Learning to trust

Here's information about Unschoolers Unlimited. We are an informal network of people who are learning to trust our own and our children’s ability to choose the best ways to learn and grow.

Ned and I are parents of a 36 year old son. When Cassidy was a baby, we were inspired by John Holt, who said “Children do not need to be made to learn, or shown how. They want to and they know how.” We decided that Cassidy would determine what, when, where, how much and with whom he would learn. We never used school books or taught lessons. We answered his questions when he asked and helped him gain access to the real world when he wanted it. We called it unschooling.

When we went to homeschool support group meetings, the conversation was usually “How do I get my kids to do math, what curriculum do I choose, etc.” When we said we don’t “teach” our son, there might be one or two other parents who said “We don’t either, but we thought we were the only ones.” So we started a support group.

We hold family gatherings -- usually on the third Saturday of every other month. We come together to play and socialize, to support and encourage each other, to share ideas and information, and to reassure ourselves that we are not alone in believing that children and adults can be responsible for our own learning. We publish an occasional newsletter and a mailing list.

Our son celebrated his graduation (Magna Cum Laude!) in 2002 from Hunter College in New York City. After college he moved to Brooklyn and got into bicycle riding. He rode across the country to Seattle where he worked in bike shops and met the love of his life. Lucky for me, he persuaded Kim to come back to Brooklyn.

In 2009 he opened Bespoke Bicycles in Brooklyn NY.
Now he and Kim and their beautiful twins live in Philadelphia. Cassidy is managing Mainline Cycles

Ned died peacefully at home in July 2009 after a long illness.
I continue to do this group because I love talking to people about homeschooling and enjoy holding their hands as they make the leap into self directed learning.

Please call or write if you have questions. I look forward to hearing from you and meeting you.


Luz Shosie
Guilford, CT

Would you like to receive our contact list and occasional newsletter? Send an email to nedvare@ntplx.net
There is no charge. We welcome contributions of any kind.


Our mailing list is circulated only to other families on the list.
Do you wish to be on a published/circulated list?
Or do you prefer that we NOT publish your name?

CHILDREN’S NAMES AND BIRTH DATES (if you want them published)

What are your interests, concerns, or questions about unschooling?
mail to:

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Update November, 2015

Our next Unschoolers Unlimited family gathering will be on Saturday, January 16, 2016, at our home in Guilford CT.  Usually we gather on the third Saturday of every other month.

Come any time between 1 and 5 pm. Bring a snack or drink to share, if you like. Anyone who is interested in unschooling is welcome to join us for socialization, conversation, play, questions and answers, good food, encouragement. Please email or call me 203-458-7402 if you plan to come.

I had a great tome at the CT Homeschoolers Network conference at the Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, CT   Saturday, October 10th. We had a lively conversation about unschooling with lots of questions and answers. There were parents who were curious about unschooling as well as those who have been practicing for some time and even a second generation unschooler who was unschooled herself and now has children.

Watch the CHN web site and facebook page for news about next year's conference and tons of essential information for anyone who in interested in all kinds of homeschooling. They have listings of support groups all over the state.

CT Homeschool Network  •  P.O. Box 115  •  Goshen, CT 06756


from CHN’s Facebook group:

FREEDOM LEARNERS - A Southern CT Homeschooling Co-op

An all-inclusive homeschooling co-op, where we are free to explore, develop friendships, An all-inclusive homeschooling co-op, where we are free to explore, develop friendships, create, learn, and express ourselves in a safe, nonjudgmental and respectful environment.

We meet 11am-3pm every Thrursday at Woodland Church @ 63 Ancient Hwy, Oxford, CT.

Classes include: Fishing, Photography, Holistic Music, Knitting/Crocheting, Lego and Board Game Freeplay, Art, Art Journaling, French, and room to grow.

Have you been looking for a support group? Check out CHN’s web site.  http://cthomeschoolnetwork.org/
Facebook and Yahoo Groups too. Or start your own.


