Curious about Self-Directed Learning? Sue Patterson can help!

Sue is a veteran Home Educator with 3 grown kids.  All of her children were Unschooled, and Sue is a wealth of information on many aspects of alternative education.

From transitioning away from the curriculum mindset and into a learning partnership with your kids, to Unschooling through the teen years and supporting young adults as they transition into college or work, Sue’s perspective is invaluable.

If you are struggling with an aspect of Home Eduction or Partnership Parenting, Sue’s wisdom and experience can help reassure and guide you through the moments of doubt.

If you are simply curious about what Unschooling family life is like, she can share a comprehensive look based on her own experience and what she’s learned from her extensive network of Home Ed families.

Here are some of the sessions Sue will be leading at the Retreat.  We will hit the ground running on Friday morning with workshop sessions and circle discussions, so getting there Thursday to set up your bunks, tents and campers will ensure you don’t miss any of the action!

Learning All the Time: Unschooling 101
Friday Morning (Oct. 24)

Life Learning, Whole Life Learning, Self-Directed Learning, Organic Learning, Natural Learning, Interest-Led Learning.  There are so many different names for this type of alternative education and almost as many definitions.

Come discover the core principles behind this method of education.
Gain clarity on what Unschooling IS and is NOT.
Is there a “right” or “wrong” way to Unschool?  Is it still Unschooling if we require a few math or phonics worksheets here and there?    What is “Strewing?”  What is “Deschooling?”  What is “Radical Unschooling?” What are the benefits and drawbacks to Unschooling?  How can we be sure our kids will turn out OK educationally and otherwise?  What if I give my children freedom and all they do is play video games all day?  What if my child HAS to or WANTS to return to school in the future?  How do I comply with Homeschooling laws as an Unschooler? Can I do it as a single parent, or when both parents must be earners?
We’ll tackle these questions and help newbies, spouses, grandparents and in-laws understand this complex and rich form of education and help you discover tools to move forward with Unschooling in confidence.
To read more from Sue on this topic click here.

When Your Unschooler Chooses School

After being radically unschooled her whole life, Sue’s youngest daughter decided she wanted to go to the local public high school. While Sue supported her daughter’s choice, they “did high school” on their own terms. After a year and half, Sue’s daughter had enough and returned to the freedom of unschooling.

We will explore the ways that Unschoolers use mainstream schools, alternative schools and “schooly” classes and lessons to achieve their goals.  Can this still be considered “Unschooling?”  How can we support our children when they choose methods of education and institutions that we as parents are ideologically opposed to – or just feel are not the best “place” for our kids?  How can we allow our children to be exposed to the negative aspects of school that we have tried to shield them from all their lives?  Can a school truly be a place of Unschooling freedom?

Unschooling Teens

Are you worried about unschooling your teen? Are you afraid that your choices may close doors instead of opening them? Sue’s three grown unschoolers took completely different paths through the teenage years. Come hear how they navigated these years and rest assured that it does NOT have to be as scary as society makes it sound! Sue also wrote a book, Homeschooled Teens that will be available in October. She interviewed 75 teens and young adults who homeschooled/unschooled as teenagers. She will share their responses to her questions about what life was like for them: finding friends, learning opportunities, hobbies, sports, work, travel, advantages they feel they have now, advice for worried parents, and more!!

Uncover your Highest Values and Life Purpose with Donna Vail

DonnaVailWelcome Donna Vail to our Radiant Tribe!

Donna is the mother of six and has been educating her children at home for almost 20 years.  She empowers families to find and follow their Life Purpose through her writing, speaking, workshops and private coaching.  Donna helps families who are moving from school to home education, as well as those who are moving from a school-at-home approach to one that is led by the Highest Values and Life Purpose of each family member.  Join Donna at the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat for her 2 part workshop:

Unveiling Life Purpose for You and Your Children

Unschooling is an experience to be shared as a family, but it can be greatly enhanced when parents have the vision to facilitate children to their individual greatness.  One of the most stressful areas in unschooling is the inability to understand how your child is communicating their life purpose so you can accurately provide for their needs and not distract them from their purposeful path.  Many parents struggle with knowing their own life purpose and how to manage it productively.  This can make it impossible to facilitate the life purposes of the rest of the family.

