"Life flows on within you and without you."

George Harrison


"Why aren't you speaking at the Live and Learn Conference?"

I found out the same way most other people did that I wouldn't be a speaker at the 2007 Live and Learn Conference, by looking at the conference webpage, but that's okay. There were several moments over the years that were branching, forking moments.

For one thing, the conference was intended to be a one-shot deal, one conference in South Carolina. Unfortunately, I broke my leg. Fortunately, though, I broke my leg and the second conference was really fun, and the third, in Boston, happened. St. Louis. Albuquerque.

For another thing, I offered not to be a speaker when the conference came to Albuquerque, when Kelly was wondering about who should and shouldn't speak. I said it could be detrimental to have the same speakers all the time and maybe she should mix it up.

But back to what took me to the conference in the first place...

Long ago, when Lisa Bugg was probably the most vocal and committed unschooler in the southeastern U.S., I told her and another couple of moms from that part of the country that whichever one of them did the first liberal conference there, I'd come and speak for free. The offer stood until Kelly took me up on it. She did (which turned out to be fantastically important) fly me and one child out, and that was Marty. Had Marty not been there, I don't know how I would've gotten home, with my wheelchair and my walker and my painkillers and a change of planes.

Around the time of the second conference, I was asked if I would be on a board of directors to coordinate the set of conferences nationally. I had experience with such things, and it was because of that experience that I said "No way!" I wanted to write about unschooling and speak, and be with my kids, not spend my energy settling disputes and finding liability insurance and doing 501c3 tax reports. I recommended the conference just be Kelly's and Ben's and they could more easily make decisions on their own than be part of a board of directors, and anyway, corporations can evolve away from the intentions of the founders, and corporations always provide something to fight about. I was happy without it.

The good thing about the conference not being a corporate entity is that it gave Kelly lots of flexibility and freedom. One bad thing is that others couldn't vote against dates and plans too near other regional conferences. What might have been a matter for a board to decide based on the eventual future of the conference or peaceful relations with other conference coordinators was just an arbitrary decision one person could make.

But moving from state to state is more work than it's worth, for Kelly or for anyone. It's starting over every time, and that's not the way Kelly wants to spend her own energy and family time. That's totally sensible.

With a longterm site, the conferences can become deeper and more memorable than they ever could in a series of hotels. It will be like a family reunion, year after year, for those who attend regularly. It will be like a magical visit to unschooling land for people who only get to go once.

My family has never needed conferences. I've spoken where I've been invited (turning down a few for conflicts of dates or philosophies), and over the past ten years I've spoken in seventeen cities, in ten states and one province. Sometimes one of my kids would go with me, to get to visit another part of the country, and that's been great when it's happened.

My kids are practically grown, and they all have active social lives, part of which involves people they've met at conferences and gotten together with online or other places.

I've always felt strongly that unschooling should be about the ideas and not about the individuals. No one book, website, speaker or conference should try to be (nor be expected to be) everything for anyone, but unschooling parents should gather and glean what they can from all the real world around them. We don't need to all agree, or all be on the same list or at the same conference for families to learn and grow with unschooling.

Sandra Dodd


The writing above was in February 2007.
That conference was in North Carolina two years; Marty and Holly went one year.

Update on where I've spoken:

[2007:] "and over the past ten years I've spoken in seventeen cities, in ten states and one province"

[2015:] Over the past 19 years I've spoken in fifteen U.S. states, two provinces in Canada (three, after 9 May 2015), in the UK, The Netherlands, France, Portugal and Australia.




JOY (Rejecting a Pre-Packaged Life) Decisions Thinking About "Have To"