Saturday, May 28, 2011

LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference: Day 1 (and a half)

Yeah we're back! In the US of A!

...which apparently means TV's in the hotel room! This is a completely faked pose. The TV was not on. The kids were just so hyped to be on our big trip that they started "goofing out" as Rhiannon calls it, with the remote control!
Homecoming Away

We left home at 5:50AM on Thursday, and arrived at the conference at about dinner time. Exhausted and a little cranky from the MANY wrong turns we made trying to find the right exits from the freeway, we suddenly found ourselves in a parking lot well-populated with decorated cars. Most had a plethora of bumper stickers, and some had other decorations, or recently-painted declarations of joy and unschooling. We had the collective feeling of fitting in. It was beautiful.

Then we walked into the conference centre lobby. Kids of all ages and colours (I include not only skin colours but much more vibrant hair, paint, and clothing colours, as well) lay sprawled out in various heaps and entanglements around the floor, walked around holding hands, and plied their wares of bracelets, crafts, bumper-stickers, greeting cards, and free hugs. It was a bit like the Vancouver Folk Society retreats that we love so much, but with 70% children, and a lot less music. There was a feeling of certainty that we were accepted.

Day 1
On Friday, we hopped around to various talks, circle chats and funshops, passing each other in the hallways (by far not the only family to be making use of little walkie-talkies), and a little bewildered and frazzled with the amount of information to absorb. Among the things we participated in were the Film Festival, Lego-building, Bionicle-building, Geocaching (there is a new travel-bug coming to Bowen, as a consequence), Theare Improv Games, Button-Making, Balloon-Sculpting, and Dads' Circle Chats and panels. I ran a MAMA Conversation, and arranged some interviews for later, too.

The greatest thing about this conference is the feeling of acceptance and diversity. A scan of the audience of the talent show, which was the biggest event of the weekend, so far, would show humans quite evenly distributed from the ages of newborn to grandparents (not many seniors, though), with hair-styles of every shape and colour imaginable, political leanings towards various extremes and in between, pacifists and military people, people with and without children, and families of many different educational philosophies. We are not the only people with a painted car, nor Rhiannon the only child who carries around a baby, nor Tal the only boy with long hair, nor the only poeple from BC. (In fact, Markus ran into someone he attended UVic with, at the button-making funshop!) But what is common in all of us seems to be that we are engaged in our lives and dreams, and in our children's lives. As simple as that sounds, it's a fabulous thing to have in common!

We think it's interesting to watch the bridge over the Columbia River go up and down. Interesting, too, that the main coastal artery (the I5) seems to stop even for a single lovely sailboat to pass by, underneath. Beautiful!

Glad to Be Where We Are
At the talent show, a couple got up and sang "We are Different", which apparently had been introduced at an earlier conference, and (just like everyone aged 2-60-something who got up on stage) received great applause and audience participation. When we went out into the community, however, things changed, a little. The further we got away from the conference and milling unschoolers, the less we fit in, and the more we felt like outsiders, partly because of our Canadian-ness and partly because we are "different". And suddenly that didn't seem like such an OK thing. This reminded me how lucky we are to live where we do; to live in a community rich with arts and diversity, acceptance and engaged people. Bowen is really quite unique in the world, and although we may be happy to have found such a concentration of "our people", here, we're also lucky to live in such a place, most days of the year.

(I'll add photos to this post when I get a chance to take them off the camera!!)

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