The key ingredient is knowing how to identify your highest values and priorities, and those of your children.  Once you know these highest values, you can begin applying them directly to your everyday life.  Raising your children, providing an inspiring learning environment, doing your own work to provide for the family and relate to others is enriched when you identify with your highest values. This process can make the difference between living a meaningful life or one of quiet desperation. Let’s face it, freedom is never free. It comes with great responsibility and if we’re not tuned in or we’re unsure, we become enslaved by our indecisiveness.

In this workshop Donna will take you through the process of determining your highest values, discovering the key to family dynamics and how your perceptions shape your life.  We will also learn how to determine your children’s highest values and how to customize their learning experience into every day purposeful living and learning.

You will walk away from this workshop not only listening better, but also going through the process to have a clearer breakdown of what’s most important in your and your children’s lives.

  • Discover why you do what you do
  • Let go of pushing
  • Hear what your children are really telling you

You will be empowered with new self-understanding and inspiration to love more, live more and learn more.

This workshop is designed for parents but Part One is also appropriate for teens that are interested in using Donna’s process to discover their Highest Values and Priorities.

Part One:
Values Determination Process for Parents and Teens,

Lunch Break

Part Two:
Values Determination Process for Children’s Values,
Family Dynamics and Customized Learning
(Pre-req: Must have attended Session One)

To learn more about Donna and her process visit

Connect with Donna at:

Links for
More info on the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat

Early Bird discounts are available through August 15.

Welcome Sue Patterson to our Radiant Tribe!

SuePattersonWe are very excited to announce that veteran Unschooler Sue Patterson will be sharing her experience and wisdom with us at the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat!

Sue has a knack for gently helping parents who are encountering bumps along the road to Unschooling.  Her years of experience along with her compassionate nature makes her a valuable mentor for those of us working toward more JOYFUL living and learning.

The working titles for her sessions are:

  • What is Unschooling?
  • Unschooling Teens
  • Curriculum as a Crutch
  • When Your Unschooler Chooses School
  • Balancing Parental Guidance and Child-Led Learning

She will also be a panel member in the Veteran Unschoolers Q&A session.

Sue began homeschooling her children in the mid-1990′s. It wasn’t long before they shed their schoolish ways and embraced the unschooling lifestyle. The Pattersons were a military family and unschooled in Alaska, California, and Texas. Her family dove into a variety of homeschooling communities along the way, working on conferences, creating support groups, participating in local activities. Each of her 3 unschooled “kids” are grown now, 20, 23 and 25, off pursuing their own adventures.

Sue blogs at Lifelong Learning ( and has a new website coming! Lifelong Learning also houses all of her unschooling articles in an area called Unschooling Mom2Mom.

She is currently the editor of The Homeschooler Magazine, available quarterly in hard copy (and pdf by mid-June!) The magazine encourages parents to focus on learning, helping us look deeper at rationales for our educational choices. While it’s not an unschooling magazine, many unschoolers are writing and sharing their insights in The Homeschooler.

Sue is finishing her book, Homeschooled Teens. She surveyed 75 teens and grown homeschoolers asking them questions about their lives as homeschooled teenagers.

She is also in training with Martha Beck’s life coach program. She hopes to combine her unschooling experience with the tools she’s learning through the program to help parents out of ruts, and into joyful happier lives. She specifically works with families who need one-on-one help with moving from the school system to homeschooling, from homeschooling to unschooling as well as families experiences difficulties navigating the teen years and women/mothers who are ready for a change!

Not a Camper? We can help!

From a “non-camper” at last year’s Retreat:

“Reflecting on this weekend…I have to say that I really loved our camping experience at Cleburne State Park!  We don’t do a lot of camping (yet)…don’t even own a tent or gear! (yet)…but the facilities were clean & the restrooms were clean & warm…the layout of the campground & cabins was perfect!  We loved it!  I would definitely like to go back!”
                                                     – Michelle

Never fear!  There are several options for non-campers at the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat!

