What does “Radiant Living” even mean???

By 2007 life events had led me to a point where I could no longer ignore the fact that I was put on this earth to
1. learn how to confidently hear and follow my “Inner Voice of Wisdom” and
2. help others do the same.

Often I just call it “The Voice” but it goes by many names: Intuition, Instinct, Gut Feelings, Higher Self, Inner Knowing, Emotional Guidance and more.  No matter what we call it or what we believe it to be, we’ve all “heard” it at one time or another – or THOUGHT we heard it and wondered.

Sometimes we listen and sometimes we don’t.

At pivotal moments in my life, this Voice has “come through” very loud and clear as it echoed in my head.  Other times it has taken a more subtle form: gentle nudges, strong feelings, hunches, feeling “guided” to take a certain action and other hard to describe phenomena .  But however my Inner Wisdom ultimately communicates with me, it always rings true in my heart and I have learned after 41 years of “experimentation” that it’s in my best interest to listen.

We are born tuned into The Voice, but the voices of our family, teachers and other “authorities” often steer us away from listening.  Sometimes this is done subtly and sometimes with strong coercion, threats or punishment.  By the time we are grown, most of us have learned to successfully ignore or drown out our Inner Voice of Wisdom with the external voices that hold power in our lives, our communities and in our culture in general.

What does all this have to do with Alternative Education or Partnership Parenting?

For me, choosing to approach education and parenting in this way is:

  1. a result of hearing (and finally following) my Inner Voice of Wisdom
  2. a means by which I can continually practice listening – and recalibrating my actions and choices to line up with my Inner Wisdom

Almost every external voice I’ve ever heard has said things like:

  • “Children are too young and inexperienced to know what they want.  They CAN’T know what’s good for them.”
  • “Learning is difficult and can only happen when children are FORCED to sit and attend to ‘unpreferred’ activities.”
  • “There are certain things EVERY child MUST know and they must learn it in the time frame and order in which ‘educational professionals’ prescribe.”
  • “We must DEMAND respect from children (without reciprocating that respect).  We should not be our children’s ‘friends’ and if we don’t discipline, punish and force our children to do certain things, they will never learn respect, responsibility or be motivated to do anything productive with their time.”

My Inner Voice of Wisdom has NEVER agreed with these ideas on education and parenting that seem to be dominant in western culture at large.  The moment I made the decision to Unschool and try parenting without using punishment, the most profound sense of Peace came over me.  I’ve learned over the years that this sense of Peace is a strong indication that my actions are coming into alignment with my Inner Wisdom that has never steered me wrong.

Of course doubts and questions have arisen as our family has made our way toward Unschooling and Partnership Parenting, but these have just been opportunities for me to practice quieting those external voices and tune into myself and my children to find the answer that is right for our family.  And when things are still unclear I seek out experienced people on this path whose voices resonate with my my own Inner Wisdom.

Trusting children is a primary component to Unschooling and Partnership Parenting.  In my experience, learning to hear, trust and follow my OWN Inner Wisdom is ESSENTIAL to learning to trust my children.  How can we ever trust THEIR Inner Wisdom if we are unwilling or unable to trust our own?

So for me, Unschooling and working toward parenting in a non-coercive way can only be accomplished if I am CONTINUALLY tuning into my Inner Voice and recalibrating my actions to line up with that Voice.

Why RADIANT Living & Learning?

I’ve found that people who live from the inside out – meaning their motivations, choices and actions come from an authority within – these people GLOW.  Their lights shine more brightly in the world.  They RADIATE beauty and confidence and love and acceptance.  We are drawn to these people because we want to be like them – maybe not precisely imitating the details of their lives – but we want to live our lives with the confidence and authenticity they do.  There is a light in each of us that is trying to shine just as brightly.

We cannot live & learn “radiantly” when we are following someone else’s agenda.  That just dims our LIGHTS or blocks them out entirely.  When we are following our Inner Wisdom, pursuing our passions and fulfilling our life purpose, we SHINE.

