How My Family Survived 24 Days Traveling on Bitcoin

By Catherine Bleish
Originally posted on Bitcoin Magazine.


This summer, my family decided to add a bitcoin-only twist to our annual trip to New Hampshire for the Porcupine Freedom Festival (PorcFest). We had no clue if cross country travel on bitcoin was possible, but our love for adventure and crypto currency inspired us to find out. Last year we challenged ourselves to spend no Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs) at Porcfest, and it was a smash success. We used silver, bitcoin, and barter for food, childcare and other needs during the festival. At the time, a bitcoin was worth around $20.

During the course of the past year, we watched Bitcoin grow from an obscure form of barter into a major global economic player. Currently a bitcoin is worth over $600. The currency had spiked in value so much in the past year that it has been considered the best investment of 2013. This drastic rise in value created a burst of innovative and creative ways to utilize it. We felt the time was right to attempt an experimental journey.

Preparing for the Journey

My first and most tedious task was to figure how to pay for gasoline with bitcoin along the 4,400 mile journey. I was introduced to a company called CoinFueled that allows you to purchase gift cards for major gasoline providers with bitcoin. I sat at a computer for hours mapping out each stop and calculating how much gas we would need to pump in each city.  I decided we needed to purchase $500 in ExxonMobil gift cards and $300 in BP gift cards.  We later discovered the massive amount of vendor items in our trunk and the tent on our roof created a major miscalculation in gas mileage.

Nonetheless, our gift cards arrived via FedEx just days before our departure. The service requires a two week processing time, so it is important to plan way in advance if you want to plan a bitcoin-only road trip. As technology evolves and more companies begin to accept bitcoin directly, this time factor will change. Eventually we can expect to pay for gasoline directly with bitcoin. For now, in the days of early adoption, bitcoin travel requires great logistical forethought.

Traveling with two toddlers requires lots of snacks and activities for the car. I decided to order our favorite organic treats in bulk from Amazon. While Amazon does not accept bitcoin directly, you can purchase gift cards through a service called Gyft. I selected a wide variety of snacks, a new stroller with two reclining chairs, and two removable car seat activity trays to be delivered before we left. Unfortunately, the activity trays did not arrive on time and I had to arrange to have these items forwarded to our fourth stop along the journey, the Bitcoin in the Beltway Conference in Washington, D.C.

Texas to D.C.

When we left our apartment the morning of June 16th, I was truly a walking zombie from our all night car loading marathon that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. We pumped our first tank of gas with our CoinFueled gift cards and took off toward our first destination, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Before we got out of town, we realized our car charger adapter had been left in the loaner car our dealer had given us while they did pre-trip maintenance on our minivan. I was live blogging the trip from my tablet and absolutely needed the adapter to maintain enough power to keep a lively blog pace. This required a detour to a local Target so we could purchase a new one with a Target gift card purchased with bitcoin through Gyft.

As we plowed east we relied heavily on Gyft for our food and hotel purchases. We enjoyed several stops at Whole Foods for lunch and groceries, dinner at restaurants like Logan’s Roadhouse, and hotels in Baton Rouge and Atlanta through GlobalHotelCard.com. Our first stressful moment on the road happened in Mobile, Alabama. We arrived at a TGI Friday’s that no longer existed. We then sat in the car with two hungry toddlers while we searched for another restaurant we could eat at through Gyft. Once we arrived at Applebee’s, our daughter had fallen asleep and our son was incredibly slap happy. My husband John and I were exhausted and grumpy, but decided to roll with the punches and accept the obstacles as they came.

Before we left Atlanta we decided to spend some time at the BitPay Headquarters. BitPay is a bitcoin payment processor for companies like Gyft. They allow merchants to easily accept bitcoin as a payment option, even allowing them to immediately convert all or part of the bitcoin payment into cash. BitPay has grown so much in the past year that they had to move to a new space and have opened additional offices around the globe. Their Atlanta office was bright and full of positive energy. We were welcomed by the staff and showered with BitPay merchandise. Our family enjoyed a catered lunch as we sat in awe of the successful Bitcoin business.

Our next stop was in Asheville, North Carolina where we conducted a screening of our reality show, Sovereign Living, for some participants in the Blue Ridge Liberty Project. These folks are trying to attract like-minded people to move to the area and are passionate about peaceful parenting and voluntary living. We really connected with this crew and felt heartbroken to part ways as we left for the night. We decided to branch out and try using Expedia to book our hotel directly with bitcoin. This ended up being a major mistake and resulted in a cascading debacle of problems and failed solutions. We later learned that CoinBase, a bitcoin payment processor similar to BitPay, had servers go down at the exact time we had booked our room, which led to our initial problems that night. While we had a very constructive conversation with management at Expedia later in our journey, it did not make our late night arrival to our Asheville hotel any easier on our family.

