Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Organizers Meeting Scheduled!

Have you been wanting to help Seattle Free School but didn't know where to start or don't feel comfortable teaching a class? Well here's your opportunity! Come to the organizers meeting on May 18th, 7:30-9pm at Cafe Allegro in the U District (4214 University Way NE). We'll be discussing the future of Seattle Free School, working on organizing events for this year and discussing any issues or concerns or successes. Everyone is welcome so please show up if you can!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New Class- Astrology!

Basic Astrology
Ballard Public Library
Sunday, May 24th 1pm-2:30pm
Have you ever wondered how your astrological sign is determined, or what it indicates about you? Are you confused when people talk about what planets are in what houses? Come to this casual and informational class to find out! We will discuss the basics of astrology, including an overview of what it is and how to find your own signs. No previous knowledge of astrology required!

Sign up on the classes page!

Monday, April 27, 2009

New Class Posted!!!

Eating Seasonally- Spring
Cascade People's Center
Wed, May 6th 5:30pm-6:30pm
Have you ever wondered what fruits and veggies are in season in Washington right now? Or how you can find those foods and encorporate them into your diet? Join me for a short informational class on what foods are at the height of their yumminess this season, with a small show and tell of some of these items. Please note: there will be no tasting of the fruit and veggies at this event, but you are welcome to hold, smell, and generally inspect them.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Looking for a Computer Lab

We have a great teacher looking to teach "Basic Web Design Using All Free Programs" but we're having problems finding a good computer lab to use. Do you know of a place that could host this class? Let us know by replying here!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Do you Twitter?

If so you can follow Seattle Free School on Twitter now! Learn about new classes and keep up with Seattle Free School in a whole new way. seafreeschool is our handle.

New Class- Home Energy Auditing!

Set aside any idea that understanding energy use in your home has to be complex. Just a handful of tips and a discussion about energy will help you make your house feel warmer and reduce your energy bills. This class will present the fundamentals of how energy is lost or consumed in your home and give you the ability to identify the top “energy losers” in your home without an expensive energy audit or equipment.

Monday May 11th from 6:30 PM to 7:45 PM at the Greenwood Library

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some Press About Keeping Bees and Chickens in the City

Seattle Free School is mentioned in this great blog post about keeping bees and chickens in the city. Check it out here!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Learn about EcoVillages

Free presentation at the UW about European EcoVillages. If you're wanting to know more about these unique and growing communities go to 258 Mary Gates Hall on May 7th from 3:30 to 4:30pm. Special focus will be on the ZEGG Community in Germany where both presenters have lived and worked for the past 24 years.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Learn to Twitter

Heard about this Twitter thing but don't know what it is or how to do it? Teach Street is hosting a webinar to help you get started with Twitter. You'll need to preregister but the webinar is free. Here's the link.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bothell Free School has several classes posted!

Not too far out of our neighborhood so check out these great classes at the Bothell Free School:

Installing Joomla on your Windows PC using Xampp
A video on how to install Joomla 1.5.9 on your home pc if your pc has the XAMPP server installed. This same concept can be used to install on any LAMP, WAMP or MAMP stack computer.

Setting up a free web hosting account
Take this course to learn how to set up your free web hosting account that will be used for many of the computer skills classes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Request for Classes

We've received an email regarding several classes that a student would love to see at Seattle Free School. If you have the skills to teach using a compass/orienteering or know how to start a home-based business and/or write a business plan let us know.

We're also looking for beekeepers interested in facilitating with Seattle Free School. Jessica will be getting rid of her beekeeping supplies soon as she moves into an apartment (or around the world?) and so we need someone with beekeeping tools to teach the class.

If any of these things appeal to you or you know someone that might be interested give us a shout at

Monday, April 13, 2009

Other Free Classes

Sew Up Seattle has some great stuff coming up....

Saturday, April 25, 11am - Simple Alterations.

Pants too long? Skirt too tight? Top too loose? Learn to work a little magic with those things that aren't quite right. We will cover simple adjustments; if you have a more complicated project we'll try to advise you.

If you want your thread to exactly match your garment, you should bring some along - we can't promise that we'll have just what you need. But really, unless the stitching is going to show on the outside of the garment, it's surprising how much you can get cheat with the thread, and never notice.

Goods for the Planet will be celebrating Earth Day on Saturday, April 25, both in the store and out into the parking lot. After the class has ended, we will bring the 1-3 p.m Fabric Swap outside, weather permitting, otherwise it will be upstairs as usual. There will be a bunch more new (to us!) donated fabric, so spread the word amongst your sewing friends. Attendees are welcome to swap amongst themselves - you don't have to take our fabric (although we'd love if you did.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New Look

Any of you that follow this blog probably noticed that it's got a new look. What do you think? Do you like this better? Too hard to read? Let us know!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Starting a Free School Response Part 3

How do you manage without any money?
I think the better way to think about this is to ask what you need money for? Space can be found for free at libraries, local community centers, other nonprofits, etc. It takes work to find these places but many of them know that in this economy having people come and learn about them while they're learning about other things is very beneficial. Start small on this. I spent way too much time trying to find space that so far we haven't really needed. The library and one other location actually serve our needs well. The occasional coffee shop rounds out our space requirements for now. We'll have more need in the future (I'd hope!) but that can happen when it's necessary rather then in advance.

