Learn about the people who are making it happen.
After over a decade of teaching and studying education, Abby now serves as co-director of the New York City Agile Learning Center (ALC-NYC). The flagship school of a growing network, ALC-NYC serves a community of young people who practice self-direction and intentional culture creation. During school hours Abby often shares books, field trips, art projects, and her enthusiasm for life science. She also works increasingly with adults, collaborating with and providing support for those new to facilitating in learner-driven environments.
Abby graduated from New York University's Gallatin School for Individualized Study in 2013 after focusing her coursework around education and sociology. She facilitated at ALC-NYC for three years before becoming a director, and she looks forward to finding ways to provide more young people access to education focused on their empowerment and holistic growth.
Akilah S. Richards is an author, content writer, and podcaster. Her liberation-focused work explores strategies designed to help people leave or change the environments where they do not feel free or safe as themselves. She is an intersectional feminist writer with a keen focus on amplifying the spectrum of Black and Brown people's voices in the self-directed education movement.
Akilah has given keynotes, breakout sessions, and workshops on radical self-expression, personal leadership, and writing on college campuses and women's summits/conferences in the US and on her home island, Jamaica. She has been featured in Essence and Real Simple magazines, and has written for MyBrownBaby.com, ScaryMommy.com, TinyBuddha.com, ForHarriet.com, and EverydayFeminism.com, among others.
Akilah and her husband are digital nomads who live an unschooled life with their two daughters. She stands in service as a board member for Greening Youth Foundation and the The Alliance for Self-Directed Education.
Alexander Khost (he/him) is a father and children's rights advocate. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Tipping Points and founder of Voice of the Children, promoting and facilitating art and activism for young people. He is also Secretary and Treasurer of Friends of the Modern School, supporting the history of anarchistic education, and he works at the homeschooling coop, Brooklyn Apple Academy.
He previously founded the Teddy McArdle Free School, a democratic free school in New Jersey, and more recently he co-founded play:groundNYC, a junkyard playground for children on Governors Island in New York City.
Becka Koritz is passionate about self-directed education and peaceful parenting. She has an extensive and unique path within alternative education: as an ex-student in the Montessori system, co-founder of two Waldorf initiatives, and the founder of Explora ALC, Mexico's first Agile Learning Center.
Becka dedicates her time running her ALC, coaching other ALCs, giving workshops and creating articles and videos in Spanish in order to support families in Latin America who are embracing self-directed education. At the same time she accompanies her teenage son on his journey in the world of self-directed education. She loves empowering other human beings to experience and create freedom in their lives. Becka was born in Sweden but lives in Mexico since 2003. You can support her work here.
Becka Koritz es una apasionada especialista en desescolarización, educación autodirigida y crianza respetuosa con apego. Tiene una extensa y única trayectoria en la educación alternativa: como ex-alumna Montessori, co-fundadora de dos iniciativas Waldorf, y fundadora de Explora ALC, el primer Centro de Aprendizaje Ágil en México.
Becka dedica su tiempo a dirigir su ALC, asesorando a otros ALCs, impartiendo talleres y creando artículos y videos en español para apoyar a las familias en Latinoamérica que están en el camino de la educación autodirigida. Al mismo tiempo está acompañando a su hijo adolescente en su viaje de aprendizaje autodirigido. Le fascina empoderar a otros seres humanos para que vivan y crean libertad en sus vidas. Nació en Estocolmo, Suecia, y vive en México desde el 2003. Puedes apoyar su labor aquí.
Ben Draper is a Sudbury Valley School "lifer." After graduating in 1997 he studied composition briefly at the New England Conservatory of music before going on to pursue his interests in art and philosophy at the school of the Museum of fine arts Boston and tufts university. His work has been shown in the contemporary wing of the Museum of fine arts Boston as well as other galleries in the Boston area. Draper begin reading at the age of 17 when a Sudbury Valley staff member loaned him a book on Zen Buddhism. This set him on the Buddhist path which is still on today. Currently he is studying to become a student of the venerable Dzigar Congtrul Rinpoche in the nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In 2012 he helped start the Macomber Center for self directed learning in Framingham Massachusetts where he is now the executive director. In 2018 he became a director's fellow at the MIT media Lab where he has been collaborating on several writing projects about self-directed education. Recently his article "how not to raise a reductionist" appeared in the MIT journal of design and science.
Blake Boles builds exciting alternatives to traditional school for self-directed young people. He directs the company Unschool Adventures and is the author of the published books The Art of Self-Directed Learning, Better Than College, College Without High School, and the online book How to Live Nowhere.
He and his work have appeared on TEDx, The Huffington Post, USA Today, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, BBC Travel, Psychology Today, Fox Business, NPR affiliate radio, and the blogs of The Wall Street Journal and Wired.com.