We finally arrived in Washington, D.C. where we were able to spend three days in one place. The conference was a wonderful opportunity for us to share our “uncoinventional” experiences to date. I spent little time at the actual conference and decided to take the kids to as many free or bitcoin-friendly events in D.C. as possible. This meant running the fountains and watching Legally Blonde II in a nearby park. We were even able to to pay bitcoin directly for lunch at a local D.C. establishment called Thomas Fooleries. The wonderful young man behind the counter did have to call his boss to make sure the payment had gone through. John initially sent the wrong amount, so good thing he checked.  We suggested they set up their business with BitPay so they could send an invoice directly with the exact amount.

It was in D.C. that we realized our gas calculations were off. We decided to order another gas card from CoinFueled and have it shipped to our campsite at Porcfest. Dante rushed the order, which allowed us to receive the card in time for our return journey home.

D.C. through Porcfest

During our trip we had changed our route to include New York City, so we could stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Brooklyn. This hotel recently decided to launch a bitcoin pilot program, and they were excited to have us as their first guests. While we were at the Bitcoin in the Beltway Conference, we were also invited to screen the bitcoin episode of Sovereign Living at the New York City Bitcoin Center.

As we drove to New York, a city we had not initially planned to visit during our trip, we were confronted with a major obstacle: toll roads. Had we considered this in our initial planning phases, we may have been able to work out a “proxy,” or someone who could buy us a toll pass with cash and have us reimburse them in BTC. Because we made a mid-trip decision, we were not able to make our new destination purely on bitcoin. We spent our first FRNs as we discussed innovative ways the Bitcoin community could get around this obstacle to bitcoin-only travel.

We arrived late at night to the Brooklyn Holiday Inn Express and easily made payment with bitcoin through BitPay. That morning we had several media interviews, then took off with our friend, Danny Panzella of TruthSquad.tv, and his son for lunch at a bitcoin-friendly restaurant in Brooklyn.

The woman behind the bar knew we were coming, but after our meal was complete, she was not actually prepared to take our bitcoin payment. John spent over 20 minutes on the phone with the owner trying to figure it all out. He eventually received a CoinBase invoice, and pushed the “Pay Invoice” button. To his surprise it automatically took the BTC from our nonprofit CoinBase account, which was not what John had intended to do. Thankfully, we had received donations specifically for this trip in that account, so it worked out fine. Be aware that this quirk exists – when you get the invoice via email and select “Pay Invoice,” it does not give you further payment options if you are logged into any account.

After a full day of walking through the streets of Brooklyn and playing in the park, we hopped on a subway. The subway pass had been purchased with cash by Charlie Shrem, an infamous Bitcoin advocate, who we paid back in bitcoin. We had to use a proxy several more times on this trip when bitcoin payment was not an option.

We made it to the NYC Bitcoin Center and simply stood in awe of the facility and community they have brought together. Just a half block from the Wall Street Trading floor, the Bitcoin Center was a symbol of freedom from corporate and government manipulation.  We conducted our screening as our children slept in the stroller, and John was able to ring the bell for the bitcoin trading floor. We ducked out early to grab a bite to eat at TGI Friday’s using Gyft, then to pick up our car so we could head into Massachusetts for some rest before we arrived in New Hampshire for PorcFest. If we had known how long our night was about to be, we would have stayed another night at the Brooklyn Holiday Inn.

After we got off the subway, we had about six more blocks to walk on foot. John noticed a tall blonde turn the corner ahead of us followed by a male in a white t-shirt. John got a bad feeling and told me to stop when we reached the crossroads. We stood and watched as the man began to run, then grabbed the woman, and ran off with something in his hands. I ran to her asking if she was OK. She was shaking and crying, totally terrified, but unhurt. He had stolen her phone just three buildings from her destination. We called the police at her request and escorted her to her boyfriend’s house. We sat with her until the police arrived, then continued the remaining three blocks of our journey. We discussed the importance of looking up while walking in public places, something I had not been doing as I updated our live blog from my tablet. We loaded our sleeping babies into the car and took off on the next leg of our destination.

