different things going on, and different things currently taking my attention.  So, no four part posts, but if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video slideshow I put together.

I’m proud of what we created (twice!) and I’m looking forward to next year.  This conference represents a lot of blood, sweat, and tears not just for me, but for our entire family.  A huge thank you, again, to everyone who attended and made it possible.


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Free To Be 2014 – Day Four

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Sunday, like the last day of pretty much any big event, was bittersweet.  There was still flood-related scrambling on Sunday because in addition to losing a couple of rooms that were still soggy, a  miscommunication had meant that a wedding was scheduled and taking place in the majority of our upstairs rooms as well.  Some talks and funshops had to move rooms,  and others ended up having to share space.  Our white-board was full of changes.  But we worked it out, and no one – at least to my knowledge – seemed to mind too much.

After taking Saturday morning off, I was so happy to teach a gentle yoga class on Sunday.  It was a lovely and fitting way to start the final day.

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Also on Sunday:  an important circle chat from Jen Andersen about what to do instead of punishment.

The moms panel.

The dads panel.

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Circle chats for teens… demonstrations on dread locks… classes on essential oils…

A film canister rocket funshop

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Photo by Dan Omerza

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Photo by Dan Omerza

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Photo by Dan Omerza

My daughter’s favorite funshop, the Barbies and ponies:

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Photo by Alessia Mogavero

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Photo by Alessia Mogavero

A funshop all about hugging:

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A mother/daughter chat about unschooling with Pam and Roya (which, by the way, was the ONLY discussion that was led by three generations of the same unschooling family :))

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Photo by Chrissy Florence

And a main presentation by Allen and Laura Ellis:

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

A final word about the speakers if I may.  I don’t want to sound too self-congratulatory about my choices here, but I could not have been happier with the line-up of speakers!  They blew me away.  The biggest goal we had when choosing the speakers was to represent as many possible viewpoints as possible, and that’s exactly what happened.   I feel like they covered every perspective, assuaged every fear, addressed every concern.  They were inspiring, informative, and entertaining.    Pam, Roya, Erika, Tiffani, Laura, Laura, Allen, Matt, Jeff, Jen, Brian, Rachel… nailed it. TWELVE main speakers in all (even more when you count those who led single discussions, who were just as appreciated!), when we’d originally planned for seven.  They were amazing, each and every one of them, and set the bar extraordinarily high.

And finally, closing out the conference was the always wonderful Amy Steinberg:

Photo by Chrissy Florence

Photo by Chrissy Florence

I told this to Amy, and I will say it again here:  I felt like her concert was the perfect note which with to end the conference.  Her love, her positivity, her lyrics.  Perfect. Amy doesn’t have any children, but she’s an unschooler at heart nonetheless.  Her words capture, over and over, the very essence of how we’re trying to live and what we’re wanting to do as parents.  I could not have been happier as I listened to her sing.  (If you’re not familiar with her work, might I suggest you remedy that ASAP.  Start with Exactly.  You’re welcome)

And with that, the conference was officially over (save for the late-night drinks that followed), except… I still don’t feel like it’s over.  The past couple of weeks – hearing your words, seeing your pictures, re-living the memories, strengthening the connections – has kept it all alive.  I’m sure I’m not done talking about it, and I’m most definitely not done thinking about it.  So I can’t wrap it up, because there IS no wrapping it up.

The bubble lives on.

God bless the unschooling bubble.


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Free To Be 2014 – Day Three

Photo by Kiera Cook

Photo by Kiera Cook

Day Three – Saturday – is at once the hardest and yet most interesting day to write about.  It was the busiest of all four days, and arguably the most memorable.  Besides the violent monsoon and the subsequent flooding (I’ll get to those later) it was an emotionally taxing day for me personally, so very much like my feelings, this blog post will likely be a little bit scattered and all over the place as I re-live it.

I woke up feeling terrible on Saturday, burnt out and exhausted.  Recognizing that I would be crawling by the end of the conference if I didn’t do something about it, I cancelled yoga and took the extra hour to myself.  Some ibuprofen, a shower, some coffee and a proper breakfast – Yay!  Breakfast! – later, I was feeling a bit better, at least physically.

