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:

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Facts of Life

      My father told me I was ruining my son's life by keeping him out of school. During a conversation with my mother I said I hoped Cassidy would grow up to be curious and confident. She said, “He's already much too confident." (He was three years old!) Fortunately, they didn't dwell on their disapproval, and we had happy times when we were together. Maybe it helped that they lived 3000 miles away. I'm sorry that my parents didn't live long enough to know the competent, responsible, self-assured young man Cassidy has become. I know they would approve of the full and varied life he's making for himself and of his dependability as a student, worker, friend and family member. 
     One of the questions we hear most frequently is what to do about family members who disapprove of homeschooling. Grandparents may have disapproved of the way their grandchildren were brought up even before humans developed language. I'll no doubt disagree with some of Cassidy's choices about living and parenting, but I hope I'll have the good sense not to let it spoil our relationship. Ideally, we respect the advice of our parents and other loved ones and try to include them in our decision-making, but the fact is, parents are the ones who are ultimately responsible to determine the best ways to raise their own children.
     Try asking a disapproving relative what exactly they fear that your child will be missing. Maybe they can help provide that experience, whether it's riding on a school bus, finding more friends, or creating a graduation ceremony. Many people have been so well schooled they can't imagine a life that doesn't depend on that institution. You can help your family members start to think outside the school box and you might be surprised at the great ideas they come up with. As a bonus, you'll have extra help and your children will benefit from the wisdom and loving attention of their extended family.
     Maybe your mom remembers you as a preschooler -- full of questions, an enthusiastic artist and fearless adventurer. Can she recall when and how you changed into a rebellious, bored, fearful or merely compliant student? Have a conversation about learning: How do people learn best? How can we create conditions that allow children to maintain their natural curiosity and love of learning?                                                                          
    Can your older sister (for example) tell you exactly what information or skills your children absolutely must learn in order to get along in the world? If she names something, ask her if schooling is the only way to learn it, or might there be some other way. Ask Uncle Bob if he remembers his first job. Did his boss tell him, as so many do, “Forget everything you learned in school….”?
     What does your dad remember about school and how does he feel about it? I can't tell you how many times someone (call him Joe) has said to me, "Well, school was good enough for me, I had to go and I turned out ok, so my kid will have to go too." As the conversation continues, Joe tells a story about his schooling and says, "You know, come to think of it, I really didn't like school all that much." After another ten minutes of reminiscing, Joe pounds the table and says, "School is a terrible place for kids. Is homeschooling really legal?”
     Show Cousin Jane one of the homeschooling magazines with pictures and stories of families learning together happily and successfully. She might even enjoy reading Learning All the Time by John Holt or The Homeschooling Book of Answers by Linda Dobson or The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn. Choose carefully -- I know my mother would have been frightened by any mention of teenagers and liberation in the same sentence. There are so many good books and articles available now that you're sure to find just the right one. 
     Invite your brother (who's teaching seventh grade) to join you at a local support group meeting or better yet, a homeschool field trip, science fair or international night. Introduce him to the parents who are dedicated to their children's education and to the children themselves, who look him in the eye and speak with confidence about their projects, their lives and learning. 
     There will be some friends and relations who remain unconvinced in spite of all your best efforts. You may have to agree to disagree and remind them gently but firmly that parents are responsible for raising their children and that homeschooling is the choice you have made for your family.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Update February, 2016

Dear friends,

Our next Unschoolers Unlimited family gathering will be on Saturday, May 28, 2016 in Guilford CT.  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.