You can print out a few on your printer. You can bug your friends and family and others to print out a few of these. Printing out 5 flyers in black and white costs virtually nothing for anyone so why raise a bunch of money for this when you can do relatively well for a few pennies from various people in your network? Plus since these people are probably distributed around town you solve the problem of having to get flyers to people to hang.

Haven't needed it despite being told that we would. The more you spend on marketing the more people will know about you quickly and the more you'll struggle to keep up with the growth. Growing slow has huge benefits if you don't have deep pockets to hire developers and others to help you.

My friend in Paris is hosting the site for free. That being said there were plenty of people that were willing to host a website. While you're still running a free site (from googlepages or one of the other free website places) this is irrelevant but eventually you may want another better site. This only became important as we got bigger. All this being said there have been several community members who have offered hosting space. We've also received lots of free tech help from folks in the community. There's a ton of open source people here (and everywhere) and most of them love the idea of a free school. Finding help is easier then you might think.

As for the website design our local community college came to us and asked to do the new website design. Amazing really. There are other resources but most likely you have someone that could design a site for you for free. Don't do this right away... struggle with a free ugly product for a while. You'll learn more about what you want and don't want and be able to request what you need when the time comes for something better.

I'm not sure what else you'd need money for.... people can bring their own supplies to classes and sometimes instructors will bring their extras (what knitter doesn't have a bunch of yarn they aren't really going to use?)

Some of these things cost a bit of money from me but its way easier to spend $100 a year or so then raise money so I don't have to spend this personal cash. The only real cost that I can think of that is directly Seattle Free School is the $10 domain registration fee. Really that's about it as for legit costs.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Starting a Free School Response Part 2

How did you start?
Basically just start. Without money there doesn't need to be a grand scheme of how things will work. You'll figure out things as you go based on what will work for your community.

How long were the planning stages?
Virtually nonexistent. Basically I tried to figure out if there was a free school in Seattle already, met with someone and got going. Creating a poor but functional website and setting up an email address were the first steps. Once that was done "spamming" friends, neighbors and coworkers and anyone else on my email list was next. From there I scheduled the first class (you'll probably need to step up and teach a number of classes to get the thing rolling... people are much more confident about teaching if they aren't teaching the very first class... but who knows you might find someone that is ready for that in your community) and sent out press releases. These releases were poorly written by me and certainly not professional. Basically I went around finding free papers, picking up a copy and including email addresses from these folks into a "press" group. Pretty simple really.

Other then that things happened as they happened. With no money to raise, no board to answer to and no metrics required to prove our success things happen when they do. Do things in a way that makes logical sense to you. For me, being a computer worker in a town of computer users the website and email was most important. It could be that having classes is the way to start depending on the size and needs of your community. Eventually people will want someplace to look to find out more and thus a website is a good thing to have early on.

And, how did you gain community support?
Social networking basically. I emailed my friends and begged them to pass it along. We use facebook and other tools to spread the word. Newspapers picked up on it and we got a ton of press early on (most likely because we don't operate with any donations). We hung flyers around and that helped spread the word. We also looked at other places to post, like craigslist, etc and pushed out the word there. Basically things grew organically and at a steady pace. The only time we had a serious jump in involvement was when we made the front page of the local section of the Sunday Seattle Times. Our enrollment in our email list bumped up over 100 people in less then 24 hours thanks to that press.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Two More Great Classes!!!

Couple more classes added today.

Empathy Through Nonviolent Communication
Sun, Apr 19
Time: 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Location: 9721 NE 119th Way, Kirkland, WA 98034
"Only your compassion and your loving kindness are invincible, and without limit."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Empathy and compassion stand at the center of all successful relationships. Empathic ability, popularly referred to as emotional intelligence, is a powerful life skill that can transform your ability to succeed, and bring more meaning to your life. Each week, we discuss and practice practical approaches to empathy and compassion. Everyone is welcome to attend, and invited to contribute to our discussion.

Introduction to GPS
Mon, May 4
Time: 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Location: Green Lake Library Meeting Room
What is this gadget good for? Whether you are traveling on foot, on wheels, in the air, or on water, a GPS can be a handy addition to your navigational tools. Learn how to make use of this powerful device. We will explain what a GPS can do and what it can\'t do. Learn how to use your GPS before, during, and after an excursion.

If you have a GPS, bring it with you.

Laura Seaver has used her GPS to navigate her motorcycle through 34 countries. Her GPS is her favorite video game.