One of my kids was going through something difficult… something that would have been difficult under the best of circumstances, and was made almost unbearable by the conference setting.  As a parent, it’s always…. well, it was difficult (yes, I just used the word “difficult” three times in four lines.)  It was difficult, (4) and I share it just to give a fuller picture of where my head was at on Saturday.

So Saturday.

There was a chance of rain (Ha.  Foreshadowing is great.)  so we’d already planned to move the dinner inside, instead of on the pavilion.  We also had the talent show to think about, and Jungle Jill, and board breaking, and air brushed tattoos.  Mike also left at one point to go pick up Amy Steinberg from the airport, which left me somewhat… anxious.  While he was more than content to work quietly in the background, (“This is your conference,”  he kept telling me.  “I’m your assistant.”) Mike and I very much worked as a team, each of us doing entirely different things.  There were questions that only he could answer, and vice versa.  All of that to say, whenever one of us left the hotel – which only happened a handful of times over the course of the four days – I got a little nervous.

But all was well.

The rain started when he was gone, and it wasn’t long before it was coming fast and furious, complete with the unrelenting lightning, rolling thunder, and gale-force winds that make Arizona storms so exciting.

Up until that point, everything had been going smoothly.  Jeff inspired everyone by opening up a conversation about passions. Sara & Matt Janssen taught us how to become gypsies.  Matt Jones talked about reconciling unschooling with a corporate life. Jen Andersen reminded us all to tune out the outside voices so we can better focus on our own kids.

My parents had come set up their air-brushed tattoos, and there was a line 10 deep.  There was button making and face painting and plastic bag print-making.

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Photo by Dan Omerza

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Photo by Jenna Boring

Everyone seemed to enjoy Jungle Jill despite the apocalypse happening outside:

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Photo by Chrissy Florence

And all the teens on the teen panel were wonderful and well-spoken:

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I don’t remember where I was when the flooding happened.  That sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Like all those big moments in history, the ones where you always remember exactly where you were, and exactly who you were with.  (Where were YOU when you heard about the flood? :-D)  Anyway, I was in a lot of places, and it changed moment to moment, so I really don’t know where I was.  I just know that at some point, there was flooding, and everyone that was attending anything downstairs made a mass exodus for the second floor.

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Photo by Qarin Van Brink

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Photo by Qarin Van Brink

In typical unschooling conference fashion, people hardly blinked.  (Which is so, so interesting to me.  We got complaints over much smaller things, but flooded out conference rooms?  No problem!)  We had to shuffle around the rest of the schedule a bit, the whole evening starting with dinner had to get pushed back an hour; and Erika’s SSUMs, Laura Flynn Endres’s main presentation, and Matt’s board breaking funshop all graciously went along with the flow.  (See what I did there?)

The staff had to work harder than ever, there were some downed trees, and some definite scrambling.  But no one was hurt. It was not a catastrophe. And in the end it just made for a little extra excitement.

Oh and the kids?

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Heather Kennedy

Photo by Heather Kennedy

Photo by Chrissy Florence

Photo by Chrissy Florence

I don’t think they were too broken up about it.

And even the big empty rooms that were drying out turned out to be a great place to play:

Photo by Chrissy Florence

Photo by Chrissy Florence

Once the excitement of the flooding had died down, we all gathered for the Mexican dinner.  It was the first time during the conference that everyone was really in the same place at the same time, and it was a little overwhelming to me.  Not in a this-is-way-too-many-people-around-my-hamster-ball-of-introversion kind of way, but in a “We did this!!  We created this thing, and people are here, and they’re happy and they’re chatting and they’re eating and they’re HERE and we did this” kind of way.

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340 people, all in one place.

Looking around that room during that dinner was an incredibly powerful, surreal moment for me, and it’s one I will remember above almost any other.  Granted, I was physically and emotionally spent by then, someone had just given me a hard time about something, and everything was a little extra…. raw.  Still, what I felt was real, and it turned out it was just a precursor for what I’d feel an hour later.