In 2003 Blake was studying astrophysics at UC Berkeley when he stumbled upon the works of John Taylor Gatto, Grace Llewellyn, and other alternative education pioneers. Deeply inspired by the philosophy of unschooling, Blake custom-designed his final two years of college to study education full-time. After graduating he joined the Not Back to School Camp community and began writing and speaking widely on the subject of self-directed learning.
In his previous lives, he has worked as a high-volume cook, Aurora Borealis physics researcher, delivery truck driver, math tutor, outdoor science teacher, EMT medic, summer camp director, market researcher, web designer, and windsurfing and tree climbing instructor. He keeps a running goal (and failure) list. His biggest passion is sharing his enthusiasm and experience with young adults who are blazing their own trails through life.
Bria Bloom is a born and raised unschooler, and has the daily joy of parenting a self-directed learner. Her SDE experience has influenced her to become an advocate for SDE for all, and she channels this passion through her work as Community Manager for The Alliance for Self-Directed Education. Throughout the years she has supported others in their learning in a variety of ways, including teaching Martial Arts since she was 14 years old, and working for many years at a play-based early learning center in Seattle. She also writes, presents, and facilitates workshops on early education. To check out some of her work, visit briabloom.com.
Brian Huskie is a National Board Certified public schoolteacher with 10 years of experience, founder of the Albany High School/Capital District Refugee Scholarship Endowment, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran (2004), and author of "A White Rose: A Soldier's Story of Love, War, and School" He and his wife homeschool two beautiful boys outside of Albany, NY. Find Brian at BrianHuskie.com
Bruce E. Levine is a practicing clinical psychologist. He is the author of Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy, and several other books. According to the late Howard Zinn, "Bruce Levine condemns the cold, technological approach to mental health and, to our benefit, looks for deeper solutions.
After starting his career in the public schools of Columbia, Missouri, Bruce L. Smith helped open the first Sudbury school in Illinois in 1997. Since then he has staffed at Sudbury schools at four states, primarily Alpine Valley School in metro Denver and Clearview Sudbury School in Austin, Texas.
For over a decade Bruce has served as president of Friends of Sudbury Schooling, an organization dedicated to promoting the visibility and viability of schools inspired by the Sudbury Valley School, founded in 1968. When he's not staffing, Bruce offers public speaking and consulting services to groups interested in learning more about Sudbury, which he also promotes on Twitter (@numbalum89) and at his blog, Write Learning.
Bruce holds degrees in English, History, and Education, and has studied Religion and Creative Writing at the graduate level. He is an active member of the Austin Zen Center and has worked as a freelance writer and editor.
Cara DeBusk is the co-founder of Houston Sudbury School, which opened January 2016. She is a full-time staff member who serves HSS as the Office Clerk, Co-clerk for Official Authorities, Admissions Clerk, The PR Clerk, the Parent Liaison, Visitor Clerk, Art Corp Secretary, and Dance Corp Secretary, all elected positions. Cara is a former teacher of almost 20 years and unschooled her younger daughter for six years before helping to open Houston Sudbury School. She has 2 daughters, one in college and one attending Houston Sudbury School.
Cassidy has always wanted to be a teacher. She taught in public education for 5 years before shifting her path towards Self-Directed Education. Currently, Cassidy co-organizes the annual Self-Directed Path Conference and Workshop each year hosted in Dallas, Texas and works at various democratic and free schools. Cassidy believes in empowering students through Self-Directed Education and loves mentoring kids as they learn and grow.
Chantal Saucier is a libertarian writer, entrepreneur, and founding member of the (not yet open) Lafayette Sudbury School. She is passionate about freedom and freedom in education. She lives in South Louisiana with her husband and daughter, and recently launched a new blog at TheNoSchoolZone.com.
Charlotte (Candy) Landvoigt, Ed.D. co-founded The Highland School, a democratic day and boarding school in 1981. She has been a staff member there for 36 years..
Chetan Erande is an active parent in the Self-Directed Education movement in Pune City, India. He has been trying to bring parents there together to create the necessary environment for Self-Directed Education. When he and his partner started homeschooling, initially they were following text books and a curriculum, but now they are 100% convinced and following Self-Directed education. They have been homeschooling their son for the last four years.
My career in Clinical Social Work began at Community Healthlink in Central Massachusetts, where I provided child and family therapy, and developed a school-based services program that provided on-site clinical services for children and adolescents, as well as consultation to, and coordination with parents and teachers in more than a dozen school districts. Having treated countless children and families, I am aware of the significance of the child's school experience in the development of self-esteem, self-reliance and responsibility. Increasingly, children are being diagnosed and medicated, often because their individual attributes do not reconcile with the rigid and standardized requirements of the school environment in which they find themselves. During my career, I directed children's programs in both community mental health, and developmental disabilities. Currently, I am using this experience, as well as my experience in parenting a child whose journey illustrates the benefits of self-directed education, to write and consult about the inseparable connection between conventional educational practices, and the troubling direction of children's mental health.