At Radiant Living & Learning Events you will hear from Radiant Community Members who are creating the lives they desire by following their own inner voice.

If something you read on this website resonates with YOUR Inner Voice of Wisdom or makes you pause to reconsider the way you’ve always done things, the Radiant Living Community is sure to provide more inspiration and encouragement to confidently create the life you desire for yourself and your family.

We hope you will join us ONLINE or IN PERSON soon!

Heaps of Love,



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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!

2013 Retreat Wrap Up


Photo Gallery Under Construction – send your photos from the Retreat to christina wester @ mac.com (without spaces) or post them to the Radiant Living & Learning Facebook Group – Thanks!

Dear Radiant Friends,

It didn’t really register for me exactly HOW soon Thanksgiving was going to be after the Retreat was over!  I barely recovered before the holiday whirlwind began . . . so now here I am FINALLY posting a long overdue THANK YOU to all of you who attended and helped make the first Radiant Living & Learning Retreat a success!

The good news is that we raised $3,201 toward the $13,500 we need for Tristan’s Service Dog and the better news is that many of you are so gung-ho about doing this again that we’ve already started planning the next one!

We’d be here all day if I tried to thank every single person here who gave of their time and energy to make the Retreat happen.  You each hold a special place in my heart and I will be forever greatful for all of the love and support you showed our family and our Unschooling community by helping to make the Retreat possible. 

I knew that doing this fundraiser would stretch me and my comfort zone regarding “asking for help” and “receiving,” but I had NO idea just how deeply I would be touched by the generosity and kindness of each and every person who attended, donated, and worked hard to help me create this amazing event.  My heart is filled with Love every time I think about this amazing community.

I do want to mention a few special people that made such huge contributions, I just have to share:

Lisa Ruiz worked her a$$ off planning, cooking and feeding us at the Retreat.  She gave so generously of her time and resources for this event, it could never have happened without her!

Jen and Derek Palmeri facilitated a donation through Derek’s employer, Fresh Point Produce, of almost all of the produce we served at the meals and at the Smoothie Bar.

Scott Gaylon of K Bar K Ranch donated the chicken and deeply discounted the burgers we served.  He raises the cleanest meat I have found locally and sells at various DFW area farmer’s markets as well as making deliveries to the Plano and McKinney areas.  Find Scott on facebook here or at http://www.kbark.com/.

The work and donations from these folks accounts for OVER HALF of the total funds we were able to raise!

I’ve already heard from some of you on your experience with the Retreat but would love to hear any feedback (including “constructive criticism” 🙂 ) that you’d still like to share.  I’m gathering testamonials and also in the process of planning future Radiant events so your feedback is valuable!  Here’s a link to email me.

Speaking of future events – we don’t have exact dates yet, but want you to know we’re planning another RL&L Retreat around Halloween of 2014
and a RL&L Unschooling Conference in early 2015.

Hope you can join us – stay tuned for updates!