On the surface, the talent show that followed the dinner can be summed up like this:  a couple of skits, dances, music, and jokes interspersed between a whole bunch of little girls’ interpretations of Frozen’s Let it Go.

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Photo by Chrissy Flornence

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Photo by Chrissy Florence

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Jenna Boring

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Beyond that though, it was So. Much. More.   It was a whole roomful of people offering genuine love and support to every child who got up on that stage.  It was parents encouraging – but never pushing! – their children into trying something new, and feeling their joy with them when they did it.  It was people accepting and celebrating the uniqueness and beauty and perfectly imperfect quirkiness of each and every person in that room.  It was people who knew they were free to…. well, free to BE.  It was the whole of gentle parenting and unschooling and the conference all in that one moment.

And that’s what made me lose it.

I was admittedly on the precipice of tears the entire night, but the exact second they finally spilled over was when this lovely little girl was singing:

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

This is Tegan’s new friend, and Jennifer Andersen’s (of Our Muddy Boots) little girl. It was a big deal for her to get up there, but she did it. I looked at her, and I looked at her proud mom, and I looked at Tegan who was doing all the hand motions with her off-stage in solidarity (Let it Go is ALL about the hand motions). In that second, all the stress and the anxiety and the wondering and the worrying and the relief culminated in a sudden unstoppable rush of tears.

I was very grateful for the previous rain, because when I slipped out the door onto the walkway, it was cool and comfortable outside.  There were a few kids running and laughing nearby, but it was otherwise silent and still.  I stayed for but a minute, all by myself (there was too much of the evening left to totally check out) but I stayed long enough to cry, to breathe, to pull myself together, to feel gratitude…. gratitude for that moment, gratitude for the conference, and gratitude for all the people who came and made it a conference.

Until two days ago, even my husband didn’t know about that moment.  In two minutes I was back in the room, and back to business as usual.  And an hour later I was drinking white Russians and serenading everyone with Wrecking Ball.  (Wait what?)

I share it with you now mostly because I’ve received so many really lovely comments of gratitude over the past two weeks, and I want you all to know what it all meant to me too, and what YOU all meant to me.  I don’t know that I can truly put it into words, so my hope is that a glimpse into a vulnerable, private, tear-stained moment might give you some idea.

It meant the world to me, truly.  And I thank you.


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Free To Be 2014 – Day Two

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Photo by Jenna Boring

Like Thursday, Friday started (at least for me) bright and early at 6:00.  I sadly missed breakfast again, but I did get to grab some coffee before yoga.  I also got to hide in the art room for almost an hour until I was called away, while I helped kids fancy up their fingernails. Bliss. I’m not exactly sure what the scheduling gurus (us) were thinking when they scheduled me to do yoga at 8 followed immediately by fingernails at 9…. but I made it work.

Friday also brought us improv instruction, string painting, bubbles, and duct tape.

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Photo by Laci Omerza

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Photo by Jenna Boring

It brought in-depth dad discussions with SSUDS, circle chats about relating to your teenagers, unschooling and diversity, an FAQ panel of grown unschoolers, a discussion about unschooling and parenting

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Photo by Jenna Boring. We did this talk rather on the fly, but it went well! Lots of great discussion from the audience, and I had a surprisingly good time.

and main presentations by Brian Curtice

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Photo by Jenna Boring.

and Tiffani Bearup

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Jenna Boring

Friday night was my favorite night of Happy Hour, because the fabulous Craig Davis was warming up the crowd with his strolling magic before his show.  Mike and I adore Craig Davis, but I’ll admit that there was a small amount of “Will people think this is too hokey?”  And indeed, there were a couple.   But he won over so many of them with this card tricks. I especially loved hearing the skeptical people squeal and laugh with … shock, maybe is the word? at some of his reveals. And yes, I know intellectually that it’s all an illusion, a slight of hand, and that it’s simply a skill that he practiced over and over and over (and he was awesome enough to give a couple of us some insider tips and even showed us how to do a simple trick).  But still.  Some of that “mind-reading” stuff FREAKS ME THE HECK OUT. He’s genius.  He’s also a living unschooly example – even though he went to school – of someone who followed his passion and made a lifestyle out of it.  He’s never supported himself in any other way than doing magic, and he clearly loves what he does.  Awesome.