Education is often considered to be the foundation of a well rounded and productive society, but this belief usually stems from an underlying assumption: that those coming out of the education system will keep the cogs of society turning in order to maintain profit margins of large companies in a system that requires constant growth. Instead of encouraging creative and out-of-the-box-thinking people, today’s education paradigm tends to promote more submissive, obedient, and trained graduates, thereby ensuring that the current system is always maintained.
Joe Martino


from  schulfrei-community
Dear Luz,
I think I never shared with you how important the encounter with your son Cassidy was when he visited us in Germany in 2002. He was my first contact with a "real" grown unschooler. I had read many books about unschooling and heard about people's experience online, but living in Germany where homeschooling is illegal even today, I had never met a person who had not been to school.
The address list in your newsletter and your Unschoolers Unlimited family gatherings, along with John Holt's Growing Without Schooling, have been an inspiration to me when I started thinking about how to improve networking amongst home educators in Germany. I have been collecting information about home education events on my website unschooling.de since 2004, and earlier this year, my son and I created the “schulfrei-community.” The new website has a home educators' map, a search function, a list of home ed events throughout Europe, a home ed forum, a chat function and a “treasure chest” with a press archive, book lists and research about home education. So far, we have 737 members living in over a dozen different countries. 
You'll find us at www.schulfrei-community.com.
Thanks again for being an inspiration to my family!
Best wishes from Germany,

Northeast Unschooling Conference     
Aug 18 - 21   Wakefield, MA           

Unschoolers have the time and space to discover their passions and adventures and work and play hard at them. 

Come to the Northeast Unschooling Conference, an annual gathering for unschooling families (and those interested in unschooling) to enjoy a community for learning and fun and to meet others for whom Life is a Joyful Adventure. 

Hear amazing speakers, experience great entertainment, and enjoy all the wonderful unschooling kids, teens, and adults.

 Registration is open now! 
Join our Facebook group to stay up-to-date.


from Connecticut Homeschool Network Facebook page:

Live Birds of Prey Presentation by A Place Called Hope
Sunday, March 20th  12 - 1pm
location: The Portuguese Club, 110 Rubber Avenue, Naugatuck, CT
to Benefit Raccoon Crossing, a 501C3 non profit organization specializing in the care of CT's injured and orphaned juvenile Raccoon population.  This Rehabilitation effort is not funded by the State or the Government and is run entirely by dedicated volunteers.  

The out of pocket expense to keep Raccoon babies fed, housed, de-wormed and vaccinated prior to release is $200 per charge and this Center caters to 60 - 80 cases per year.  

Your help is needed!!  Any donation will go directly to this mission.  

Since Raccoon babies are orphaned regularly due to mis-informed humans, it is our responsibility to Educate and care for the ones who suffer  because of human  negligence and  often well intended interference.  

Please join us for this beneficial Fundraiser to help this cause.  There will be Door Prizes, Baked Goods, Silent Auction, Information Booths, a Magician, and a Live Birds of Prey Presentation from 12 - 1pm. 

Doors open from 11:30 - 4:00 pm.  There will be no cover charge, but price of admission is by Donation.  All money raised will benefit this Center and help to Preserve Wildlife for the Future.

For more information, please contact Laura at 203 725-4524



New England Science and Sailing 

We are incorporating feedback from the homeschool survey and we are excited to share these new designs with the homeschool community.

Also, NESS is open to designing classes for specific homeschool groups that meet one-time, weekly, monthly, or at other time intervals...either at NESS or another location. NESS offers homeschool programs for students between the ages of 3-18. *For students aged 11 & up*: please contact NESS directly and we will design a program specifically around your time availability and interests. *For students ages 16 & up*: internship opportunities are available.

Please let us know if you have any feedback or questions at 860-535-9362 or msmith@nessf.org .

We greatly appreciate any help with forwarding or posting our programs for your group or other groups and parents!
Mike Smith,  Program Director
NESS, New England Science and Sailing
70 & 72 Water Street; PO Box 733
Stonington, CT 06378   www.nessf.org


I know some girls who are really inspired by princesses. I'm not particularly inspired by the traditional examples of princesses, so was happy to find 
A Mighty Girl's  Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess   http://www.amightygirl.com
These princesses are smart, daring, and aren't waiting around to be rescued - more than likely, they'll be doing the rescuing themselves!