David Lane began his search for self-directed education his first year as a teacher, 1991. His journey took him to a variety of schools on both coasts, and currently, central Massachusetts. In 2011, David led a team to submit a charter school application, which the state rejected, a result he describes as "the best thing that could have happened." While developing the application, he discovered the SDE community, most notably Ken Danford, co-founder of North Star, Self-Directed Learning for Teens, and Liberated Learners, Inc. David knew he had found what he had been looking for, and determined to create a Liberated Learner center in central Massachusetts. Ingenuity Hub, Personalized Learning Collaborative opened in October 2016. While he and his team continue to grow that organization, David works full time at a traditional high school in central Massachusetts, where he also strives to help students take control of their own education, or deschool in school.
David O'Connor, along with over 15 other families, founded the Philly Agile Learning Community in Philadelphia, where he is now one of the Agile Learning Facilitators. David has 2 children, who are both self-directed learners. David is also a theater director, designer and teacher, and currently is a guest lecturer at University of Pennsylvania. Feel free to reach out to David at email@example.com.
Deborah Sale-Butler works as a voice actor and mom to an autistic autodidact in Los Angeles. She has been blogging about her journey in Self-Directed Education with the hope of encouraging other parents with special needs children to create their own futures.
Elena Goodson is an international student of the world. She speaks five languages and is currently studying Arabic in Cairo, Egypt. Elena Goodson is passionate about learning through experience. As such, she has attended many conferences around the world ranging from cyber security to Arab media.
Elena is a student at Praxis, which is a professional development program. Through Praxis, she studies marketing and writing. She also runs her own website, GoodsonEditorial.org.
In her free time, Elena likes to write poetry and short stories.
Gary Bloom worked in the mental health system for several decades, in numerous settings, with every client population, and every age group, while employing various counseling approaches. He dabbled in supervision, and taught several grad-school courses where he rates himself as under appreciated.
Gary lives just north of Seattle, where he fails to take part in hiking, biking, skiing, boating, and other staples of the Pacific Northwest. He does, however, manage the business end of his wife's care consultation practice, train in Tai Chi, roast coffee for himself and his family, root for the Seahawks, fondle his beloved Apple devices, continue to give his adult children unsolicited advice, and refer to himself in the third person.
Heesun Hall is a homeschooling mom whose daily life looks nothing like she ever imagined for herself. When she began this journey, her intention was to recreate school at home -- she'd be the teacher, with two students, sitting at tables and "doing school" for a few hours each day. Within the first month of that journey, she quickly realized that such was not to be. Her kids didn't want to sit for "lessons". Nor were they too interested in whatever plans she had for them.
Having studied child development in college, she knew that each of her kids would follow their own path. What she hadn't realized is just how different those paths would be.
Hope Wilder is a lifelong learner and community builder living in Durham, North Carolina. She is the founder of Pathfinder Community School, a self-directed learning community for ages 5-14. She is an advocate for self-directed and democratic education and enjoys contributing to communities that support these practices. For the previous dozen years, she worked and played as an alternative outdoor educator and science teacher at private schools and local nonprofits in the Raleigh/Durham area including Piedmont Wildlife Center and Duke Gardens. She enjoys making art & music, DIY fashion, and being outside.
James Davis is an unschooling father of 3, as well as a co-founder of the Stomping Ground, a summer camp dedicated to helping kids to thrive in an environment of freedom and trust.
He has spent the last 3 years speaking at conferences throughout the United States and Canada trying to help summer camp directors understand that kids discover and nurture their best selves when they are given space to be exactly who they are.
He and his wife, Taylor, each work half time so they can dedicate half of their working time to create a nutrient rich environment for their self-directed children.
You can reach him by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He would love to hear from you about child development, parenting, or the beautiful things they've seen when kids are given space to direct their own learning.
Jan Hunt, B.A. Psychology, M.Sc. Counseling Psychology, is a parenting and unschooling counselor, and the author of The Natural Child: Parenting From the Heart (2001) and the bilingual children's book A Gift for Baby (2009). Jan and her always-unschooled son, Jason co-edited The Unschooling Unmanual (2016).
She has published articles in numerous journals and parenting publications, and on her Natural Child Project website, now celebrating 20 years online. She is the former Editorial Assistant of the quarterly journal Empathic Parenting, published by the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Her parenting column "The Natural Child" appeared in Natural Life from 1989 to 1998. See Jan's parenting advice and more articles by leading mental health professionals at naturalchild.org.