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Photo by Jenna Boring

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Photo by Jenna Boring

After Craig’s show, I actually got to hang out at the pool until they closed it down.  Have I mentioned the pool yet? So much of a conference’s magic happens in and around the pool! (figurative magic, not magic magic :))  My kids logged many many hours in that pool with new and old friends.  It brings people together.  The connections, the play, the relaxation, the quiet late-night chats over drinks.  Sometimes there’s just nothing on the planned schedule that can compete with the pool.

Photo by Heather Kennedy

Photo by Heather Kennedy

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Photo by Chrissy Florence

Magic.


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Free To Be 2014 – Day One

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Life is not a bubble (which, by the way, if you’ve never been to one, an unschooling conference is exactly that:  a giant, 4 day, unschooling bubble) so the time since the conference has been quickly ticking away on me… one appointment, one bill, one trip to the grocery store at a time.  Like most big and surreal events in my life, it exists on some other strange space-time continuum, simultaneously feeling like it just happened, and like it happened a whole lifetime ago.

In real life, it’s been two weeks.  In fact, the first day was exactly two weeks ago today.

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

That’s me giving the opening welcome and announcements.  This picture kind of cracks me up because I look so serious.  In reality, I was giddy.  Nervous.  But giddy.  I don’t remember what I said (though I am pretty sure I did announce “I’m so nervous”), and I know for a fact that I left out at least 65% of what I’d planned.  But I got up there, and I kicked us off.

Day one was a whole lot of running around, setting up, checking in, and introductions.

I had to keep checking in with myself to confirm that the conference was actually happening… that there were real-live people there… that it was not in fact yet another pre-conference dream (I had a LOT of them, especially in the last couple weeks)

It was exciting and nerve-wracking – in the best possible way – to meet and hug and talk to so many people that until that moment I’d only known on the internet.

Day one was busy and lovely and validating.

There were ice-breaker games.  There were gnomes and fairies.

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Photo by Sandra Jessop

There were fantastic main presentations by Pam Sorooshian

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Erika Davis-Pitre

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Roya Dedeaux

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

and Jeff Sabo

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

A little aside about the laptop in the picture with Jeff.  It’s my own personal laptop (the one I’m writing on at this very minute), and it performed very well in its conference duties, despite the fact that it was essentially limping along.  I dropped it a couple weeks ago – bad shoulder – and each day is bringing more and more side-effects from said drop to light.  Anyway.  The sticker on the right hand side was a treasured gift from my friend, Jess, that says, “Going down the road less traveled” and it made me happy to see it up there at every talk I attended. Also, I was slightly embarrassed that I hadn’t had the forethought to change my wallpaper before the conference.  For those that didn’t happen to catch it when it was up on the screen: it’s a meme that resonated with me strongly that reads:

My spiritual teachers, in order of importance:

1. People who annoy the living shit out of me
2. All other spiritual teachers

A little crass perhaps, but oh so very true.  Our challenges are some of our best teachers, are they not?

But I digress.

There was also parkour.

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Photo by Jenna Boring

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We were thrilled with the turn-out, in 102 degree heat no less!

And a dance….

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That red-headed blur in the front right is Tegan, who looked so cute all dressed up for the dance (which I sadly never got a picture of), and who, like so so many other kids, completely came into her own in a whole new way during the conference.

And a teen dance.

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Getting the privilege of playing DJ for the teens confirmed for me that they are truly some of my favorite people on the planet. Teens are awesome.

And through it all, there were the quieter, more important things.  The things that unschooling conferences exist for:

The connections, between parents and kids, new friends and old.