This begins the next segment of our saga with Expedia. They had offered us a travel voucher to make up for our bad experience in Asheville. It wasn’t properly applied to our account, and we spent many long hours on the phone being shuffled from one customer service representative to another. Eventually, they applied the travel voucher, found us a room in Massachusetts, then told us we could not pay the remaining balance in bitcoin due to a flaw in their current system. We then tried to book the hotel directly on their website, but it was after midnight and their system would not let us book a hotel for that night. In tears we paid the $21 remaining balance with our credit card, an amount they would later refund after I published an article titled “Our Nightmarish Experience Using bitcoin on Expedia.”

This ordeal lasted until 3:00 a.m. Thankfully our children slept through it all. The late night required a late morning, which resulted in me missing the Women in Bitcoin panel I had organized and was supposed to moderate at Porcfest. Thankfully, the show went on, and Stephanie Murphy of Let’s Talk Bitcoinmoderated in my place.

When we arrived at PorcFest, we were about eight hours behind schedule. This meant we had to race the clock to have our vendor and personal tents set up before dusk. We had our first bitcoin dinner from a vendor on site and settled into what we thought would be a relaxing week of vending and playing with our kids.

Wrong. John and I had purchased a SkyHook bitcoin ATM at the conference in D.C. Our brilliant idea was to have the ATM set up at our site to attract customers and provide them easy access to bitcoin. This was our first year with a campsite at the very bottom of the hill, and we were not prepared for the lack of internet connectivity. Here is one of the major flaws of the Bitcoin ecosystem: it is highly dependent on having an Internet connection.

Basically, John spent the first three days staring at this ATM trying to figure out how to keep an internet connection. We paid for the net through the campground; it didn’t work.  We paid through a hot spot service offered by another vendor; it didn’t work. We tried tethering our own phones, tethering other people’s phones, sharing other people’s hotspots, but nothing remained stable until Ruben, the Editor of Bitcoin Magazine, showed up with a Verizon Internet hotspot that he set up right next to the machine.

While John fiddled with the machine, I tried to balance watching the kids and vending our other bitcoin-centric items.  It simply was not a pleasant experience for me at all. By the time we actually had an internet connection, the campers at the event had figured out there were other ATMs with better internet and simply bypassed our booth when it came to bitcoin purchases. The rain didn’t help, either.

I ended up missing the second panel I was supposed to be on because my daughter burned her fingers just minutes before it was supposed to start. Because of the rain, we had invited some friends to vend their hot food in our 30-ft long covered tent. This may not have been the most brilliant idea in hindsight for two reasons. First, their power usage kept shorting out the power strip and killing our bitcoin ATM, causing our connectivity issues to worsen.  And second, because we have two toddlers that we now had to watch around hot cookware.  Case in point, our daughter climbed up on the picnic table and touched their hotplate, causing three second-degree burns on her fingers.

I opted to watch the Bitcoin Magazine panel from the audience while comforting my daughter. My husband, John, was on the panel and did a really great job. The audience was very engaged and asked lots of great questions about Bitcoin and the magazine itself. Afterward Bitcoin Magazine hosted a beer keg party that allowed the readers and writers to mingle and get to know each other.

By the time the event was over, I was actually excited to leave. Porcfest is one of my favorite places to be every year, but this year’s Bitcoin ATM / vending experience had tainted it in many ways.

New Hampshire back to Texas

The two days after Porcfest were a much-needed break. We stayed with some friends in southern New Hampshire that John had met through activism in previous years. They always put us up and treat us like family. They took us to breakfast both mornings and refused repayment, not only in bitcoin, but of any sort. They also cooked us very wonderful dinners the two nights we were there. When we took off for the next leg of our trip, we felt replenished and rejuvenated.

This marked the beginning of the more relaxing and stress-free portion of our journey. By now we had figured out many of the quirks involved with bitcoin travel and felt confident in what we were doing. At this point, we decided to make another change to our travel plans: instead of a stay in Erie, Pennsylvania, we were going to stay in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

This change was inspired by the founder of Bitcoin Boulevard US, Nikhil Chand, when he sent me a tweet asking if we were going to stop and see what they had built. We immediately changed our plans so we could stay a night and experience their thriving bitcoin economy. We drove a full day to Buffalo, New York, where we booked a hotel directly with bitcoin through CheapAir.com. That night I published my article on Expedia, and by morning it was blasting all over the interwebs. We spent the morning at Niagara Falls, then took off for Ohio. When I opened my tablet, I found that Expedia and CoinBase had contacted me to discuss the issues we had with their services on the road.