Jan envisions "a world in which all children are treated with dignity, respect, understanding, and compassion." She lives in British Columbia, Canada, and is available for counseling worldwide.
Jane is a writer, artist, and high school student. She spends her days ranting on Twitter (@janearisi), writing books, and learning new skills. She is passionate about education. Her novel "Blue-Haired Killer Queen" can be found here.
Janet LoSole is a freelance writer living in Ontario, Canada. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree (French) and is a certified TESOL instructor. Before her career as a parent-educator, Janet taught French at the elementary level and has taught ESL internationally since 1994.
World travel is the primary curriculum resource for her two unschooled daughters. A staunch advocate of community-based tourism, Janet has made numerous presentations on the concept to community groups, encouraging people to eschew corporate package tours in favour of supporting local family-owned businesses. She writes about homeschooling and traveling. Her work has been published in Learning Tangent Magazine, Natural Child Magazine, Hackwriters.com, Ontario Home Educator Magazine, Homeschooler Magazine, Canada's Education Magazine, and Vagabondfamily.org.
Javier is passionate about learning. He is enthusiastic about the idea of the learner as a social constructor of learning, who best learns through the active acquisition of information, peer support, inner motivation, self-direction, and participating in a community based on equality and mutual respect. Co-founder of Knowlege Constructors. Project coordinator at SOLE Spain. Working in research and development of e-learning projects at Knowledge Constructors and SOLE Spain. He has worked in different schools as an elementary teacher and ICT coordinator.
Growing up, Je'anna Clements was blessed with plenty of free time, access to natural environments and a variety of interesting people, and managed to effectively self-educate in spite of her schooling.
Working with children's participation and environmental rights, she realised how many kids experienced school as 'day-jail'. Putting this together with what she had learned during her Psychology honours degree, she became convinced that there must be more humane ways to educate kids, and started reading work by authors like Carl Rogers and Ivan Illich. Becoming a mom to a very strong willed child with zero interest in anyone else's curricula, quickly completed her induction into consciousness of self-led learning processes.
She is committed to making genuinely self directed learning options more available in South African and hopes that the Johannesburg Sudbury once opened, can become a training and networking hub to inspire and support initiatives throughout the African continent.
Jenni is a photographer, homeschool consultant, unschool advocate, Mother, and long time SDE supporter. She discovered SDE in 2011 and never looked back.
Jenni has have unschooled several teens in NYS (both upstate and in NYC) and worked closely with Manhattan Free School (now ALC NYC) and ALC Mosaic in Charlotte, NC. Over the course of 20 years, she have worked with children in many different learning environments. After a brief stint as a special education teacher in the NYC public school system, she finally discovered the freedom of SDE.
In addition to working with self-directed families to find their educational footing, Jenni am also a photographer who captures the freedom of SDE & childhood through her camera lens. Jenni's work regularly takes her between NY and NC, where she lives with her husband and their two young children.
Jessica was born in Santiago, Chile (1972). She and her husband moved to Canada in 2005.
Jessica is a plastic artist and a writer. She has published two bilingual books for children (The Child That I Am and Colourful Children), has a column in the Latin Magazine Presencia Latina called Upbringing and Learning (Crianza y Aprendizaje) in Halton Region and works as facilitator for the program Learning In The Woods in the city of Dundas.
She also has studied Visual and Creative Art, Social Development and Educational Management. Mindsight, nutrition and brain development has been her main focus along her path, but most of all, taking her daughter everywhere to explore the world and learn from real life experiences.
Joei has tried homeschooling, unschooling and worldschooling her two boys, and is continuously curious and learning about SDE.
Jonathan is a volunteer facilitator at Mont-Libre agile learning centre in Montréal, Canada. He has been teaching and studying education for 15 years, with experience at every level of the school system—from preschool to university—in Canada, Finland, South Korea, and Thailand. He finished his master's degree at Concordia University with a thesis examining the discourse surrounding the 2012 Québec student strike, and has also written about the transformative potential of anti-oppressive practice and the fossil fuel divestment campaign.
He got into teaching because, as a shy, awkward teenager himself, he found that working with kids brought out the best in him. But, like many, he has since become somewhat disillusioned with the school system and the social, political, and economic structures within which it operates. He now finds himself looking for ways to contribute to either radically transforming those structures or, where that isn't possible, developing sustainable alternatives.
José's specialities are project-based learning, blended learning, gamification, flipped learning, self-regulated learning, self-directed learning, e-learning
He is passionate about his profession, teaching. He's worked as a teacher in all educational stages: children, primary, secondary and university. Currently, he works as a teacher at the college training future teachers of Physical Education. His main challenge is for teachers of the future to acquire the necessary skills to bring about the much needed pedagogical renewal of the 21st-century school.