Notice the running shoes. Sadie says princesses run fast.


 Erika Christakis, author of "The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups," and an early-childhood educator at the Yale Study -- Child Study Center

… one of the key messages that I would like to convey to parents today is that schooling and learning are two different things. And we've all been sort of hoodwinked in a way into this notion that learning happens in institutional environments.

… we kind of expect too much of kids in some ways, in terms of the rote learning. And really expect too little of them in terms of how smart and creative they are.

 … we sort of underestimate the kind of problem-solving abilities that young people of all ages have. And if we look at the research on how people learn, one of the most effective ways for children of all ages and young adults to learn is through dialogue with other people.

… it's really important when we get back to child development and how people learn, if we can loosen the reins a little bit in the classroom and allow people the space, the time, the opportunity to get to know each other, to learn from each other, to talk to each other, to listen ….

… one of the key things you can look at is are children talking to each other. Do they have long, uninterrupted stretches of play? Because the thing about play, it's very strongly linked to cognitive outcomes, to academic outcomes in the long term and in the short term. But it needs a play habitat that is really conducive to the kind of rich, experience-based, language-based outcomes that we're interested in.


from Unschooling CT Facebook page:

… The thought of you signing up, just because ‘it’s what you’re supposed to do,’ in the next few years to voluntarily pay tens of thousands of dollars to be expected to fit into a system where your education is within the confines of a classroom makes me cringe to my core. Where a piece of paper and a party at the end is supposed to make you feel like you have somehow arrived or are going somewhere ‘worthwhile.’ You are bigger than that. Please recognize that your opportunities to educate yourself richly are absolutely boundless.


Thanks for reading, writing, visiting, calling, learning, growing, being. I look forward to hearing from you.

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.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

What's new?

Unschoolers Unlimited Update
Luz Shosie, editor

Dear friends,
Our Unschoolers Unlimited family gathering is usually on the third Saturday of every other month in Guilford CT.  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. Please email nedvare@ntplx.net or call me 203-458-7402 if you plan to come.

If you'd like to come for a visit some other time, give me a call or email.
Check here for updates or sign up to be on our email list.   nedvare@ntplx.net

"Live your life as if school does not exist."     Ned Vare  1934 - 2009
http://school-is-hell.blogspot.com/     and       http://nedvarecelebration.blogspot.com/


When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ to this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.
- Fred Rogers

"The goal of real education is not to primarily deliver facts, but to bring you to the truths   
which allow you to take responsibility for your  life."   John Taylor Gatto


From Holt Associates:
... all issues of Growing Without Schooling (GWS) are now available for free public access at www.holtgws.com. GWS was the nation’s first magazine about homeschooling, unschooling, and learning outside of school, founded by the late author/teacher John Holt in 1977

“All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words – Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple – or more difficult. Difficult, because to trust children we must trust ourselves – and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”     John Holt


                                         power to the little people! Sadie and Emerson, 2011


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.

Freedom to educate:
Parents educate their children for a variety of reasons in a variety of ways. However, there is one thing that is crucial for all parents, the need to be free so that they are able to educate in the manner in which they choose in the best interest of their children. Together, we can and must retain this freedom; without freedom, there is only one choice: government schooling. That is not acceptable.

NHELD, LLC provides both information and assistance to its members.

NHELD, LLC believes, first and foremost, in empowering individuals to act in accordance with their conscience. NHELD, LLC does not believe in blindly following the word of anyone. NHELD, LLC also does not believe in just directing families to act in unison on the basis of an opinion that NHELD, LLC has formed on its own. NHELD, LLC believes in an informed, empowered citizenry, who is able to fight for freedom effectively when necessary.
Therefore, NHELD, LLC provides the services of:

1.      Notifying its members of any proposed legislation on the federal level, and on the state level (where possible) that will affect their right to educate in freedom;

2.      Informing individuals about where the entire proposed legislation may be located, so that they may find and read for themselves the text of the legislation itself;

3.      Advising individuals not to take the word of anyone else about what that legislation says, but to read the text for themselves in order to formulate their own opinion about the effect the legislation will have, and

 4.      Suggesting courses of action that individuals may wish to take.

 NHELD, LLC also acts with and on behalf of its members to resolve conficts with government officials.

Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson
P.O. Box 704
Southbury, CT  06488
Tel. (860) 354-3590
Fax (860) 354-9360
Cell (203) 206-4282


"In our family, you rebelled by going to school."     - Dhani Harrison (George's son)



Sir Ted Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?
 The dominant systems of education are based on three principles -- or assumptions at least -- that are exactly opposite to how human lives are actually lived. Apart from that, they're fine. First, they promote standardization and a narrow view of intelligence when human talents are diverse and personal. Second, they promote compliance when cultural progress and achievement depend on the cultivation of imagination and creativity. Third, they are linear and rigid when the course of each human life, including yours, is organic and largely unpredictable. As the rate of change continues to accelerate, building new forms of education on these alternative principles is not a romantic whimsy: it's essential to personal fulfillment and to the sustainability of the world we are now creating.


I went to college only to find out later that the engineering degree I'd put a huge investment in was just simply not me. ...  With less pressure and more free space as a child I might have had a better idea of what to pursue. I figure that traditional school slowed me down by at least 20 years.
Learning as Unschoolers: Trusting My Child
Beth Taylor
Home Education Magazine Sept.Oct 2012


The true test of intelligence is not how much we know,
but rather how we behave when we don’t know what to do.
John Holt


From Uncollege.org:
Schools don’t have a monopoly on knowledge; you can teach yourself everything you need to know to succeed in life.  You can get a world-class education by reading the books listed below.  However, this list is in no way meant to replace college.  These books are just a place to start hacking your education.
UnCollege-recommended books for easy bookmarking and reference:   http://www.uncollege.org/reading-list/

Dale J. Stephens is a Penguin author, Thiel Fellow, and education activist. He founded UnCollege in January 2011 because we are paying too much for university and learning too little. Penguin will publish his first book, HACKING YOUR EDUCATION, in March 2013. He lives in San Francisco, California.


 Dear Unschoolers Unlimited,
...you are a truly a calming entity in my life.  I am so thankful for you!!!!!      L.


CT Experiential Learning Center (CELC) in Branford CT offers a middle school program,
including workshops and special events for homeschoolers,  geared toward students ages 10 – 14.

The offerings per session will vary through the year to include: science, music, writing, current events, thematic studies focused on ancient civilizations (includes work on research project and paper with “living museum” display presentation), nonviolence leadership, and group tutorial sessions on subjects of choice.

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

The intention of the Connecticut Experiential Learning Center is to challenge students and nurture their highest potential. By providing a learning community based in the guiding principles of respect, integrity, responsibility and individual learning, the innate desire of all children to learn, grow, communicate, and create is honored.


"...whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else.... Whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer."
from The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster


Parents are always saying, “The only thing I want is for my child to be happy.” And that might be true. I don’t know– I’m not a parent. ... But it seems to me that even if parents only want their kids to be happy, they are often talking about future happiness. As in, their kid will be happy because of all of the hard work that led to the success that led to the happiness.     ...
But nonschooling is about reminding ourselves of the things that matter. Reminding ourselves that no one is really sure how to get to future happiness,  and no one is certain how much certain kinds of success contribute to it, but I think things might be better for everyone if we just spent more time being happy now. Kids, too. Kids’ time and happiness is valuable, too.
Kate Fridkis, grown unschooler


from http://www.holtgws.com/
“Unschooling, for lack of a better term (until people start to accept living as part and parcel of learning), is the natural way to learn. However, this does not mean unschoolers do not take traditional classes or use curricular materials when the student, or parents and children together, decide that this is how they want to do it. Learning to read or do quadratic equations are not "natural" processes, but unschoolers nonetheless learn them when it makes sense to them to do so, not because they have reached a certain age or are compelled to do so by arbitrary authority. Therefore it isn't unusual to find unschoolers who are barely eight-years-old studying astronomy or who are ten-years-old and just learning to read.”