We had very productive conversations with both businesses as we drove west toward our next stop. We discussed the need for a call center training curriculum on Bitcoin, and I linked the two of them up to help make this happen. Expedia returned our $21 and gave us a $200 travel credit we would later use in Saint Louis. We also scheduled an interview for John’s podcast that I could use as a basis for a follow-up article on the solutions we found together.

When we arrived in Ohio, we were feeling empowered and excited to experience what they had created in Cleveland Heights. Nikhil and his wife Rebecca, were waiting for us in their driveway with their dog when we arrived. They warmly greeted us, then we all walked a few blocks to our dinner destination, The Travel Co. We talked to a reporter from an Ohio publication and enjoyed one of the best meals we had experienced on the trip.

John easily paid for the meal with bitcoin through BitPay, but Ohio regulations do not allow bitcoin purchases for alcohol. Because of this, John paid for all the food with BTC, and Nikhil paid for all the booze with cash. Our children were totally insane the entire meal, and I felt so bad for the other customers. I took them out early for a stroll down the Bitcoin Boulevard before we all reconvened at SweetieFry, a delicious homemade ice cream shop that also accepts bitcoin through BitPay.

The next morning we stopped at the Katz Club for breakfast. This was hands down the best breakfast I have ever had. Locally sourced meats and produce accompanied a variety of gluten free options. This is not a cheap place to eat, but it is worth every penny. They easily accepted payment in bitcoin through BitPay, and then we were on our way to St. Louis.

We decided to use our $200 travel voucher from Expedia on a hotel that was across the street from the Saint Louis Arch. A buffet breakfast was included with the room, then we made a quick visit to the Arch before we left for our next destination of Kansas City. We were on a tight time crunch so we could see my father play the clarinet in the Parkville Community Symphonic Band for the Fourth of July. We decided to get lunch on the go through Menufy, a service that allows you to order carry out or delivery meals online with the option to pay in bitcoin. We picked up our food in Columbia, Missouri, and had a picnic lunch in the quad of my Alma Mater, the University of Missouri. We decided to add a quick Target stop on Gyft to get a picnic dinner to eat during the fireworks and to buy some clean clothes as we had not packed for this leg of the trip very well.

We arrived at the concert in the middle of the first song. We enjoyed listening to the band play, then spent quality time with Grandma and Grandpa waiting for the fireworks display.  The next days were filled with friends and family. My mother served as a proxy for us several times, getting us into a swimming pool, buying us breakfast, and pumping gas for us when our last gas card ran out. We returned the favor by buying her a meal at T Rex with a gift card we bought on Gyft. I went to happy hour at On the Border with a friend from high school, and we bought our drinks with bitcoin through EGifter. Because I didn’t have a bitcoin wallet on my tablet, I emailed the total to my husband and he bought the gift card for us. It was simple and easy, yet not your typical method of making payment! Because we ran out of gas gift cards when we arrived in Kansas City, my mom bought us a $100 card the morning we left, and we are sending her one through CoinFueled to replace it.

Our last stop on our journey was a hotel in Texarkana, Arkansas. We decided to give Expedia one last chance as we still had a $50 travel voucher through them. No matter what hotel we selected, not a single one had the option to pay in bitcoin. They had explained to us on the phone that some states have different laws, so we tried the Texas and the Arkansas side. After about 40 minutes of trying to use Expedia again, we decided to go with CheapAir.com. It took about three minutes to find a room and book the hotel through their service.

On our last day of travel we stopped at a restaurant in Dallas owned by a friend, a delicious cajun music joint called The Free Man. They don’t technically accept bitcoin, but his t-shirt business does. He worked with his wife to send us a CoinBase invoice, and we enjoyed our last meal on the road by paying directly with bitcoin. When we arrived home it felt like a dream. We picked up our cats and ordered Chinese food before we snuggled into our beds.

Overall the experience was great. We learned firsthand the practicality of travel on bitcoin and look forward to trying it again next year. By then technology will have evolved and more places will be accepting bitcoin directly as a form of payment. We found applications like Gyft to be extremely convenient and plan to use them in our everyday lives. Since we returned home we were able to set our office landlord up to receive bitcoin through BitPay and found out our favorite coffee shop set up BitPay during our trip. Our apartment landlord said he is about to start accepting bitcoin as well!