1. If you’ve never camped or haven’t been in years, we can hook you up with a Radiant Family who is more experienced.  They can give you pointers before hand and help you set up your tent.  To sign up for a Camping Liaison mention it in the notes section of your Registration Form.

Also check out these posts from last year:
– Camping Tips (part 1 and part 2)
– Camp Packing Lists
or post your camping questions to the RL&L Facebook Group

2. If tent camping just isn’t your thing you have several options:

  • Bunkhouse – We have several families who loved the Bunkhouse so much last year that they have already requested a space there again.
    We have 2 bunkhouse rooms with 24 bunk beds each.  The beds can be rearranged and blankets/sheets hung to create privacy.  The Bunkhouses have heat and AC and the restrooms/showers are just across a breezeway.  Choose “Bunkhouse” in the accommodations section of your Retreat Registration Form.
  • Rent an RV – Our family did this last year to accommodate our child with intense special needs.  We had been considering a motel room for him and my husband, but we wanted them to be IN the park with us and all of the other Radiant Families.  We found an RV through El Monte RV that was comparable to motel prices and MUCH less expensive than any other RV company we shopped in DFW or in Cleburne.
    This year we have negotiated a group rate with El Monte.  5-10% off depending on how many in our group.  They have locations in McKinney and Palmer and their website has prices for all of the different models.
    On your Retreat Registration Form choose a Private Tent/RV Campsite and mention in the notes that you would like to join our group for the discount.  A couple of months before the Retreat El Monte will be ready to take our group’s reservations.  You can choose a campsite with or without sewer hookups as there is a free dump station in the state park.
  • Stay in a hotel in Cleburne – If you just can’t make the camping leap this time, the town of Cleburne is only 10 miles from the State Park and has many hotel and motel options.  Your daily entrance fee is covered each day by your Weekend Retreat Registration, so you can leave each night and return each morning to attend workshops, hang out with all the other families and enjoy all of the Retreat activities.  Park rules state that daytime guests must leave the park by 10pm.
  • Single Day Passes – Cleburne is close to DFW!  Come out for the day! Single Day Passes are available for Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  The cost is $25 per person.
    Click Here to purchase Single Day Passes for you or your family.
    Map it to see how far you are from the State Park.

If you have further questions, please contact us.

Whatever accommodations are the best fit for your family, we want to help make it possible for you to attend the Retreat and benefit from the support of our Radiant Tribe!

Love Your Radiant Life!

Finding the Courage to Forge Your Own Path with Dr. Adrienne Carmack

Radiant Living & Learning is pleased to welcome Adrienne Carmack, MD as a workshop facilitator at the Retreat!

Mother of three unschooled children, Adrienne began her adulthood on a very traditional path to the American dream. Once she got there, she realized the inherent flaws of the dream and began to tune in to her own intuition. She became a mother, reworked her medical practice to create an entirely new practice model to fit her life, and has published a book blasting the medical profession for its absurdities:
Reclaiming My Birth Rights.
Read more at:


Join Adrienne for her session at the Retreat:
Finding the Courage to Forge Your Own Path
 where she will share how trusting her intuition has helped her move from Medical Doctor to Birthing Rights Advocate and what she envisions creating for her future.  Adrienne invites attendees to share how they have (or are hoping to) untangle themselves from society’s webs in order to live a life they love. “Let’s learn from each other as we all move closer towards that which feels true.  Let’s share what has worked or what is holding us back so we can visualize what’s possible together!”

Can an Unschooling Conference be good for your health?

Hi Radiant Tribe!

I saw a quote recently that made me think of y’all.

“Copious scientific data proves that loneliness is a greater risk to your health than smoking or lack of exercise, and finding your tribe is better than any vitamin, diet, or exercise regimen.”            – Lissa Rankin, M.D.

It didn’t really surprise me, but it struck me profoundly at that moment.

I DO feel better when I’m surrounded by my Unschooling Tribe.
The effects are lasting and are renewed each time I connect with like minded souls.