But above all this, his top priorities are his one-year-old daughter and the practice of physical activities in nature (climbing, climbing, mountain biking, orienteering).
Judy Arnall, BA, CCFE, DTM is a Certified Canadian Family Life Educator, Distinguished Toastmaster keynote speaker, and mom of 5 unschooled children, 4 of whom have graduated university or is currently studying. She specializes in child development and is a master of non-punitive parenting and education practices. Judy is the bestselling author of 5 print books including Discipline Without Distress. Her latest book is Unschooling To University: Relationships Matter Most in a World Crammed With Content.
email@example.com | www.professionalparenting.ca | www.unschoolingcanada.ca
Julie Polanco is active in the women's ministry and on the worship team at her local church in the Chicago area. She and her husband have homeschooled their four children from the beginning, graduating their oldest in 2016. Julie regularly writes for Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Homeschooling with Heart blog, and others. She remains active in her local homeschooling meetup group, planning activities for tweens and teens. Follow her at her blog, www.juliepolancobooks.com.
Unschooling Outside of Institutionalization, is the story of my family and our years unschooling together.
To reconcile the profound dissonance between what I thought education had to be and what the children were showing me they needed, I wrote. And this book proceeds from that journal. I share how we moved forward with the hope that this will spread some light and comfort to other homeschooling families and to anyone who seeks to better understand what educational freedom looks like in the field, outside the confines of a traditional classroom. Hopefully unschooling will be the subject of increasing scientific inquiry. But my book is a narrative about the years our kids were growing and we endeavored, with the good intentions and ferocity of any dedicated parents, to find a kinder and richer way to educate them. We did not know, in setting out, that we would also stumble across a way to set the children and ourselves free.
Katie Lane-Karnas is unschooling in central Vermont with her husband and two surviving daughters. She grew up in a professional education family, got a bachelor's degree in Music Education, and pursued master's work in Literacy. She's been studying learning, schools, and freedom her whole life. She taught and learned in public schools and prisons in NJ, NY and VT and observed hundreds of hours of preschools in a research position. After the home births of her daughters and the death of her second child, Katie began walking the path of her most authentic living. Life without school emerged as the most life-affirming (and least expected) path forward for her family. She creates supports for homeschool and unschool mothers engaged in personal transformation, and helps homeschooling families in Vermont meet state requirements with ease.
Dr. Kelly Limes-Taylor Henderson is an assistant professor of education at the University of North Georgia and is interested in non-dominant conceptualizations of education. Her five children, aged two to 17, are unschoolers and awesome humans.
Kelly Seacrest is a artist and teacher. Born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, Kelly moved away to Minnesota for college to study art. She returned to Lincoln to earn her art teaching certificate. After teaching for six years in a public middle school and doing a year of reading about alternative education, Kelly decided to take a year off to visit them in person.
Traveling around the US and England, Kelly has gotten first hand experience this year through visiting schools, programs and meeting amazing students, teachers, families, educators, activists and community organizers. Traveling with Kelly is her husband Peter Stegen. Together they are currently working on a documentary about alternative education to share with their community back in Lincoln NE.
Kenneth Danford is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens. Through North Star, Kenneth has supported more than 600 teens to leave school and embark on a self-directed approach. North Star is now the lead organization of the Liberated Learners network of a dozen centers throughout the United States and Canada.
Prior to establishing North Star, Kenneth attended public schools in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and then Amherst College and Brown University. He taught in both the Prince George's County, MD and Amherst, MA public schools. Kenneth has spoken about his experience of making school optional as an annual presenter at the AERO Conference and other panels. He participated in the TEDx Conference in Amherst College in 2013 and at the Thrive 2020 Conference in Guernsey, United Kingdom in 2015. After twenty years in the field, Kenneth is as enthusiastic as ever about helping teens and families change their lives in this profound way.
Dr. Currie-Knight is a Teaching Assistant Professor in East Carolina University's College of Education. He is on the Board of Directors of the Pathfinder Community School outside of Durham, NC. His research and teaching focus (among other things) on the principles and philosophy of self-directed learning. His college teaching also makes strong use of SDL principles.
Kris has lived a full and varied life. He was attached to universities for about 10 years, and dropped out in the early 1970's.
He has lived in and around many communes and communities, including those linked to Osho Rajneesh for several years. He has two adult children of his own.
In 2005 he moved to Wantoo Wantoo, the small community of friends, including children, where he still lives. This is in the Nelson area, New Zealand.
Kris is passionate about how we raise our kids. His living at Wantoo Wantoo has helped heal wounds he felt from parenting his own kids. Inspiration from books like The Continuum Concept and Non-Violent Communication have been an integral part of this process.