—Pat Farenga, Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling


Why Deschooling? by Pam Laricchia
Deschooling is a general term used to describe this transition to unschooling, where we expand our definition of learning beyond the classroom paradigm. Conventional wisdom tell us that learning looks like teachers and listening and writing and tests. Even years after we’ve graduated, chances are our vision of learning is still locked within those four walls. But what might we see if we remove our school-goggles?

The guideline surrounding deschooling is that the process typically takes about one month per year of school or school-at-home. Right away that tells us that parents likely have the bulk of the work to do, which makes sense because we’ve been enmeshed in school culture the longest. The idea of a guideline makes me giggle a bit because it takes as long as it takes, but where the statement really helps is planting the idea that the process takes a while. Not a few weeks or a couple months, but some real time. Long enough that when you’re nearing the end, hopefully you’ve reached the point where you’re not even looking for the “end” any more.
- See more at:


iTunes University: Free Courses on Your Computer, iPhone, iPod Touch, & iPad
 You won't receive a diploma, but you'll have the knowledge.

These free iTunes U courses can easily be added to your homeschool curriculum.  You'll find courses in science, math, and...well, with over 500,000 lectures, courses, books, and videos, you'll find all you need to keep yourself and your students learning.  In the app, you can build a course, and your student can switch between devices - from iPad to iPhone, for example - while studying.  
iTunes U  By Apple
Open iTunes to buy and download apps.


in Connecticut
Two Coyotes Wilderness School
Raising the next generation of spring peepers
Please check out our offerings.  We have programs for homeschoolers, preschoolers, weekend programs, overnight programs, a ton of great summer camps and much more!
Justin Pegnataro
Executive Director, Two Coyotes Wilderness School


          “Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.”
           Mark Twain 



My experience as an unschooler
There is a wide array of opinions on home/unschooling floating around, both negative and positive, from those who have never experienced it, to those who are in the process of unschooling their children currently. One thing I don't often see though, is the perspective of an adult unschooler on the process.

Well, here is my answer to that. I'm 27 years old, and was unschooled from the age of 0 - 18. There's a lot of speculation on the effects of unschooling - on intelligence, socialization, worldview, etc. So I'm here to try and provide the perspective of someone who has been through the process and come out on the other side.

More unschooling videos:


the Unschooling Channel!

and  interviews of  John Holt:


"Here’s our first instruction: take a deep breath and relax. Really. The things you’re worrying about are much smaller factors in your child’s well-being than you might imagine. Many modern parents believe that children’s personality and adult behavior are shaped mainly by parenting -- but research paints a very different picture.
... Children are not passive recipients of parenting or schooling, but active participants in every aspect of their own development.
...One of the major ways that chldren adapt to their circumstances is through play. From preschool through adolescence, play is practice for adult life and helps to develop some of the brain’s most important functions."

Welcome to Your Child’s Brain/ How the Mind Grows from Conception through College
Sandra Aamodt, Ph.D.   and Sam Wang, Ph.D.



"creative, confident and in control of their environment"
Teaching life lessons through tinkering: Gever Tulley on TED.com

Gever Tulley uses engaging photos and footage to demonstrate the valuable lessons kids learn at his Tinkering School. When given tools, materials and guidance, these young imaginations run wild and creative problem-solving takes over to build unique boats, bridges and even a rollercoaster!

Gever Tulley, founder of the Tinkering School, spells out 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do -- and why a little danger is good for both kids and grownups.