New Pond Farm is  an environmental education center with a small working farm  in West Redding, CT. Our mission is to connect people with the land that enriches and sustains us all.
 We have a variety of habitats for our environmental programs including woodlands, wetlands, and pastures.
Our Native American programs are enhanced by an authentically-recreated encampment.
Our astronomy buildings are home to monthly astronomy programs as well as being the field station for Joel Barlow High School.
Our vegetable and herb gardens are featured in our programs.
Our farm programs take place in our barns, which house milking cows, sheep, chickens and roosters.
Our barn-like Learning Center with its classroom and spacious meeting areas has been the site of art shows, adult lectures, barn dances, and more.


I met and played with one of my heroes not long ago. He said his family “re-read, underlined, dog-eared" our book Smarting Us Up and has given away copies to friends. 


“Homeschooling is on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s recently released Digest of Education Statistics, between 2003 and 2012, the number of homeschooled children in the United States is estimated to have grown by nearly 62 percent. Moreover, despite stereotypes to the contrary, most homeschooling families are headed by well-educated parents earning middle-class incomes.


Homeschool Days at CT Experiential Learning Center in Branford.
Meets Mondays 9:45 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
A variety of classes will be offered, including Science, Writers’ Workshop, Music, and more.
Cost – $ 440.00 for 8-week session, $ 495.00 for 9-week session 
This cost is based on $11.00/hour ($55.00/day)

The offerings per session will vary through the year to include Science, Music, Writing, Current Events, and Nonviolence Leadership.

To register and for more information, contact us at mandm@CTExperiential.org
or call 203-433-4658

A dynamic middle school program, CT Experiential Learning Center (CELC) of Branford provides small classes that combine exceptional academics with hands-on and real-world learning experiences to fit the academic, social, and emotional needs of the 5th – 8th grade student.


“Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to discover the child’s natural bent.” -Plato


from Ned’s blog: school-is-hell.blogspot.com/
Still getting hits!

Friday, May 9, 2008
Homeschool or Unschool?

My wife and I are advocates of homeschooling in all its forms, but for our son we chose Unschooling which might be described as letting the learner choose what, when, where and with whom he learns.

The big advantage our son had, thanks to UNschooling throughout his youth, was that he learned to be in charge of his learning, and really his life to a great degree. In contrast, kids who attend schools learn to wait for others to tell them what to do, what to think. After twelve years of that, they become completely dependent on others for direction. In our son's case, he learned to be in charge of his own life to the degree he was able.

In general, that does not prepare young people for college. Colleges prefer people who have initiative and can motivate themselves, who know what they want to learn, and most important, know how to find information when they need it, and are not afraid to make decisions for themselves. Those characteristics are the opposite of what public schools teach. The government schools have the goal of turning out a "workforce" of dependent predictable people. The government does not want people to be well educated -- just enough, but no more. The "economy" needs lots of sheep, not too many shepherds. Lots of spectators, not many players. Our son, and many homeschooled children we know, learned to be independent and creative thinkers, to do what was right for them, not necessarily for the "economy."

School does not prepare children for life. Each year of school merely prepares them for the next year of school. Our motto is, "Live with your children as though there were no such thing as school." Let your kids know that they are responsible for their lives and for their learning, no one else is.

Our son never did lessons, never looked at a school book. We did not teach him school stuff at home. He learned what he was interested in, which was almost everything. He scored incredibly high on the SATs and got into college easily on his own and breezed through happily graduating Magna Cum Laude. He was well prepared for college without doing any of the school stuff. He was prepared for life, not just college. He is grateful for his experience growing up and we are still his best friends. What more can we ask?


Did You Know Tennis Champions and Sisters Venus and Serena Williams Were Home-Schooled?

By Yolanda Spivey
Tennis champions and siblings Venus and Serena Williams are both products of homeschooling.  Their parents Richard Williams and Oracene Price home-schooled the young ladies during their elementary and junior high school years.  They wanted the girls to focus on their tennis training from a young age.