I knew I liked how I feel during and after Unschooling gatherings, and I knew that feelings of happiness, joy, as well as feeling understood and supported are good for my physical well being, but I never made the leap that an Unschooling conference could actually be beneficial to my health!  (Maybe because I’m so tired afterwards) 😉

Get in on the health benefits of hanging with your tribe!
Join us for the

2015 Radiant Living & Learning Retreat
Nov 5-9

We will have most of the stuff we had at the Retreat last year, plus we are adding an Open Mic Night/Talent Show.  It’s such a JOY to watch the kids AND adults share from their hearts at the Talent Show at RE, so we wanted to bring that energy to the Retreat!

Registration is open. Click here for pricing.  

If you need tuition assistance” check out
this page for info on joining the Radiant Staff to earn Registration Credits.

Please email me if you have questions!
Can’t wait to hang with y’all in November!  Until then . . .

Love your Radiant Life!
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Announcing the 2014 Retreat!

Super Early Bird Registration opens Monday, May 5
Prices are good through June 15

Radiant Living and Learning Retreat
October 23 – 27, 2014
Cleburne, Texas
(1 hour south of Fort Worth and 1.5 hours southwest of Dallas)

Every little bit of freedom that a child is allowed in determining how they spend their days living and learning is a step in the right direction. 

Nobody gets it “right” 100% of the time, but the more we can move toward honoring our children’s choices and unconditional acceptance of and respect for our kids AND ourselves, the closer we will get to Unschooling Bliss!

Radiant Living and Learning is a community of families who are supporting one another in moving toward a more peaceful, harmonious family life – toward living and learning together in joy as we celebrate each family member’s unique gifts, needs and passions.

Join us at the 2nd Annual Radiant Living and Learning Retreat this October!
Last year, 41 families had a BLAST playing and supporting each other.
This year we plan to double that number!

We will gather at Cleburne State Park for:

  • Workshops and Informal Discussions on various
    Unschooling and Partnership Parenting topics
  • Campsite Trunk-or-Treat
  • Halloween Dance Party
  • Community Campfires
  • Women’s Sacred Circle
  • Unschooling Dads’ Gathering
  • Littles’ PlayLand
  • Fresh juice and smoothie bar
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Canoe rides and more!


  • Campsites for tent and RV camping
  • Campsites with screened shelters
  • Heated bunk house for non-campers
  • More options for non-campers
  • Heated bathrooms & showers for everyone!
  • Indoor community space in the Dining Hall and Group Rec Hall

Here’s some feedback from last year’s Retreat:
“As we drove away from the retreat, my kids agreed unanimously that was the best Unschooling Conference OR Campout they’d ever been to!  We can’t wait until the next one!”  – Ami

“I’m so overwhelmed at the love, and how wonderful everyone was!  I’m new in DFW and everyone was so inviting and welcoming. It meant a lot to me. Thank you all for being so great!”   – Amanda

“Thank you for a very cool conference.  I was pleased to see people from out of state, too.”   – Rob

The retreat will be similar in pricing and content to last year with some additions and upgrades.
Details on pricing and registration here.

Early Bird Registration ends June 15.
Last Call for Discounts ends Aug 15.
Large family discounts and day passes are available.

We also have plans in the works for an Unschooling Conference in February 2015 at Great Wolf Lodge and Water Park in Irving, TX!

Click “Follow Us” or “Join Us on Facebook” in the right hand column of the homepage for events updates and periodic blog posts on Unschooling.

Join the Education Evolution!

Camp Packing Lists

I have two homeschooling friends who recently shared their personal packing lists with our co-op groups.  Both lists are the result of years of camping experience (and forgetting items at home!)  So I wanted to share them with you in case you were feeling nervous about forgetting important items as you pack this week!  If you are not sure about camping click here to see other sleeping arrangements for non-campers.

This first one was created by Doreen Fisher, our PlayLand “Director” and Workshop
DoreenFisher Presenter on Creating Peace through Family Meetings.  She made a beautiful spreadsheet that you can customize and then print out to check off items as you pack.

Click here for Doreen’s Spreadsheet

Jennifer Jones’ list below is a little less elaborate, but a good list nonetheless with a few different items from Doreen’s list.