“I began to schoolteach as an engineer would, solving problems as they arose. Because of my upbringing and because of certain unresolved contradictions in my own character I had a great private need not just to have a job but to have work that would allow me to build the unbuilt parts of myself, to give me competence and let me feel my life was one being lived instead of it living me. I brought to those first years an intensity of watchfulness probably uncommon in those who grow up untroubled. My own deficiencies provided enough motivation to want to make something worthwhile happen.

“Had I remained a problem-solver I would have drowned in life for sure, but a habit of mind that demands things in context sensitized me to the culture of schooling as a major element in my work and that wariness eventually allowed me to surmount it. The highest school priorities are administrative coherence, student predictability, and institutional stability; children doing well or poorly are incidental to the main administrative mission. Hence teachers are often regarded as instruments which respond best if handled like servants made to account for the silverware. In order to give these vertical relationships strength, the horizontal relationships among teachers— collegiality—must be kept weak.

“This divide-and-conquer principle is true of any large system. ...”

—John Taylor Gatto
The Underground Historyof American Education
A Schoolteacher's Intimate Investigation  Into The Problem Of Modern Schooling

If you appreciate John Taylor Gatto, the author of Dumbing Us Down (probably his most popular book), you'll appreciate this freebie read of his, The Underground History of American Education. http://johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
 Mark Twain
quotes from    http://thinkexist.com/quotation


Kelly Lovejoy wrote a great description of the stages of unschooling - you can read it here.

"The first stage is the longest and most difficult and involves getting rid of all school-think, which includes classes and "instruction" and school-speak. We have to rid ourselves of the reliance on schools and teachers and testing and book-worship. We need to look deeply into the difference between "teach" and "learn". We ban classes and structure and nagging. It's accepting that grades and requirements and diplomas and curricula and extrinsic motivations truly have no meaning in an unschooling life. It's realizing that the whole world is related and inter-related: it's about NOT dividing the world into subjects: math is science is art is history is literature is FUN! It's a time for reflection on how we've learned the things that really matter in our adult lives. It's hard to let go of all that school-think, to go beyond what we've been *taught* was important and to value ALL learning as important."


When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
John Muir


The Things I Really Want My Kids to Learn by Sue Smith Heavenrich – “I think I’d put ‘making your own lunch’ at the top of the list.” Knowing how to make a tuna sandwich or whip up a pot of macaroni is as important as knowing how to divide fractions. Maybe even more important.”


Dear Unschoolers Unlimited,
Thank you SO much for the UnCurriculum article. (http://unschoolersunlimited.blogspot.com/)

I’m in PA, in a school district & state which require a daily log of school work. As this is my first year of “officially” homeschooling, I’ve been struggling to find a ‘guide’ for putting everyday life into “school terms.” I was deeply encouraged to be true to who I am & who the boys are (AGAIN – encouragement & reminders seems a recurring need for homeschooling parents). While I teach with a few “aids”, most “schooling” stems from good reading, real life application, and play.

THANK YOU for this very simple listing, which I will refer back to in those moments of forgetfulness & panic over what I could possibly write in ‘that log’.
A very, very thankful Momma in PA ~


Video on TED.com
William Ury: The walk from "no" to "yes"      http://www.ted.com/talks/william_ury.html


"Don’t be afraid of your own strength." by Diane von Furstenberg


from NewEnglandUnschooling@yahoogroups.com

What I found really useful at first was joining and reading at
Unschoolingbasics, a yahoo group for those new to unschooling.

I also *really* like Sandra Dodd's daily emails of encouragement she sends out. You can see them and subscribe here:     http://justaddlightandstir.blogspot.com/


from HEM-Unschooling@yahoogroups.com
Posted by:"HelenH"
Taking a Closer Look at Unschooling

Defining unschooling is a little like describing a color, and every bit as elusive. You can rely on commonly-held descriptions; for example, we generally all agree what blue looks like, but what about cobalt, aqua, navy, cyan, sapphire, azure, indigo, cerulean, turquoise or cornflower? It's the same with unschooling. There's a generally accepted definition, but then there are all these wonderful variations

Taking a Closer Look at Unschooling


Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.