BTC: 1CdDxhbfBatE9XcurCBLKoypJwcHtrBVXu


Unschooling: a Decentralized P2P Education Platform

By: Catherine Bleish
Originally published on Bitcoin Magazine

I would like to introduce you to a different method of learning, an education system that mirrors many of the strengths found within the Bitcoin network — unschooling.

As Bitcoin is to the Federal Reserve Note, unschooling is to standardized education. This decentralized peer-to-peer method of learning provides students with the opportunity to follow their own interests and capabilities without the negative pressures and influences found within centralized models of education. Bitcoin provides power to the users and unschooling provides power to the students.

When we look at the whole range of decentralized systems, we see the intrinsic value in such models. In fact, decentralized systems can be found all over nature and society. When you take a bird’s eye view, it seems that decentralized systems are the natural, efficient and secure way for people to function.  This brings clarity to the success found in both Bitcoin and unschooling.

What is unschooling?

The concept of unschooling was developed by John Holt, who identified schools as the reason children were failing to learn. “The human animal is a learning animal; we like to learn; we are good at it; we don’t need to be shown how or made to do it. What kills the processes are the people interfering with it or trying to regulate it or control it.” His first two books, How Children Fail and How Children Learn, revolutionized modern thoughts on conventional education.

Unschooling is often also called life learning, and can be described as child-led learning. It allows you to teach your children the fundamentals of reading, writing, math, and science by creating learning opportunities surrounding their unique interests. I have heard it described as “living as if school does not exist.”

Human beings are learning creatures. It’s how we survive and thrive. We take data, process it, and act upon the conclusions we draw. I have never met a person who does not want to learn, only people who do not want to learn specific topics they are told they must. I was this way. I had to fight my school to let me into classes advanced enough to challenge me. In lower level courses I had trouble paying attention, found myself distracted and longing to be elsewhere. In my AP level courses I found myself focused, driven, and doing work beyond that which was assigned.

Lovers of Bitcoin know that its power is in the network. Decentralized, distributed, peer-to-peer and open source, the Bitcoin network provides protection from the problems that national currencies face. These problems include manipulation by governments and central banks, control of the money supply by one or very few authorities, and a cloak of secrecy in decision making. The Bitcoin protocol prevents these types of scenarios by ensuring the power remains in the hands of the users themselves.

Unschooling provides protection against the problems that conventional education systems face, problems many of us who were educated in the modern compulsory school system know all too well: teaching to a test, forced learning of topics of little interest to the students, indoctrination of particular viewpoints that usually benefit the ruling class, the expectation of all students to learn at the same pace, and a lack of decision making power for the students and parents themselves.

Interest Based Groups

Just as the Bitcoin network uses a system of mining pools where machines work with each other, unschooled children are brought together based on interests and help each other learn by working and playing alongside one another. Children who enjoy gardening get together and get their fingers dirty in the soil. Children who enjoy gaming meet up with fellow gamers and build critical thinking skills. Children who simply want to play outside find themselves at the local park or pool learning valuable communication skills.

This tends to be how we group ourselves as adults. This could be in the work environment where adults who want to work for a common cause or are trained in a specific type of work all find themselves in close proximity. Whether it’s churches, interest groups, or community service groups, we find ourselves surrounded by people who are interested in the same things we are, not necessarily the same age we are.

This is in contrast to the standardized education model of grouping children by age. Yes, it is great to have kids around fellow kids, but ultimately we find ourselves around people of all ages, and it is important to teach your children how to function in interests-based groups as opposed to age-based groups. The modern education system forces children to be in close proximity with the same people year after year, no matter their actual interests or skills. They have to wait for extracurricular activities to get this interaction.

Decentralized Models Work

There are successful applications of decentralized systems all over society and nature. Consider ants who forage for food.  When one ant finds something edible, they release a pheromone to let other ants know there is something worth traveling in their direction to get a piece of. Each individual ant responds to their identification of this pheromone and acts accordingly. When bird flocks migrate, they instinctively know how and when to change positions to effectively travel long distances.

Even humans do this. Watch an aerial video of traffic in a country that doesn’t have traffic signals. Cars, bikes, horses and pedestrians all find a way to their destination without a centralized authority telling them when to turn or how to get there. It looks absolutely terrifying to those of us accustomed to traffic lights and speed limits, but statistics indicate these deregulated traffic environments are safer and have fewer accidents.