Heaps of Love,
Christina, Peter, Houston, Juliana and Tristan

New Friday Session, Sleepovers & More Deets

  • New Session Added!sq logo WORKSHOP
    Circle Chat: What IS Unschooling Exactly?
    @ 2:30 with Nina Jones and Christina Wester
    Bring your camping chair or blanket to the playground in front of Cedar Lodge for this “round table” discussion about how we each define Unschooling and what it looks like (or could look like) in our homes.  Since PlayLand doesn’t open until Saturday, we’re going to do this session Park Day style while the kids play on the playground.  Whether you’re new to Unschooling or you’ve been doing it a while, join us to share your perspective and learn from each other!
  • Volunteer Assignments – I’m sending out volunteer schedules very soon – PLEASE read your email and confirm that you’ve received it.sq logoSCHEDULE
  • Retreat Schedule Changes – There have been a few – check it out unless you just like surprises 🙂
  • Boys’ Sleepover – If you have a teen or tween boy check your email – we need to hear from you.  If you have a teen or tween boy & didn’t get an email contact Christina.
  • Girls’ Sleepover – If your teen or tween girls would like to sleep in the bunkhouse with the other girls (and a few moms) they’ll either need twin sheets and blankets or a sleeping bag.  (It’s bunk beds).
  • Leaving Sunday? – If you haven’t already told me that you’re leaving Sunday please let me know so I can cancel the third night on your campssq logoRADIANTbucksite – I have to do that by Tuesday so we won’t be charged for Sunday night.
  • Radiant Bucks – Still time to order some . . . . Enjoy fresh juices, smoothies, tamales, canoe rides, face painting, body art or chair massage; help us raise money for Tristan’s dog; AND help us keep the Rangers happy by buying “Bucks” ahead of time so we are in compliance with the park rules 🙂
  • Raffle Tickets – The good news is we haven’t sold a sq logo RAFFLEton of tickets so your chances of winning are great!  The bad news is we haven’t sold a ton of tickets – support the cause today!  Share the Raffle page with your friends who can’t come to the retreat!  There are some great prizes!!!

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.

Retreat Schedule is Here!

Ok y’all – I’m sure something on the schedule will change or have to be rearranged, but here it is.

If you see any conflicts or something else that I missed, please let me know – I’m a newbie at this!

Also PLEASE make note of the following important info:

  • When you enter the park you should NOT pay entry fees.  Just tell the rangers your names and that you are with the Radiant Retreat and they will check you off of the list of attendees I provide.
  • Tell the rangers what day you will be leaving – the fees are per person, PER DAY so we don’t want to pay for extra days if anyone in your group is leaving early.
  • If you have a Texas State Parks Pass please use it because that will help reduce the total amount our group will have to pay.
  • Next proceed to the Group Dining Hall to check-in at the registration table and get your campsite assignment.  (It’s the building between the Men’s and Women’s Barracks buildings on the map.)
  • If you can, bring your bikes!  It will be a great way to get around to the different activities around camp AND we will be having bike races for the kids!
  • Dog owners:  You must have your dog on a leash no more than 6 feet, and you will be required to show the dog’s vaccine records or rabies tags. Dogs are not allowed in any of the buildings (including the screened shelters and bathrooms) at Cleburne State Park.  If you have questions about pet rules, please call the park.  817-645-4215
  • It’s not too late to buy Radiant Bucks and Raffle Tickets.  We have added Tamales and Homemade Lara Bars to the Juice and Smoothie Bar!
  • PLEASE read ALL your emails from us between now and the Retreat.  🙂  We will be posting more camping tips, suggested packing lists and other details you will need to know before you arrive.

It’s getting close – can’t wait to see everybody at camp!

(each day’s schedule is on a different “Tab” on the spread sheet – tabs are at the bottom of the window – or at the top if you’re on a smart phone.)

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.



Retreat Workshop: Unschooling Freedom and Mutual Respect

with Krystal Trammell

One of the things that many people seem to worry about, when they first come to unschooling (or even if they’ve been working toward a freedom-based lifestyle for some time), is the fear that they’re turning the tables – relinquishing control to the kids.

Parents trying to give their kids freedom and autonomy can sometimes feel disrespected and marginalized, frustrated or worse:  martyred to their children in an unschooling lifestyle.  “It’s just part of being a parent,” they’ll say…  Or, “We don’t want to take away his freedom,” they’ll say.

However, in my 11+ years of living and learning about the unschooling life, I’ve come to believe that there are natural limits to freedom and autonomy, and that these need to be acknowledged and respected in order for everyone in the family to benefit from unschooling, not just the children.

A functional + fulfilling unschooling life is ideally going to enrich and validate the needs and desires of EVERYONE in the family – not just the children.  Let’s come together and chat about the natural limits of freedom, and how every member of the family can enjoy mutual respect and cooperation together.

Click here for the Speaker’s page to read Krystal’s Bio.

Click here to see other Workshop Topics.

Click here to REGISTER for the Radiant Living & Learning Retreat

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