We arrived in Scottsdale, Arizona (on the outskirts of Phoenix), at the end of September for the Free To Be Unschooling Conference. I was really excited to be there because, this being our third conference, I knew how encouraging and affirming meeting with other unschooling families can be. And this conference was just what we all needed. Fisher and Milo really enjoyed the lively atmosphere and the Fairy Godparents game – kind of like Secret Santa, but you get at least one small gift per day of the conference. And I thoroughly enjoyed the talks given by Sandra Dodd, whose writing has resonated with and influenced me more than anyone else’s. Her kids are grown up now, having been unschooled their whole lives, but she continues to write and help those of us who are still figuring it all out. I just admire Sandra so much (as you can tell in the photo).
In truth, Eric has always been a little (and sometimes very) doubtful about the unconventional approach to learning I’ve been thinking and talking about for almost nine years now. At the conference, he had the opportunity to hear other, more experienced parents (including dads) talk about how and why unschooling (or more appropriately, life learning) works in their families. That helped him to see that there are other, real people taking this approach to living, and that it can work well under the right circumstances. I definitely noticed a change in his perspective by the end of the conference, and I feel that we’ve both been able move forward with a little more confidence in what we’re doing. Travelling has helped in that regard, as well.
After Scottsdale, we drove north to Williams, Arizona, to see the Grand Canyon. It had been very hot in Phoenix, despite it being the beginning of October, but trees began to replace cactuses the further north we went, and by evening it was quite cool. We stayed in a small cabin at another KOA campsite, about an hour south of the Grand Canyon. The next day we drove up to the National Park and spent most of the day there, taking the free shuttle-bus to different look-out points and areas of interest. The shuttle-bus driver made me laugh, when we left a stop and he’d say, “Say ‘giddy-up!'” Usually I was the only one to respond with a “giddy-up!”, but I can be goofy that way. The Grand Canyon itself was dry and red and vast and deep, and, not surprisingly, very popular. As a natural phenomenon, it was definitely worth seeing.
Move left and right for full view
On our way out of Arizona we discovered Petrified Forest National Park, which also contained part of the Painted Desert. Both areas were incredible to see. The Painted Desert was awash in various shades of terracotta, which contrasted amazingly with the blue sky and the green vegetation (the photos honestly don’t do it justice).
The petrified wood part of the park was intriguing, with the untouched chunks of tree trunks, literally turned to stone, scattered on the sand. On the way in, after the Painted Desert, we ended up behind a long line of cars that were stopped because someone had had an accident on his or her bike, and needed to be airlifted to the hospital. The helicopter was already there, stark white and red against greys and browns, and it didn’t long for us to get moving again. While in the park, visitors were expected to stay on the road and only stop at specific look-out points, without touching the pieces. I can only imagine how many people would have liked to take a small, petrified souvenir home, if allowed!
Our next stop was Gallup, in the enchanted state of New Mexico, where we laid low for a couple of days before moving on to Albuquerque…