Decentralized Education

Centralized networks or structures have a singular point of failure. Look at modern education.  From a national level you can see that federally mandated standardized tests create a centralization of resources, energy and brain power. This really became the status quo under the No Child Left Behind legislation passed by Congress in 2001, and more recently, the controversial Common Core Curriculum. What happens when this centralized method of teaching children fails? It trickles down to every single student participating in the massive standardized testing system. In contrast, a distributed education system is far more resilient and effective, allowing students to follow a unique and personal learning pattern that best fits their interests and capabilities.

Parents who choose to unschool their children are there to facilitate learning, not dictate it. This may mean de-prioritizing the so-called fundamentals. Children seem to be more naturally inclined to hyperfocus on issues, and unschooling may mean allowing them the freedom to do that. When you want to learn, you do. It’s as simple as that.

Applications at Home

If your children are already in school, homeschooled or have yet to begin school, you can begin to apply this philosophy into your daily life. Understanding that humans are designed to learn, you can feel confident giving your children the freedom to explore the universe in a less structured fashion. This could manifest in outdoor play time, exploring age-appropriate websites and social media, making crafts, or simply helping you in your day-to-day routine. You can plan family outings to museums, nature centers, or attend a local unschool meetup.

More specifically, to facilitate math skills and financial management, ask your children to pay at the checkout counter. To teach them about health and nutrition, ask them to plan one meal or more per week. Help them shop for and cook their meal to encourage strategic thought and an understanding of chemistry in the kitchen. This will empower your children and help them prepare for life outside of your nest.

What other ways can you create a learning environment for your children? In our house we provide constant access to age and skill appropriate toys, games, books, crafts, and movies. We bring our children with us almost everywhere we go, allowing them to interact with a wide range of diverse people. We attend local unschool and homeschool meetups and make sure to attend community events in our town.

Some parents are resistant to the idea that their children will learn all the necessary skills to function in life without a standardized curriculum. The most convincing opportunity for me was attending the Rethinking Everything Conference two summers ago. I was able to witness hundreds of unschooled children and their families. These children were the most empowered, passionate and creative children I have ever met. Many of the teens have their own businesses and nearly every child was far more advanced compared to their compulsory schooled counterparts.

Attending this conference allowed me to meet adults who were unschooled as children. Not one of them was unhappy or dissatisfied with their educational background. Many entered and attended college, graduating with honors, and were successful individuals. If you are curious about this decentralized method of educating your children, I highly encourage you to expose yourself to these students.

Like Bitcoin, the strength of unschooling is in the network.

If you are interested in unschooling, here is a list of resources you can check out:

There are even conferences you can attend to learn more and gain exposure to the beauty unschooling can bring into your life.

Happy decentralized learning!

BTC: 1CdDxhbfBatE9XcurCBLKoypJwcHtrBVXu


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Show Review: Dance Moms

Dance Moms is the dance show that kicked off our unschooling/dance media journey! My daughter was completely inspired by this show and is now determined to become a competitive dancer.

It follows the Abbey Lee Dance Company and their competitive dance team.  The students are mostly around age 9 with a few older or younger ones in the mix. My daughter could really relate to the girls and felt very inspired after each episode.

The dance teacher is not the most friendly lady, but it provided us a change to discuss how Aliana gets to pick what sort of teacher she wants.

She got to watch how much effort these girls put in before each competition and despite the hard work, she said she is determined to follow in their footsteps.

We even went to watch a competition her dance school was in because we watched this show. It reaffirmed her desires to compete and allowed her to connect with the older girls from her dance school.

I know its cheesy, but I rate this show at a 5/5. Its great for me to watch and for my daughter. It gave me insight into the realities of being the mother of a competitive dancer. In the show they spend a lot of time putting bling on their costumes, I got a kick out of watching the mom’s at Aliana’s dance school do the same just a few days after seeing it on the show.

It shows lots of dance, on stage and in the studio.

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Movie Review: Five Dances

OK I want to start off by saying this is not a great movie to watch with a toddler because there is a few love making scenes. So this movie is appropriate for children who are older and ready to handle such things.

My daughter (3.5 years old) did watch the dance parts with me (I was playing it on a laptop while I cleaned and she would come over to watch the actual dances, then run off when they were over).

This movie showed some AMAZING dances and the dancers are highly skilled, especially the main character of the movie. He is an 18 year old dance prodigy who moves to NYC to dance professionally. He joins a troupe of 5 dancers and you watch them train over a series of weeks or months. You follow their love life and interpersonal drama, but for the most part, the movie is very dance focused.

I am rating it a 5/5 because its just that good, even though it wasn’t a good fit for all he age ranges in our house. The cinematography is great, the dancers are great, every aspect was really wonderful in my opinion!