The gentle examples of kind and respectful parenting.

The answered questions, the moments of “a-ha” clarity, the new nuggets of wisdom.

The joy.

I could have missed it all (and, admittedly, I missed a lot of it). I was running on adrenaline for all four days… there, but not really there…

But still, I saw.  I witnessed.  And it was beautiful.


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Free To Be 2014, Part One: It Was More

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One week from yesterday, we woke up bright and early at the Embassy Suites, and began the first day of our conference that was over a year in the making.

I really believed that I wouldn’t want to talk/write/or think about it for a good long while after it was over.  I need to rest, I said.  I need to be process, I said.  Well… I do need to rest, and I do need to process.  But I pretty much haven’t shut up about it yet.  And it turns out that I won’t really process it until I write about it (which should not surprise me, because that’s just the way I operate.)

Without having ever done anything remotely like this before, we were going into it somewhat blindly.  Still, we had put in a LOT of preparation, and I felt like we had a fairly good idea of what to expect.

I expected stressful.

I expected busy.

I expected exhausting.

I expected high highs.

I expected low lows.

And it was all of those things, but it was more… of all of it.

Stressful – This was truly one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done.  Someone compared it to planning a four-day wedding, and while I suppose it’s a fair comparison, I don’t like weddings and I sort of hope all my kids choose to elope.  I’m kidding.  (No I’m not.)  All of it, from the scheduling to the decision-making to the ordering to the fire-extinguishing to the millions of little details that were all threaded together into one big elaborate web… it was more stressful than I ever could have anticipated.  Was it fun and exciting?  Unequivocally, YES!  Oh but the stress.  I couldn’t have fully appreciated it until I actually experienced it.

Busy – I envisioned myself doing a lot of running around, a lot of fetching, a lot of answering, a lot of facilitating, a lot of working.  I just didn’t envision the right amount of running around, fetching, answering, facilitating, and working.  I didn’t sit.  I barely ate.  I think I made it to the bathroom once a day.  And I loved doing it!  That’s what I was there for.  A year’s worth of work had culminated in my doing exactly that.  The level of my own personal amount of “busy” was just even higher than I’d thought.  In my head, the conference would sort of run itself… and it DID, in many ways, with all the amazing speakers, prepared funshop hosts, scheduled entertainment, etc… but I wasn’t exactly in a position to sit back and enjoy it.  And don’t get me wrong:  I was completely happy to be doing what I was doing.  Very happy. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t also make me very tired.  Which leads me to:

Exhausting –  Conferences in general are just exhausting.  And the exhaustion that comes from hosting a conference is its own animal, for sure.  I hit a wall on the morning of the 3rd day.  It was 5:30, I’d slept for around 3 hours, and everything hurt.  I didn’t think I could get out of bed.  I cancelled yoga, took the extra time to take a shower and eat breakfast, two things I hadn’t gotten to do yet.  (That’s gross.  Sorry.) But I rallied.  Even now, a week later, I’m still more exhausted than I’ve ever been in recent memory.  I’ve been an insomniac for most of my adult life, but I have had NO trouble sleeping for the past week.  I’m more or less slipping into a coma every night. I go to bed fully intending to watch a TV show or two before I go to sleep, and I wake up six hours later…. the remote still in my hand, and the TV still on its menu screen.

High highs – So this is the part where I get mushy.  I want to give some specific examples in subsequent posts, but to sum it up as much as possible:  I think the goal of any unschooling conference is to get connected. Refreshed. Recharged.  Inspired.  To gather together with your “people.”  To talk to others who understand.  To witness the sweetness and magic and love that is unschooling and gentle parenting.  To strengthen and heal.  To feel supported.  To feel empowered.  I saw all of that, and so. much. more.  Good grief you guys.  You’re incredible.  I feel so, so unbelievably grateful and lucky to be a part of this awesome community.   It seems cliche and almost… self-serving… to say it but I gotta:  THIS is what makes it all worth it.  This is what makes the stress and the exhaustion and the work all fade away.  You Are Incredible.  And the support and encouragement that I personally received from those of you who took the time to share your thanks, and your kind words, and your positive feedback mean more to me than you’ll ever ever know.