Dear Ned:
Remembering you and your every kindness to me and my family. When my son was thinking of opting into middles school, it was precious for us to have you to visit. It was so memorable. You connected deeply with him over conversation about tennis...about golf. You were so present and grounding. My husband still has your book, The Money Swing, by his bedside. :))) You have touched our lives tenderly and gave us the support that we needed to continue on a most fulfilling homeschool journey. I am forever grateful for the presence of you and Luz in our lives.


Wesleyan University’s College of the Environment has a resource web log of outdoor activities for children and families.
View on earthoutloud.blogs.wesleyan.edu | Preview by Yahoo |

  This is a good place to check out community events for nature lovers here in Connecticut, including a link for educators.


"I look for the good news because every thought we think changes our biochemistry. Your hormones are all affected by your thoughts. Pay attention to things that bring you joy."

- Dr. Christiane Northup


Dear Unschoolers Unlimited:
Thank you for the up and up info.  Your short e mail alone has helped calm down my nerves.  …  God speed.  Les

“But what is work and what is not work? Is it work to dig, to carpenter, to plant trees, to fell trees, to ride, to fish, to hunt, to feed chickens, to play the piano, to take photographs, to build a house, to cook, to sew, to trim hats, to mend motor bicycles? All of these things are work to somebody. There are in fact very few activities which cannot be classed either as work or play according as you choose to regard them.”

-George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier


“If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”

- Charlie Parker


Thanks for reading, writing, calling, visiting, playing.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Update August, 2015

Unschoolers Unlimited Update 
August, 2015

Dear friends,

Our next Unschoolers Unlimited family gathering will be on Saturday, September 19, 2015 at our home in Guilford CT.  Usually we gather on the third Saturday of every other month.

Come any time between 1 and 5 pm. Bring a snack or drink to share, if you like. Anyone who is interested in unschooling is welcome to join us for socialization, conversation, play, questions and answers, good food, encouragement. Please email or call me 203-458-7402 if you plan to come.


from CT Homeschool Network   http://www.cthomeschoolnetwork.org

CHN is co-sponsoring this year's conference at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, CT
Saturday, October 10th 1 - 5PM.

CT Homeschool Network  •  P.O. Box 115  •  Goshen, CT 06756

I will be leading a workshop/conversation about unschooling in the afternoon.
Hope to see you there -- I'm always inspired to hang out with homeschoolers of all varieties. Let me know if you would like me to come to your gathering to lead a discussion.


“These are not the government’s children. They are our children.” 
Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson, Executive Director of NHELD, LLC, speaking at a press conference with a coalition of 12 parental rights groups in CT.

Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson, Executive Director of National Home Education Legal Defense, a national organization open to all who wish to join, that seeks to protect and defend the rights of families who wish to educate in freedom.   http://www.nheld.com/

Press conference with parental rights groups fighting the conclusions from the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission Report at the Legislative Office Building. February 25, 2015.  


"In a nutshell, people whose lives are hard, boring, painful, meaningless—people who suffer—tend to resent those who seem to suffer less than they do, and will make them suffer if they can. People who feel themselves in chains, with no hope of ever getting them off, want to put chains on everyone else." —John Holt, Teach Your Own


Hulbert Outdoor Center Homeschool Programs

Since 1990 Hulbert has been offering week long overnight experiences for 9-17 year old, homeschoolers. Our programs have touched the lives of over 3,000 homeschoolers, and counting. We offer three week long residential programs as well as two six day canoe expeditions each summer. Our Homeschool Camps offer participants a chance to come together for fun and adventure, learn, form lasting relationships, and build a true working community.  Whether it be performing at a talent show, picking up a new skill, finding the courage to speak up during a community meeting, or living in a community away from home, participants have the opportunity to; explore, learn about themselves, and take risks in an inclusive, supportive and caring atmosphere.