The best way to know life is to love many things.
Van Gogh


Joyfully rejoicing!

This site is about unschooling. And it's about parenting more peacefully. But overall it's about living more joyful family lives. If I had to summarize it the message would be "Put the relationship first and then figure out how to fit everything else around that."

As you're reading the parenting answers, probably the most useful piece of advice is:

Don't drop all your parenting rules at once. Just say "Yes!" more.


Good video on childhood education--might be helpful to show doubting spouses or grandparents:


"A child who is learning naturally, following his curiosity where it leads him, adding to his mental model of reality whatever he needs and can find a place for, and rejecting without fear or guilt what he does not need, is growing - in knowledge, in the love of learning, and in the ability to learn....
All his life he will go on learning."
~John Holt, in How Children Fail


from   NewEnglandUnschooling@yahoogroups.com
~ This TED talk is very much addressing the unschooler approach to life



from www.huffingtonpost.com
No Homework and Never a Test - The Life of an Unschooler
" Up until a year ago I could barely spell. It was my own fault, because I was reluctant to take on the daunting task. Most parents would have intervened in this situation, but my mom says there's a cost to that.
"When you force someone to do something, especially when they're a child and there's an imbalance and a power relationship anyway, they lose part of their will and their confidence that they know what's right for them. And I think that's a pretty high cost for being a good speller."
Sam Fuller, 16, unschooler


from NewEnglandUnschooling@yahoogroups.com
One of the best things about unschooling during the teenage years is the time and space to pursue interests. I have found that adults in the community respond amazingly to young people who want to learn from them. My son's interests were animals, birding, photography, music -- he volunteered at wildlife centers, developed wonderful relationships with area birders, joined the local digital photography club and birding group, hung out at open mikes, and played in bands. On weekends he'd get picked up by his 60-year-old birding mentor and they'd go out and have a blast with other adult birders. He loved their knowledge -- they loved his youth, enthusiasm, and sharper eyesight :). M.


The Levity Project is a social movement which creates change through public play, laughter, and celebration with the goal of creating a lighter and more joyful society.
The Laughter Flash is an event with The Levity Project where participants gather and laugh together for no reason. The purpose is to infuse a public space with the energy of laughter starting with the participants and creating a ripple effect to all who are present or who are passing by.
Videography by Max Heiligman


New England Science & Sailing
PO Box 733 · 70 Water Street · Stonington, CT 06378
www.nessf.org      860-535-9362       860-535-9362
Homeschool Programs at NESS.  We have many new offerings based in science, engineering, boats, math, art, marine careers, and even FISHING!!  We will be offering family classes again too!


“The ability to think outside the box develops over time, a result of study, observation, thought, and a valuable collection of abject failures and stunning successes. Only your attention can give you the tools you need; only your time can hone them. If upon completion of your first year of homeschooling you are on your way to thinking outside the box, if your children are uncovering and following interests with the time available to them, if education is emerging as something you all do for yourselves instead of having it done ‘to’ you, congratulations. You are a homeschooling success.”
Linda Dobson    http://www.parentatthehelm.com


Consumption is a word used to describe acts of acquisition – generally, the acquisition of things, in exchange for money. Unconsumption is a word used to describe everything that happens after an act of acquisition.       http://unconsumption.tumblr.com


“Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever--because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”
Steve Jobs       Commencement Speech at Stanford, 2005


Environmental Education Lesson offered by US Fish and Wildlife Service

Homeschool Educators:

It is part of the mission of the US Fish and Wildlife Service to provide environmental education programs to the local community FREE OF CHARGE.

A new environmental education lesson is available to your students from the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Westbrook, CT.    http://www.fws.gov/northeast/mckinney/

This lesson is based on Connecticut state curriculum standards for the 4th grade level. It provides a basic introduction to the National Wildlife Refuge System and the migratory birds that can be seen right here in our state. It utilizes a Powerpoint presentation with graphics, includes a question/answer session, a research session and a birdhouse building activity. All materials will be provided by the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge.

