Campsites are going fast!

November in Texas is a VERY popular time to camp and the rangers at Cleburne State Park say that their campsites WILL be booked solid every weekend before Thanksgiving.
As of now there are still 26 sites left, but they will go fast – if not to our group then to others.  Let’s fill up this park with Unschoolers!!! 

Registering soon guarantees that you will get a campsite.  (Once I receive your payment I will reserve it with the park).  Early Bird registration is over, but there are still a few discounts available until Oct 15 plus options for volunteering to reduce fees.

It IS possible to share a site with another family since there are 8 people allowed per site.  If you share a site we can reduce your registration fees a bit.  (There are only 2 vehicles allowed per site so if your camper is a trailer towed by a car, you won’t be able to share.)

Please call or email or facebook message me to discuss options for sharing a site and volunteering.  Or click here if you are ready to sign up and reserve your campsite today.

Click here for general information about the Retreat.

So looking forward to camping with all y’all!!!

Heaps of Love,
ChristinaWester @

“Tuition Assistance”

We want as many people to come to the retreat as possible!
Hanging out with lots of interesting, freedom loving people
is what makes Unschooling Conferences so fun!

Please do not let money keep you from joining us!

There are many ways you can help out at the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat.
If you need help covering the cost of your registration you can get registration credits for doing lots of different jobs before, during or after the event.

Below is a sampling of jobs we need to fill, but the best thing to do is contact us so we can discuss your skills, interests and where we can best use your talents.  Please submit the Staff Application so that we can match you up with jobs at the retreat.

Staff Jobs

  • Kitchen/Meal Helpers
  • Grill Master (charcoal)
  • Smoothie/Juice/Coffee Bar Volunteer
  • Playing with little kids in Kid Village
  • Bigger Kids’ Crafts
    (we provide craft ideas and supplies, or bring your own ideas)
  • Bigger Kids’ Activities
    (we provide the activity – you implement)
  • Face Painters
  • Henna Artists
  • Dance Party / Mic Night Talent Show
  • Canoe Wranglers
  • Massage Chair
  • Monday Clean up Crew
  • General Volunteers to help with miscellaneous jobs
  • Anything else you can think of that might add to the retreat:
    workshop topics, activities we haven’t thought of, etc.
    Contact Us to discuss ideas.

How much credit can I receive for working?

Generally we will comp $10 per hour.  Some jobs will get more per hour depending on volunteer’s skills and expertise. We will discuss the particular job you are doing, how many shifts you want to cover and determine your discount.  It is important that you show up, and be ON TIME to your assigned shift, as all unfulfilled shifts will incur a charge in the amount of credit that was negotiated for that shift. You may trade with another person to get your job covered.

Have more questions or want to discuss staff positions?
Click here to fill out the Staff Application

Autism, Elopement and the Power of Community

I’ve already talked about this a bit in the About section of the website, but last night as I was lying in bed (not sleeping because I’m so excited about this retreat) I started thinking about WHY I’m even doing the retreat in the first place and figured I should share.

As you may have seen, this event is a fundraiser for an Autism Service Dog for my son Tristan.

I love this kid SO much.

I know all of you parents can relate to that, but what’s unique about being Tristan’s mom is the overwhelming fear that Autism brings to the table.  I know all parents worry for their kids’ safety or their future at some point (or all the time!) but imagine the “normal” amount of worry and multiply that times a hundred . . . or maybe a thousand.

I actually vacillate between feeling hopeful about Tristan’s recovery and confident in my ability to care for his “extra needs,” and feeling pretty deep despair concerning his future and the day-to-day challenges Autism presents for our family.  I’m learning how to focus on the hope and magnify that in my life, but those nagging fears often tap me on the shoulder.
Or smack me in the face.

One of my biggest fears is that Tristan will run off and get hurt . . . or worse.  I’ve known for a while that 1/2 of individuals with Autism are “elopers,” meaning they easily wander or run away from safety.

Tristan definitely fits into this category.   And he is a runner.

The older he gets the harder it is to “corral” him, especially when we leave the house.  Imagine what it would be like if your kid never grew out of that “toddler phase” where they just run indiscriminately in any direction.

Tristan’s 6 so we’ve been in the “toddler phase” for 5 years now.  And he’s fast.

Another complication to this elopement issue is that many individuals with Autism are drawn to water.  (It’s a sensory thing in Tristan’s case at least.)  So things like our neighbor’s pool, which is often left unlocked, 🙁  creates even more concern.