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Movie Review: First Position

As a part of our unschool journey, we watch movies that are in line with our children’s interest. My daughter (3.5 years) is very into dance right now, so we have watched lots of dance media!

First Position follows a group of children who are competing in the Youth America Grand Prix. The winners of this highly selective dance competition can receive scholarships or contracts if they prove their worth on stage. 

You get to meet the families and follow the lives of these dancers. You see how much time and energy they dedicate to their passion and get to watch lots of on stage and practice dance moves.

This was a great watch for our family. The exposure to the variety of teaching styles and dancing styles for each individual artist is something I really value in dancing films. I want my daughter to know that she can change teachers or styles of dance is one is not working.

I also like how this documentar shows the highs and lows of competative dance life. Some of the people they follow win big, and others fail. I think this is important for my children to see when they are following a path of passion, seeing others fail and overcome empowers my children to do the same.

I rate this documentary a 5/5 because it was a great watch for both the parent and the child. So much dancing, so many different styles. My daughter would dance along to the ballets and was totally captivated by a few of the performances.

It was good for me as a mom to know what I could be getting into as my daughter digs deeper into the culture.  Looks intense, but manageable. This could provide great opportunities for travel. We already travel a lot for our conferences, I think travel for dance competitions would fit nicely with our unschool lifestyle!


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Movie Review: Ballerina

Part of our unschool journey involves watching movies to expand our knowledge base. My daughter is extremely passionate about dance class, so we have been facilitating this with dance classes as well as dance media.

Ballerina was an amazing documentary to watch as a dance/unschool family. It followed five exceptional ballerinas who dance for the Kirov in Russia. These highly trained ballerinas each have very unqiue personalities and dance styles, and all work extremely hard.

This documentary discussed the history of dance across the globe and gave insights to cultural changes over time. There were many variations of some of the greatest ballets, such as Swan Lake, shown throughout the movie. This allowed my daughter to see how each dancer can preform the same dance with his or her own flare.

From backstage, to travels, to rehearsal and performances, the cameras follow these talented women for several years. You watch their careers blossom and their weaknesses transform into strengths.

I rate this a 5/5 for unschool families because it was great for both the parent and the child to watch. Some of the history was a bit over my daughter’s head, but she still enjoyed watching the entire movie with me. Both of my children would dance around the house imitating the dancers. It was a real pleasure to watch. Its one I think we will watch again and again.

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Movie Review: Jig

A part of our unschooling journey involves media such as Netflix and and Youtube videos to facilitate learning. Our daughter Aliana is currently very passionate about dance, so our family has incorporated dance media into our weekly routine.

One of the greatest dance movies I have watched to date is Jig. Its about an Irish dancing competition (the “Worlds”) and follows several dances across the globe as they prepare for and preform in this international competition.

You get to see lots of dancing, lots of practicing and lots of performances. It is captivating and does a great job of showing how hard these wonderful dances work to reach this high level of dancing expertise.

I like that several coaches and students are featured, showing how dynamic and unique each experience is. I believe this helped to show my daughter (3.5 years) that there are choices in dance schools, choices in styles, choices in teachers. She can change where she is learning if its not a good fit.

My daughter got a kick out of watching them dance. She noticed it is very much like ballet and tap except their hands do not move and their feet see to fly.

I rate this movie a 5/5 because it was a great watch for both the parent and the child.  It taught us a lot about cultures in other areas, introduced us to a new style of dance, showed us the realities of such heavy competitions, and overall was really fun to watch.

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Show Review: Dance Academy

A part of our unschooling journey involves media such as Netflix and and Youtube videos to facilitate learning. Our daughter Aliana is currently very passionate about dance, so our family has incorporated dance media into our weekly routine.

I am currently watching Dance Academy on Netflix. It seems to be a teen drama designed for Austrilian kids. It focuses on a young country girl who gets accepted to Austrilia’s greatest dance academy. She happens to be the worst dances in the school, which I think is an interesting perspective from a dance media standpoint. The actual dancing in the show is not as great as I have seen in other shows, and it focuses a lot on the interpersonal drama. I think its a great show pre-teens interested in attending a formal dance school.

Its not great for toddlers, but my daughter (3.5 years) comes to watch some of the dances with me, then move son to go play.  I am rating it a 2 because it really isn’t the best show for dance education, is boring for an adult, and too slow for a toddler.


Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Part of our unschool journey has recently involved a weekly trip to the RedBox to grab a flick to watch as a family.