This lesson can be given at our headquarters building in Westbrook to groups of about 15 people or smaller. If you are able to assemble a group of more that 15 people, we can travel to a venue that you provide to complete the lesson off site.

If you are interested in having this lesson presented to a group of students, please contact me using the information below.

Thank you for your interest, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Shaun Roche, Park Ranger
Stewart B. McKinney NWR
US Fish and Wildlife Service
733 Old Clinton Road, Westbrook, CT
860-399-2513 ext. 111

Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard.
Luther Standing Bear


7 Tips to Help Your Child Learn Without Teaching
By Linda Dobson

Children are humans. Humans learn.  That’s what they do, if well-intentioned adults don’t interfere with or, worse, destroy, their natural curiosity. With this basic concept in mind, let’s explore seven tips that allow you to help your child learn without turning into “the teacher” of your worst nightmares!


"A child enters school as a question mark, and leaves as a period." -- Neal Postman.


Dear U.U.
I just wanted to thank you for sharing your time and experience with us. It's beyond inspirational to me as a parent doing things differently to hear about the experiences of others who went a similar way. It's so nice to know that there's a community out there that we can be a part of. I really appreciate the work you and your family have done to pave the way for other families in CT.

“Never let schooling interfere with your education.”
Mark Twain


It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.


Dear Unschoolers Unlimited,
I thank you so much for the emails and the wealth of knowledge within.  I truly appreciate your time and although it did not click until I read your email, I have in fact read your book!  A retired doctor lent it to me  when my kids were just babies.  I am honored to speak with you.  I also thank you for not giving up and for you and Ned's dedication to the truth of the education system and the courage to do what was right for Cassidy.  In doing so you have managed to be a lighthouse in the midst of a sea of lies and manipulations.  You and Ned through your life have brought peace, knowledge, and courage to countless other families. Thank you for helping to pave way through this societies illusion.  While reading your book I remember thinking we would have so much to talk about.  Mostly though I was thankful that I was not alone and I was right about the education system in our country.  May we stay in touch and I can not wait to meet you. 


“… what I said at the end of Escape From Childhood was this: People who feel their children are full human beings and ought to be treated that way should try, within the geographical boundaries of their community, say, to set up a sort of invisible network, in which adults can treat children as we hope all adults will someday treat them. I think of what Paul Goodman used to say to radicals: ‘Suppose the revolution was over and you had won - how would you live your life then? Well, live it that way now!’”
From a 1981 interview with John Holt


    It seems that in the rush to give children every advantage — to protect them, to stimulate them, to enrich them — our culture has unwittingly compromised one of the activities that helped children most. All that wasted time was not such a waste after all.
It has always been; it will always be. Play is children’s most important work.
Linda Dobson’s Parent At The Helm


Dear U.U.
... Your email is inspiring. ... always wanted to homeschool ... but ...  He enjoyed kindergarten and first grade. ... Today will be his last day at conventional school.  Frankly, I am a bit scared about whether I will be good enough, but more so I am very excited. There is so much to do and learn and he can do all in a more tranquil, supportive and loving setting.
Thank you!


from Home Education Magazine, Sept/Oct. 2011
“I had learned in school that one can only enjoy things one is good at, and, more critically, one should only pursue things one is good at, and furthermore, resources should only be expended for students to participate in activities they are good at. And, still further, one shouldn’t undertake anything difficult unless one is prepared to sweat at it. I am a living demonstration that all four principles are schoolish mythology, and act as detriments o the ultimate quality of our lives.
“This is not a paean to mediocrity. ... But I also have learned that I need not be a passive spectator, and that I can take control of my experience, and my learning, at whatever level I choose. It has taken me four decades to get there, and an awful lot of deschooling, but I am thankful to have arrived.”
David H. Albert


Thanks for all your emails, calls, visits! I love hearing from you!