Laura excelled in school and was a voracious reader, until required reading turned her favorite pastime into a tedious chore. School began to feel like a prison and learning was no longer fun.
Her first two children attended and graduated from public school, but by the time her three younger children were in school, the system had just become too much. As she watched one of her young boys struggle with the demands of school and saw him becoming increasingly anxious and withdrawn, she knew she had to find a better way.
In her research of homeschooling methods she came across the concept of unschooling. She has since learned to embrace self directed education as she realized it's how she's learned best herself all along. Her 3 younger children are currently enrolled at Houston Sudbury School.
Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning, a heavily researched and resource-packed handbook of natural education. She lives on Bit of Earth Farm where she'd get more done if she didn't spend so much time reading library books, cooking weird things, and singing to livestock.
Her background includes raising four self-directed learners, leading nonviolence workshops, writing poetry with nursing home residents, facilitating support groups for abuse survivors, and teaching classes in memoir and poetry. Connect with her at lauragraceweldon.com, the Free Range Learning community on FB, and her perch @earnestdrollery.
Logan is currently a part-time Cook for Barro's Pizza, and a participant in the Discover Praxis program. With Praxis he leverages his creativity, drive, and cooperative abilities to learn about the world of business so that he can work towards a lifetime of helping people. He look forward to the exposure of new environments in the coming years so that he can learn what it takes to make it in the world of business.
Madison was homeschooled as a child, an experience that instilled in her an appreciation of learning as a lifelong and self-directed process. Her unconventional education included private tutoring, interning for the number #1 homeschool website www.homeschool.com (according to Forbes Magazine in 2000), and traveling to Hawaii and the Channel Islands on expeditions with Robert Ballard, the scientist who found the Titanic. Madison loves to read, write, code and collaborate with others to create meaningful things. She's currently a junior developer and working on expanding her knowledge of software development.
Matthew Gioia is a staff member at Hudson Valley Sudbury School in Kingston, NY. Matthew began seeking alternative educational environments halfway through college. He participated in Naropa University's "contemplative education program" in Boulder, CO, and studied at St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM, which offers a Great Books curriculum. From there, he moved to Mississippi to teach in a rural middle school and attend the Ole Miss on weekends. Matthew came to HVSS by way of a search for a place where he is permitted to respect children and teenagers as fully human beings.
Marley Richards, 14, is an unschooler of 7+ years, and avid dancer. She finds a way to include social justice work in all her interests, mostly character design and K-Pop.
Mercer is a founding parent from the original ALC in NYC. Mercer's passion for and commitment to self-directed learning were much of the inspiration for Arthur Brock (Mercer's son's father) to turn what was formerly the Manhattan Free School into the first Agile Learning Center.
She has spent the last 21 years in Corporate America as an Executive at a company named TRANZACT. Her passion has been to create human-focused, empowering cultures in the workplace. Most recently she has been responsible for close to 1,000 licensed insurance agents across four locations. These centers are known for being great work environments as a result of the work of Mercer and her team.
Mercer recently departed from her job and is serving as a Coordinator of the Agile Learning Center Network.
Megan Baker runs a summer camp and an after-school care program in Austin, TX, and has a 16-year-old son who self-directs his education.
Megan is an advocate of the free-range movement and feels kids should be climbing trees and exploring independently again. She also writes about child abuse and racism in how we think and talk about that abuse.
She is also an aspiring screenwriter and is currently working on a comedy. She enjoys traveling, watching her son run, cycle, and play soccer, reading, and playing with her two-year-old Great Pyrenees/Lab mix, Greta.
Mel Compo is an artist, writer, and facilitator at the New York City Agile Learning Center (ALC-NYC). They discovered self-directed education at the tail end of their own conventional schooling at NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where their thesis explored the intersections of SDE, poetry, and the history of American education.
After a brief stint in corporate America, they found their dream job field tripping, creating, and playing at ALC-NYC. They're passionate about having open and honest discussions with children and other people about bodies, gender, emotional intelligence, brain plasticity, and cycles of growth. You can check out their art on Instagram and writing on their blog.
Michelle began her career in education over 20 years ago, teaching English in Baltimore and the San Francisco Bay area before moving to Philadelphia. In Philly, she worked supporting student voice in service-learning programs, taught education courses at Temple University, and coordinated the Master's Program in Secondary Education at UPenn.
She became increasingly disturbed by the disconnect between the effort she saw smart, dedicated teachers and students making, and the amount of learning actually occurring. Although her partner, Reb, introduced her to democratic schools early in her career, it wasn't until she spent time with self-directed learners themselves that she became convinced.
In 2002, excited about enabling urban students to direct their own education, Michelle and Reb began assembling the Philly Free School Founders group. PFS opened in 2011. She loves staffing there, where she joins the students in the hard but rewarding work of growing into herself every day.