Our programs are an excellent choice if you are looking to excite, motivate, or focus your homeschoolers through a supportive learning experience with objectives such as:
Ø  To focus on working together as a community 
Ø  To develop strategies for handling social issues in our group including cliques and conflict resolution
Ø  To learn outdoor skills
Ø  To appreciate and recognize peer strengths that may not ordinarily present themselves
Ø  To explore the natural history of Vermont
Ø  To be their best selves

Homeschool Programs have become an important part of our annual calendar. We’re hopeful of building our network and would be interested in working with you in supporting each other’s goals and mission.  I’d love to schedule a time to chat with you by telephone and hopefully arrange a time where I can come and see your program and community in action. Thanks for all you do, I hope we get the opportunity to collaborate in the future.

In the Spirit of Community,

Brian Stoudnour   Homeschool Program Director     Hulbert Outdoor Center

Phone: 802-333-3405      Fax: 802-333-3404      Email: brian_stoudnour@alohafoundation.org


I believe that we learn best when we, not others, are deciding what we are going to try to learn, and when, and how, and for what reasons or purposes; when we, not others, are in the end choosing the people, materials, and experiences from which and with which we will be learning; when we, not others, are judging how easily or quickly or well we are learning, and when we have learned enough; and above all when we feel the wholeness and opennesss of the world around us, and our own freedom and power and competence in it. What then can we do about it? How can we create or help create these conditions for learning?
John Holt   What Do I Do Monday?


Coyote Village for Homeschoolers

Embark on an adventure of learning into the forest and heart.  Coyote Village is a wilderness-based mentoring program that helps raise healthy and connected children in a community setting.  Students learn ancient wilderness survival skills, awareness, and naturalist skills while developing character and exploring their unique gifts.

Past students have build and slept in survival shelters, made fire by rubbing sticks together, tracked coyotes, made stone tools and so many more fun projects.  Over the course of our program, students develop qualities such as leadership, team building, emotional intelligence, resilience, confidence, expression, service, integrity and other foundational aspects of good character.  Join our village and step into wild adventures in nature.

Two Coyotes offers after school, weekend, homeschool and older teen programs. To learn more about the full menu of spring programs


The Icarus Deception

Everyone knows that Icarus’s father made him wings and told him not to fly too close to the sun; he ignored the warning and plunged to his doom. The lesson: Play it safe. Listen to the experts. It was the perfect propaganda for the industrial economy. What boss wouldn’t want employees to believe that obedience and conformity are the keys to success?
But we tend to forget that Icarus was also warned not to fly too low, because seawater would ruin the lift in his wings. Flying too low is even more dangerous than flying too high, because it feels deceptively safe.
The safety zone has moved. Conformity no longer leads to comfort. But the good news is that creativity is scarce and more valuable than ever. So is choosing to do something unpredictable and brave: Make art. Being an artist isn’t a genetic disposition or a specific talent. It’s an attitude we can all adopt. It’s a hunger to seize new ground, make connections, and work without a map. If you do those things you’re an artist, no matter what it says on your business card.
Seth Godin   The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? 

Listen to a conversation with Seth

On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.


from Pat Farenga
John Taylor Gatto Back in Business

John Taylor Gatto's website is revised and open for business again. For those unfamiliar with Gatto's work, the site is well worth a visit, particularly if you want to know not just what's wrong with schools but what you can do about it now. Gatto is an award-winning New York City public school teacher who gave up trying to fix the schools from within the system and who has been calling upon children, adults, and teachers to do something different for with education. He and I became friends in 1991 when he openly embraced homeschooling as a path forward for education in his public comments and writing (republished in his excellent book Dumbing Us Down), making him a rarity among public school educators and a beacon of hope for families seeking alternatives to schools that aren't working for them.

Despite his stroke, John continues to read, write, and think about education topics. However, John needs a lot of care and help to function well and donations to his health fund are always welcome.


“Old at heart” — doesn’t it have a beautiful ring? Wouldn’t you like to be loved by people  whose hearts have practiced loving for a long time?
Susan Moon  This Is Getting Old

Thanks for reading, writing, visiting, calling, growing, learning. Keep going. Keep going.