Starting a Free School Response Part 1

Well, we'd hoped to post this a few days ago but things came up. Rather then posting the whole long response in one blog we'll split this up into a few key questions so here's the response Part 1 (Edited a bit for space and clarity).

I was wondering if you had any advice for somebody trying to start such a school in their community?
There are a ton of considerations to think about... will you take money, will you be politically affiliated? The biggest thing to think about for me was that I didn't like the idea of raising money for something that wasn't even in operation. Something about that just felt wrong to me. The idea of simply doing without seemed far more exciting then the idea of raising money, becoming a 501c org, registering with the government, etc etc. In reality raising money actually costs money most of the time because it takes a lot more time and energy and thus often requires a paid position. Plus, for those of us involved the idea of not raising money made Seattle Free School a fun challenge and a great learning experience. Most of us have or had worked in some capacity for a regular nonprofit. We know how raising money works or how it doesn't. What we weren't sure about is if it could be done without money. Turns out it can, definitely, and perhaps with greater success then if we would have gone the other way.

Politics for us was something that we left out to be as all inclusive as possible. While we all personally have our thoughts on politics there was no reason to limit people based on that idea. It could of course be said that people who chose not to come to a class because the politics are self limiting and yet we all have been in situations where we might not want to affiliate with a specific group even if a presentation seems attractive. In this case the message is sent just as well by sticking strictly to the mission of the free school, sharing information and doing it for free. For many this is a radical idea in and of itself. And for many this is simply the way things have been done for ages. That's the beauty of it... it can appeal to everyone so why not keep it as open and inclusive as possible?

How many people do you have helping to coordinate the free school as far as volunteers go?
I do most of the running of the school on the administrative end... posting classes, updating the blog, sending emails etc. Of course every teacher is a volunteer and they all help flyer for their classes at least. Dani is also a founder and helps with posting on other sites (craigslist etc) as well as helping with events etc. We've tried to be very inclusive of volunteers but so far it's been difficult to find a good way to split responsibilities that doesn't just wind up creating more confusion and work. Also, since I spend quite a bit of time on the computer for several of my jobs it just makes sense for me to be answering emails and doing whatever computer work is necessary. Eventually I'm thinking we'll need to split things up among a larger group as I think about heading out to other adventures but how to best go about that in a way that makes good, clean, logical sense and doesn't make us all nuts trying to figure out what's going on has been tricky thus far.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

New Classes!

Couple new classes posted folks. Here's the info:

Thu, Apr 30:
Card-Making for Real People
Time: 8:00 PM to 9:30 PM
Location: The Giving Tree
Non-designers can learn how to make great cards with rubber stamps, ribbons, shape punches, and other simple tools. We’ll start with a quick, informative overview and demonstration, and then you’ll get your hands on the good stuff: stamps, ink, and cards. Bring your creativity and open-mindedness; leave your self-doubt at the door.

The Giving Tree is located at 2008 Westlake Ave

Thu, May 21:
Facilitating a Seattle Free School Class
Time: 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM
Location: Vivace Coffee 227 Yale Ave N
Come learn what it takes to facilitate a Seattle Free School class. How to plan for your class, locations, etc will all be covered in this class/meeting.

You can register for either of these by going to the Seattle Free School website.

A Great Review on Yelp!

Yay, we got our first review on Yelp! Check it out here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Other free classes this weekend!

Veggie gardens, Canning and Growing for Wildlife will all be covered this weekend in Lake Forest Park. More information here!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Class Posted!

Another new class added just yesterday!
This class will be all about making baskets from paper. Inspired by an article in Mother Earth News come learn how to use paper grocery to create very durable and beautiful baskets for use around your house and yard.

And here's the link to the pictures... these baskets are beautiful!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More about starting a free school...

Another letter, this time from Concord, North Carolina, posted with permission, response will be posted on the blog tomorrow:

Dear Seattle Free School,

I am a homeschooling mother in Concord, North Carolina. Over the years of basically unschooling my children I have become very interested with learning in non-traditional ways. I was a public school teacher and I have learned from my children that there are so many more positive learning alternative than typical education.

I was recently re-reading one of my John Holt books...Instead of Education, and I came across the idea of free schools for a second time. I was interested in them years ago, but my children were young. Now that they are older the idea has come back around, so I started looking on the internet to find out what was out there in other areas. We have nothing like this in Concord. I stumbled across your fantastic website.

I was wondering if you had any advice for somebody trying to start such a school in their community? How many people do you have helping to coordinate the free school as far as volunteers go? How did you start? How long was the planning stages? And, how did you gain community support? How do you manage without any money? I love this idea, but just having trouble wrapping my head around how this all works.

I am just in the planning stages, but your website really resonates with what I was seeing in my mind about how such a school would work.

Any advice you can offer would be much appreciated.

Thank you,