I do have a couple of things to add two these two lists (that are totally optional, but you might want to include too.)  One that was super fun AND functional at our last camping trip was Christmas Lights!
xmasLightsOutsideNot only are these festive, but they provide nice ambient light around your campsite that’s not too bright after your eyes have adjusted to the dark.  Bring an extension cord and maybe a power strip if you have several other things to plug in at your site.  (I’m bringing my electric skillet to make breakfast prep quick and easy).  You can bring a hammer and some nails to hang the lights on the trees around your site in case there aren’t enough low hanging branches.  Also there are tall poles with hooks at each campsite (for hanging food up out of reach of wildlife) that you could wrap lights around.  You can put them on the oxmasLightsInsideutside of your tent, your canopy or
they can be used on the inside of the tent (never unattended though!)  If you want to get fancy, you can purchase lights that run on batteries.

One other fun list is this article on Camping “Hacks” that was floating around Facebook a while back.  Some of them are just silly, but many seem useful.  I will be using #1 on the list this trip!

Jones Family Camping Gear List

Two Coolers (one for frequent open, one for seldom open)
4 Camp Chairs
Tent & Tent Stakes
Tent Pad (we use a large shipping blanket)
Air Mattress(es)
Air Pump
Lantern/Lantern Fuel or Batteries
Head Lamps/Flash Lights
4 Pillows
2 large blankets
1 fitted sheet
Sleeping Bags
Extension Cord
Camp Stove
Camp Stove Fuel
Pot with lid
Pan with lid
Hot pad/trivot
Plates, bowls, silverware for 4
Cups, mugs for 4
Serving spoon & Spatula
Large Bowl for serving
Large plate for serving
Paper towels
Zip-Lock bags
Dish Soap
Dish Pan/Drainer
Tie Downs
Bike Pump (& patch kit)
First Aid kit
Fire Wood
Marshmallow/Hot Dog pokers
Grill Spatula
Bottled Water
Trash Bags

*If Dog –
Food & Water bowls

4 full outfits per person
2 extra pairs of socks per person
4 towels
4 jackets
4 hats
4 gloves (if cold)
Rain Gear

4 Bathroom Kits
-toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, soap/facewash, 2 face rags, travel size shampoo & conditioner, zip-lock bags, pain reliever, deoderant and any other personal items or medications

Books to read

*some people bring tent heaters & fans, we have never used them so they are not on our list.

Camping Tips Part 1

sq logo retreatThanks to Summer Blessed for sharing these tips learned from years of camping fun!  Even if you camp a lot, take the time to read these.  I’ve been camping since I was a child and I learned a couple of new ideas for making the trip more enjoyable!


Camping is such a wonderful way to connect with family and friends.  It is grounding and peaceful.  It gives a glimpse into nature that can’t be recreated.  Sleeping under the stars is one of the best gifts you can give yourself in this lifetime.  Camping is the perfect marriage of preparedness, nature and resilience.  It can be a very calming, relaxing trip.  If you follow these tips, your trip is sure to be an enjoyable one.  I have several categories of importance.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: weather, clothing, shoes, shower bags
I often field questions about the latest, greatest gadgets out there for camping.  But, I want to point out that camping can be quite inexpensive.  You don’t need to buy 200.00 sleeping bags to have fun.
Know the weather for your camping location.  But don’t rely on the 7 day forecast – it’s often wrong!  Check the weather no more than 2 days before your trip, and even then you might be surprised.  Bring raincoats/ponchos and boots just in case.  You can always leave them in the car.
Bring one outfit per person, per day as a bare minimum and two extra complete outfits are a good idea.  Nothing feels better than having a clean outfit to put on.  Include underclothing, socks and shoes in your calculations.  If the weather is cooler, layering thinner clothes rather than wearing bulky clothes is the best way to stay warm.  With layering heat is trapped between the layers of your clothing, and you have the option to add a layer or remove a layer easily as temperatures fluctuate during the day and night.
I pack clothing in extra large Ziploc bags that are clear.  The size that are 2ftx 2ft work really well.  I also put the name of the person on their bag!  I pack the bag with the next to use outfit on top.  This works great for little ones that want to be independent.  We keep these Ziplocs in a tub in the tent.  Keeping the lid closed helps us not scatter clean clothing with dirty.  It also makes sure we have a clean outfit that doesn’t smell like campfire smoke.  We pack well worn clothing that is comfortable and useful.  Functional should be your theme. You don’t need 5 sweaters.  One or two will suffice.  Less is more in the camping lifestyle.  Pick clothes that have pockets, zippers and utility features.  You never know when you will need an extra pocket to carry acorns or sea shells.  Pockets are your friend!
Also in the tent, we keep a tub for shoes.  This helps keep shoes together and the mess on the bottom of the shoes stays in the tub, not on the tent floor.  This also has the priceless benefit of keeping spiders and such out of your shoes!  It’s a good idea to bring an extra pair of shoes for each person in case they get wet on a hike or something.
Create a shower bag.  This bag should be made of nylon mesh so that it can dry easily if wet.  If you don’t want to buy bags, you can save the large mesh bags that grapefruits come in.  In my family we have a man’s shower bag and a woman’s shower bag.  This way, the whole family can shower at once and not wait on the shower bag!  This year, I will have a shower bag for each family member because my kids are older and have special requests for toiletries and need privacy.  I include shampoo, conditioner, razor, shave cream, bar soap, towel and hair brush/tooth brush for each person.  We consider the needs of each person.  We also use shower shoes so that we can shower without fear of standing on a mushy, moldy surface that sometimes you would find at camp shower facilities.  Shower shoes keep the ‘ewwww’ factor down. That towel I mentioned is also one per person.  The shower bag makes life super easy at the campground!  Don’t forget to grab your change of clothes and add it to the shower bag when you get ready to shower. My shower bags also have an extra mesh bag to hold dirty clothing away from everything else.  Camping can be messy and hard on clothes, so this helps!