Low lows  – Yes, there were a few.  I’m a sensitive person, and an introvert, and an empath, so…. conference hosting (and blogging for that matter) was an odd choice, as I knew it would be.  There were some big, big emotions.  Big letdowns.  Big hurts.  And again, I was expecting it.  But whew.  I really shouldn’t have ended with this point though, because it’s the highs that “stick.”  The highs that will sustain me.  The highs that will remind me why I did it in the first place.

At least they will after I get caught up on sleep.  🙂  And by then I’ll have some more (happy!) tidbits and memories and favorite moments to share.

I LOVE AND THANK YOU ALL for an indescribably amazingly awesome experience for our first foray into the conference world.


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The Birth of an Unschooling Conference

It happened in the car.

Isn’t that where most important conversations take place?

We were driving to one of the umpteen places we find ourselves driving on any given weekend, and I was lamenting the fact that we weren’t going to a conference this year.  We’d already decided to pull out of the conference we were going to go to in August, and the conference we’d enjoyed in San Diego for the past few years had been discontinued.  I turned to Mike and said, “Hey, we should put on our own conference.”  I think I was mostly joking.

He shocked me by responding, “We should.”  He wasn’t joking.

It actually wasn’t the first time it had come up.  I always thought it’d be neat idea, and it seemed like there was a hole to fill in the southwest.  But the idea was…. laughable, because I’m the least likely person to organize a conference ever.   I’m a huge introvert, gatherings exhaust me, and I don’t even like to host birthday parties.  In fact, we usually spend too much money to have our kids’ parties at cool places like gymnastics facilities or amusement parks or bowling alleys, largely because all we have to do is show up, and someone else does all the work.  My one act of hosting in an entire year is having my family over for Christmas.  I love it, I do.  But it’s a big deal for me.

So what had changed?   I guess you could just say I was called to do it.  It was a deep in the heart, gut feeling that this was something that I needed to do, and something that I could do well.  And the more I thought about it, the stronger the feeling got.  I tried to talk myself out of it. For days and days I tried to talk myself out of it:  It’ll be a lot of work!  It’ll be stressful!  It’ll be time away from my family!   But there was no turning back and no talking myself out of it.   And when we told the kids, there was nothing but 100% enthusiastic, all-in support.   They were just as excited about the idea as I was.

And so, after about 237  “Are we really going to do this?” comments, we started planning.

That was just over a month ago, and in that time we’ve managed to secure a location, book a date, and sign on ten speakers.  And it has been a lot of work.  It has been stressful.  It has been time away from my family.  In the past few days since I launched the Facebook page, I think I’ve talked to more people through email than I ordinarily do in an entire two months. Thanks to the really surprising and lovely early interest, I’ve also been working like crazy on rolling out the website so that everyone can have as much information as I can give them all in one place.

And we’ve only just begun!

It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in my life.The idea of having this vision, and taking it through to fruition… to have hundreds of like-minded unschoolers all gathered in one place, playing and learning and sharing and connecting?  At an event that I planned?  Crazy! Absolutely crazy.  I am so excited, and thrilled, and honored, and humbled to think that people want to be a part of this.

I’ve learned so much in just the past month.  Not the least of which is that my husband and I make a really good team.  Where I’m all ideas and dreams and creativity, he’s all business and organization and practicality.   (Let this be a note:  if you ever decide to organize an unschooling conference, it’s incredibly helpful to be married to someone who works in finance.)   I have spiral notebooks filled with lists and notes and scribbled ideas… he has carefully updated spreadsheets that make my head spin.   I say, “I just thought of the absolute COOLEST thing we can have at the conference!!”  He says, “Yeah… that costs like $1000, let’s do this instead.” Yin and yang.  And it works.

I cannot wait to see what the next twelve months will bring.  It’s going to be a wild ride for sure.

And I’m ready.

 


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