Missy Willis is an unschooling mom to two kids and the creator of the blog Let 'em Go Barefoot, where she discusses issues related to the social, emotional, and physical well-being of children and families. She has a degree in Psychology with a focus on child development and a masters in Special Education. Over the past two decades she has worked at Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina State University, and public and private schools before falling into homeschooling. In her quest to encourage a kinder world towards children she believes parenting peacefully and educational autonomy are huge components in creating healthier adult/child relationships.
When she isn't writing, researching, or organizing community events, you can find her adventuring with her family, creating, or slowly working through the piles of books stacked by her bed. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook: Let 'em Go Barefoot or Instagram @letemgobarefoot
Nancy Tilton founded ALC Mosaic in August of 2013 and currently serves as the Director of Education and daily facilitator with intermediate ages for the school. She has been studying child development and working with children for 18 years. She graduated high school with 24 early childhood credits through her local community college and then moved on to study Elementary Education at the University of Maryland.
From there she taught in public schools for 3 years, and then moved on to help grow a private Quaker school in Charlotte for 3 years. After these experiences, she decided to embark on an adventure creating a community school that works in collaboration with parents and students, something she didn't see happening in conventional public or private schools.
ALC Mosaic opened in 2013 with 12 students and is currently serving over 70 students as it begins its 6th year in operation. Nancy also piloted the Agile Learning Facilitators summer program in 2014 with Tomis Parker, which has continued to serve adults around the world who are interested in learning about Self-Directed Education & Agile Learning Centers.
Naomi Fisher is a clinical psychologist and mother of two. She unschooled her children from 2012-2018 and they now attend a democratic school. She has an eclectic range of interests including self directed learning, psychological responses to trauma and child development. She is particularly fascinated by how children learn and how the adults around them can help or impede that process. She writes about psychology, self-directed learning and a range of other topics.
Patrick Farenga brings more than 34 years of fieldwork, advocacy, and personal experience to help parents and children learn in their own ways. Farenga is a writer and education activist who addresses academic and general audiences about working with children, not on children, to help them learn.
Farenga worked closely with one of the founders of the modern homeschooling movement, the late author and teacher John Holt, and published Growing Without Schooling magazine (GWS). GWS was the nation's first periodical about learning without going to school, started by Holt in 1977 and ending in 2001.
Farenga speaks as a homeschooling expert at education conferences around the world as well as on commercial radio and television talk shows in the United States (The Today Show, Good Morning America) and abroad.
Farenga writes about homeschooling and self-directed learning for a number of publications and operates the John Holt/Growing Without Schooling website, JohnHoltGWS.com. He is also a founding member of AlternativesToSchool.com and the Alliance for Self-Directed Education.
Farenga's books include Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling (Perseus, 2003), The Legacy of John Holt: A Man Who Genuinely Understood, Trusted, and Respected Children (HoltGWS, 2013), and How to Report Unschooling to School Officials (HoltGWS, 2015). Farenga has also written chapters about homeschooling in Encyclopedia Britannica (2014, 2010), A Parent's Guide to Homeschooling (Mars Publishing, 2002), Creating Learning Communities (FER, 2000), The Handbook of Alternative Education (Macmillan, 1994), The Exhausted School (Oxford Village, 1992), Schooling At Home (John Muir, 1990), and The Encyclopedia of School Administration (Sage, 1988).
Wilbur was born in 1923 in Nashville, TN and Rachel in Antwerp , Belgium in 1930. Their paths crossed in New York City in 1953. The dramatic events of World War 2 had brought them there. Rachel and her family found refuge from the Nazis who had overrun large parts of Europe and Wilbur, now a veteran of the fierce Pacific War Theater, moved to New York to attend the New School for Social Research to study English literature under the GI Bill. Rachel graduated from the Great Books program at the University of Chicago.
Both had been educated in conventional elementary and high schools and with some exceptions, were generally not satisfied with their schooling. Both decided to become teachers and found their way to the Bank Street College of Education. Rachel was assigned for an internship in Wilbur's classroom. They found they had much in common, among these was an interest in Summerhill and democratic education.
They teamed up and after a decade of teaching they were able to help found their Fifteenth Street School: their dream school. Eventually, they joined the faculty at the Bank Street College of Education and retired in 1986.
After doing some consulting for the BCG for 3 years, Ramin realized his thirst for living a happy, meaningful life. He tried teaching Math and Physics in high school for 3 years, where he realized how inefficient the system for children to learn what truly matters in life.
He then discovers democratic schools and more particularly Sudbury schools. He discovers that the French education Law doesn't make school compulsory. He feels like he was cheated all this time, and that there surely exists a healthier way to view education, free from imposed curricula, timetables and age groups.