THE GEAR: tents, bedding, lighting

I love a nice tall, roomy tent to sleep in.  The tent is key in keeping you warm or cool, dry or wet.  It is your shelter while tent camping!  Choose one that is well made, with sealed seams to keep out the rain.  I personally use a tent with a rain fly.  This is a cover for your tent that is separately staked into the ground and clipped to the poles of your tent in most cases.  I also like to place a tarp under the tent.   This insulates the tent from the temperature of the ground.  Metal tent stakes and a rubber mallet are the best.  Plastic tent stakes break under the wear and tear of use.
Once you have shelter, start thinking about your sleeping needs.  We use air mattresses.  If you choose air mattresses, consider how you will inflate those.  I use a battery powered air pump.  If you are short on space, foam rolls are a much more compact solution for use in the tent.  We use standard size pillows and blankets.  If it is very cold, I suggest sleeping bags that are rated for cold weather temperatures.  You will find the rate information on the sleeping bags at the store.  They give the temperature range for that bag.  Sleeping bags help hold in the heat during cold weather camping.  During hot weather, we use sheets rather than sleeping bags in order to stay cool.  Again the layering concept can be helpful for bedding since you never know how the weather might change in Texas!
The next consideration is lighting.  I like to have small flashlights for every family member.  I love the camping lanterns that run on LED lights.  They usually have several lighting options.  You will need at least one of these larger lanterns to provide lighting for a large area such as the camp kitchen or tent.  Head lamps are also handy for cooking, reading or any other activity requiring both hands. We like to use solar powered or hand crank flashlights to cut down on battery usage.  One of my favorite additions to a campsite is string lighting.  We hang several strings of lights to provide charm and ambient lighting.  We also bring several extension cords to aid in lighting our space.

CAMP FIRE: wood, tools, fire starter
Campfires are a delight for every camper.  You will need plenty of wood if you plan to have a fire every night.  Choose a source ahead of time or plan to pack in your firewood.  There are often homes or businesses near State Parks that sell firewood.  Also, be sure to pack in tools to tend your fire.  We like to have a small axe, fire poker and shovel.  I also bring fire starter in case of inclement weather.  We use matches to ignite the fire – keep those in a ziplock bag or other water proof container.  Bring plenty of kindling because gathering firewood at Cleburne State Park is prohibited.  Kindling is smaller pieces of wood (very small to medium) that light easily and burn long enough to ignite the larger logs.  Pack in your kindling   An open fire is also a great way to cook your food.  I will talk more about that in Part 2.