Modeling Manly Fairy Crowns

Advertising Robyn and Jayn's Fairy Crown Funshop at the pre-conference ice cream social

A Different Cornucopia

by Robyn Coburn

Every year that I have attended Live and Learn has been different. It seems to me that each year there is a different zeitgeist as I experience it. One year, it seemed many mothers were concerned about “reluctant husbands” and beginning Unschooling as families; the next, it seemed many were struggling with sibling issues or meeting the apparently conflicting needs of multiple family members. The conference has always seemed to be a brilliant and inspiring place to find answers, better questions, strategies, at the very least comfort and encouragement.

This year, I felt as if Live and Learn flowered into something beyond the kind of technical “how to Unschool” learning experience it has been in past years, to become something deeper. Not that there were no “nuts and bolts” discussions, but I heard less of that emphasis there, more on the pure parenting and relationship building with our children, more fellowship, more just seeing Unschooling “being.”

If I were to name the overweening theme of this last conference for me, it would have to be CREATIVITY.

What an abundance of creative thinking in every corner and every direction! Creative problem solving, thinking outside of the box for parenting dilemmas, bringing a foundation of creative thinking into our lives as a path towards happiness. Of course the plethora of creative and artistic funshops.

Just prior to the conference, I had posted about the concept of missing out, specifically, "Let go of the fear of missing out; it will hamper your ability to be open to the cornucopia of unscheduled sparkling brilliance."

Fact is I missed out on a lot of presentations and a few funshops that I had been interested in. I missed out on a lot of the impromptu conversations and missed much of the bonding with dear, dear friends that I have enjoyed so much in the past. Instead, I feel that I met more new people, or at least new-to-me people, and got the wonderful opportunity to meet and experience and appreciate many more of the kids through hosting funshops. I had a moment of ironic reflection, and made a conscious decision to go with the flow, and stay in the moments as they came, and so I got a different cornucopia, but sparkling brilliance nonetheless.

Making liquid nitrogen ice cream at the picnic

I have come away with so much Gratitude. To Kelly and Ben, and family, of course. To all the funshop hosts of the past and future (now that I know how much it takes!). To Beth, a constant helpful presence. To Sandra for receiving my numerous boxes, for driving again and again, and so freely offering her time and energy to us. Gratitude that I can offer support to others and in turn be part of this community. Gratitude that I can live this life, this way, with my darling husband. I have to say I am pretty proud of myself for successfully being an early riser for the entire time.

As so often happens as I look back on the conference, what stands out are moments with people. I had SO MUCH FUN with Sienna. I was privileged to hear one of Sorcha’s delightful stories while we made a crown for her together—something about finding tiny dragons. The best time might have been sitting with James listening to Mary and Ren bust myths, quietly twisting wire and making paper flowers. You know it is an Unschooling picnic when there are two 10 (or so) year old girls sitting perfectly balanced on the top of a soccer goal frame, and no anxious adult is rushing over to urge caution or tell them to get down!

Van de Graaf Generator

There is a kind of sweet pain too, as I watch not only other people’s children grow up, but also my own. The first time I attended L&L, I had the feeling that I was seeing into my own future as I watched the little groups of “pre-tween” girls wander around together. That feeling has by no means lessened as I observe the girls who were little then becoming teenagers now, the teens becoming young men and women, as I notice Jayn evolving at each conference. Now, she is one of those little girls in her own little group, or posse as they were saying. It gives me a lot of serenity to think that these are the people she will likely know for her whole childhood. The conferences are like a touchstone, each one the scene of some cognitive leap for Jayn. Continuity without stasis. She is just determined to grow older and grow up, way too fast.

And no one thinks worse of any of us for getting emotional in our safest haven outside our own homes.

I love this conference. Only the most extraordinary hardship or change of circumstances will keep us away, regardless of venue.

Note from Sandra, the second editor:
The conference review above first appeared in the October 2006 issue of the now-defunct Connections, from which I rescued it.

The Live and Learn conferences Robyn was writing about were organized by Kelly Lovejoy and ran annually for seven years in these locations:

2002 Columbia, South Carolina
2003 Columbia, South Carolina
2004 Peabody, Massachusetts
2005 St. Louis, Missouri
2006 Albuquerque, New Mexico
2007 North Carolina
2008 North Carolina
I've brought the writing here partly for the photos of James, and for the account of the kinds of ideas and experiences shared by some of the unschooling families whose children are older now, some grown. It's part of the history of the spread of unschooling experience and ideas now.

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