Just to add to my anxiety around this whole issue, I recently read that wandering off is thought by some to be the leading cause of death for children with Autism!  We have “lost” Tristan for very short times in the past and that has been enough to convince us that we need some extra help in keeping him safe.  Service Dogs are trained in Search & Rescue functions as well as a tethering function where the child and the dog are connected so that Tristan can’t run away when we are out and about.  For a while we have wanted to get a Service Dog, but they are very expensive and the idea of fundraising was just too overwhelming on top of everything else that Autism brings to our daily lives.

During one of my most recent bouts of “Autism-induced depression,” some of my wonderful Home Educating friends rallied around me and offered to help raise money so we can get Tristan a Service Dog.  I cannot begin to tell you how much it means to me that these wonderful women have offered to support Tristan and our family in this way.

It’s true that “it takes a village,” but I often joke that in the case of severe Autism, it takes three.

Since we announced the retreat, even more amazing Unschooling friends have stepped forward to help in some way.  I am truly overwhelmed and touched beyond words.

So together we are putting on the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat both to serve our Home Education community and to hopefully chip away at the $13,000 we have to raise to get a dog with the skills necessary to help keep Tristan safe and enable our family to leave the house without the fear that it could end in tragedy.
(Sounds dramatic doesn’t it?!?  But that’s just one of the things we “Autism Moms” worry about on a daily basis 🙂 )

There are also many other ways that these service dogs help individuals with the various challenges of Autism and you can read more about that here.

So that’s my story (part of it anyway).
That’s why you will probably see a zillion posts between now and November reminding you to sign up and share the retreat info.

I love this kid.
And rather than letting the despair take over, I am (with the help of so many fabulous friends) focusing on what I can do to help my baby while creating a fun event to support families who are living (or considering) this amazing life of Unschooling.  I am SO excited to be combining these two passions in my life – Autism Recovery and Unschooling, and I feel SO energized by the excitement that many of you have expressed about the retreat AND Tristan’s dog.

Hope you can join us!!!

3 ways you can stay in touch regarding the event or Tristan’s dog:

  1. click on the “follow” link at the top right of the page to receive email updates
  2. join our Radiant Living & Learning Facebook group here
  3. RSVP to the Retreat Event on Facebook here

If you just want to donate toward Tristan’s Service Dog or
share our fundraising efforts with your friends on facebook
here’s the link to the fundraising page.

You can also share this post using the links below.

Heaps of Love to you All!

2013 Fall Retreat Overview and Fees

Location: Cleburne State Park

1.5 hour drive SW of Dallas
1 hour drive South of Ft. Worth
3 hour drive North of Austin

38 minutes from Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose

Dates:  Nov 15-18, 2013

We will have speakers, panels, group discussions and activities for all ages.
As well as unstructured time outdoors with other Unschooling families
(and those interested in learning more about Unschooling.)


  • Tent campsites with water and electric (full)
  • RV campsites with water and electric (full)
  • RV or Tent campsites with water, electric and sewer
    ($10 surcharge per night)
  • Screened Shelters (full)
  • Indoor Bunkhouse (heated with bathrooms) (almost full)

For teens and tweens:

  • Girls’ Slumber Party in the Group Barracks building
  • Boys’ Campout at the Youth Group Campsite area.  Both will be chaperoned.

We will have crafts and other activities for kids and teens.
Playland” childcare will be available indoors close to the Main Dining Hall.
There is also a playground, spring fed lake and hiking and mountain biking trails.

Click here to see more details on the retreat.

Price includes EVERYTHING but your food!

  • State Park Daily Entrance Fees
  • Campsite Rental (Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights)
  • Workshop Registration Fee
  • PlayLand Childcare During Workshops
    (babies and toddlers who stay with parents the entire retreat
    do NOT need to register)
  • Kid, Tween and Teen Activities

REGISTRATION click here to register

Early Bird discounts have expired, but we are still offering a few discounts for registrations received by October 15th

$79 per person
family discount:
only pay $30 per person for the 5th, 6th, 7th & 8th people
in your family, including grandparents!

(after October 15)

$89 per person
add $10 per night if sewer hookup is needed for RV campsite
(free dump station available)

Day Registration
$20 per person – per day (must exit park by 10pm)

Volunteer opportunities are available to reduce registration fees.

Please email christina wester @ mac .com if you would like to discuss volunteering and payment plan options.

No refunds given.
Registration can be transferred to a friend or used for future Radiant Living & Learning events.

If you’d like to receive updates on the Fall Retreat, Mini-Retreats or Blog Posts you can:

  1. click on the “follow” button at the top right of the page for email updates
  2. join our Facebook group here
  3. RSVP at our Facebook event here