After reading A.S. Neill's Summerhill and attending a EUDEC Conference in Copenhagen in 2014, he's so convinced that this is the very future of education that he starts up a Sudbury School in Paris with partners he finds along the way. He also encourages the team to develop EUDEC France in parallel by organizing national conferences, paving the way for a whole generation of democratic school projects.
Ramin is known for his TED Talk, Pourquoi j'ai créé une école où les enfants font ce qu'ils veulent (English subtitles available).
R.L. Saunders writes middle grade and young adult fiction and is a parent in a his/mine/ours family of 7. In her life before self-directed enlightenment, she developed and directed a learning center at a small university in the Midwest, where she also taught English and humanities. Later, she ran away to a subtropical island and worked as associate editor and columnist for a advocacy newspaper.
Among her greatest regrets is not coming to Self-Directed Education sooner so her oldest children could've known earlier the genuine joy and growth that free children enjoy and all children deserve.
Rubén Darío Alvarado (México), serves as bridge between persons and their potential-unleashing "Aha!" moments. Attemps to re-dignify Play as the original vehicle for learning.
He has designed and implemented Self-Directed Education models in North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia, for evolving education. Currently facilitating @Educambiando, Agile Learning Center, and playing @ ALC Network Board.
Sarah Longwell's work as a lactation consultant has given her deeps insights into the many paths people take to find their way as new parents when a baby joins the family. In addition to helping people with the tasks of feeding their babies, Sarah is dedicated to supporting them to question the ways their own experiences and cultural influences impact their parenting choices. Her hope is that encouraging folks to question the "rules" and follow their instincts in the earliest days of their parenting journey will help them build joyous and individualized experiences relationships as their children grow.
Sarah Longwell lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two children. When Sarah's children were struggling to engage with learning and finding little support in developing interpersonal skills at their well-regarded local public school, Sarah went looking for other options. Her sons have been happily making mistakes and following their instincts at Village Free School since 2013.
Vicki is an independent research consultant with a passion for education and creativity. She is dedicated to connecting students and parents to educational opportunities, particularly in areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).
Vicki received a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Factors Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy in 1987 then served as a Research Psychologist at the Air Force Research Lab in Phoenix, AZ where she focused on learning behavior and visual requirements for flight simulators. She has a Masters of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Arizona State University and worked at Andrews AFB as an industrial engineer. After leaving the Air Force, Vicki dedicated her time to raising her five children. During this period, she learned a great deal about methods and efficacy of various educational models including Montessori and homeschooling. She has worked with lower elementary-aged students at the Montessori School of San Antonio and has directed competition robotics teams and nonprofit organizations dedicated to STEAM education. She has also been an active board and committee member on various health system foundations where she has been the champion of creativity and education.
Vicki currently resides in Pittsburgh and enjoys being part of the Carnegie Mellon University community of parents (Zach '17 CFA/SCS, Bethany '20 CFA Design). She also has younger children who benefit tremendously from the various creative and innovative learning opportunities in Pittsburgh.
Yanira Castro is a Digital Marketing expert with 20 years of experience in marketing, public relations and branding. She has worked in markets around world and consults with organizations on unifying and creating a strong digital presence.
Yanira has been a keystone to the marketing departments of notable brands including Chipotle Mexican Grill and California Pizza Kitchen.
Yanira volunteers as an Outdoor Afro leader in Charlotte, a national non-profit which creates & inspires Black connections with nature. She participates in national environmental advocacy opportunities, including an eight-day rafting trip to one of the most remote areas in the United States, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Yanira volunteers as an Outdoor Afro leader in Charlotte, a national non-profit which creates & inspires Black connections with nature. She participates in national environmental advocacy opportunities, including an eight-day rafting trip to one of the most remote areas in the United States, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Yoni Kallai is big kid who spends most of his time in Brooklyn where he performs, trains and teaches partner acrobatics at The Muse Brooklyn, a circus studio in Bushwick.
Yoni is also a co-founder and summer camp staffer of play:ground, a unique junkyard playground on Governors Island, which allows children to play freely with different materials and items that could be considered as junk, along with tools to allow for building and destroying. Parents are not allowed into the playground and are encouraged to sit back and relax. Yoni firmly believes in the benefits of self directed play and education and works to bring that to as many young people as possible.
Zoë Valerie has been teaching all ages for 20 years and is a mother. Children teach her a raw, uncompromising respect for human nature. She is a dance and movement practitioner and teacher, co-founder of EUDEC Greece, the originator of Ensoma and the founder of an inter-age theater collective based on democratic council active in theatre practice and research.
Her concerns are freedom of choice in educational matters, open scores, art not only for art's sake, theatrical alchemy and integrating the arts of movement, sound and touch into education.