I thought it would be fun to review the films we rent so other families could take our experiences into consideration.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is amazing. Our almost three year old wanted to watch it over and over. There is one moment of very mild violence, where two people get into a barfight of sorts, mostly pushing. It was tolerable for Aliana, but would not have been a year ago.

The cinematography is beautiful and the story line is very well developed. We kept this movie from RedBox for nine entire days. Ben Stiller is the main character and Director. This is a must see for the entire family!

While writing this review Aliana saw me taking screen shots and said, “II want to see Walter”.  She remebered his name!

Watch the trailer here:http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tc3S0vE2qj8

Contact RedBox and ask them to take Bitcoin!https://redbox.custhelp.com/app/ask


Transcript: Interview with Sarah Stollak of World on a String

Name: Sarah Stollak

Your business name: World On A String

Your business website:www.worldonastring.us

Description of business: Crochet jewelry in pearls, gemstones, glass, and other beautiful materials from around the world. Violinist, fiddler, guitarist, singer, songwriter.

Read the full Bitcoin Magazine article on Sarah here: coming soon

Question: Tell the evolution from concept to reality for your business (how was it born into the world?):
Sarah: My mom taught me how to knit in 1993 and I’ve been creating ever since. When I moved to Austin in 2004, I started an artisan booth at local markets, street fairs, and special events. Vending was supposed to be temporary while I found a real job, but almost a decade later here I am, still a full time creative entrepreneur.

Question: Who are your entrepreneurial inspirations / roll models?:
Sarah:I am continually inspired by people around me who push the boundaries of their own creativity – artists, activists, and entrepreneurs working towards a better future for humanity and animals. Elon Musk. Jane Goodall.

Question: Words of wisdom for others looking to start their own thing?
Sarah: There are many different learning styles. I learn by doing. It takes time to find what works for you. Listen to the music in your heart and find your own beat.

Question: Why did you decide to start accepting Bitcoin?:
Sarah: My interest in Bitcoin was theoretical until you and John gave me the option of accepting Bitcoin for your custom crochet wedding jewelry. I received my payment in Oct. 2013, right as the boom was happening, so of course I was hooked.

Question: Did you have to overcome any obstacles to start accepting Bitcoin?:
Sarah: There are still obstacles transacting in Bitcoin, but that’s part of what makes it fun, to be in the midst of something changing and growing so quickly. I started on coinbase.com, connected to a bank account, and started transacting via email address. While the anonymity of Bitcoin is important, so is ease. I got the Blockchain app on my iPhone, but then Apple blocked all Bitcoin services. I was the first Bitcoin customer at the Unconventional Oven pizza trailer, but I used the wrong email address to pay and after a month the funds were sent back to me. It took some failures and several tries to figure out how to use a QR code instead of transacting using an email address. Austin Bitcoin Meetup helped. In addition to technology, patience and a friendly community are always important.

Question: Has Bitcoin benefited your business in any way? (If so please describe):
Sarah: Bitcoin has provided my business more opportunities to reach an audience who appreciates me. Accepting Bitcoin also means getting to pay others in Bitcoin and participating in the economy. After profiting from my first Bitcoin transaction, I reinvested in my local community by taking out a radio ad on The Liberty Beat on 90.1 FM, and by hiring some of my favorite local musicians for a Bitcoin Shopping and Social Event.

Question: Would you recommend Bitcoin to other small business owners?
Sarah: Many business owners take a variety of payments already, so I encourage others to consider accepting Bitcoin. Bartering is also great. I dislike a trend I’ve seen of small business owners refusing to take cash and only accepting credit cards. Sure, using less FRNs is ideal, but I do think a business basic is to make it easy for people to give you money.

Question: Why is Bitcoin so important, anyway?
Sarah: As a global digital currency/property, the potential of Bitcoin to radically shift the exchange of value away from banks is interesting, regardless of the dollar value at any moment.

Question: Describe a day in your life.
Sarah: I’m living the the dream making art and making music! I enjoy working, playing, kayaking, swimming, eating, and going for nature walks in the warm Texas weather.

Question: Any last thoughts?
Sarah: Oh! There is one more thing I thought would be cool to mention, how BTC and beads are both forms of money.
African trade beads, Italian glass, shells, and pearls, have been prized in civilizations throughout history.
Beads can be considered one of the first currencies in the United States, when Native Americans traded Wampum beads with colonials.

Practical Wisdom for Alternative Moms.