Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Missing Group in Our Nation's Talk About Education

Editor's note:  You can scroll to the end of the article to see Education Nation's final decision.

I had the pleasure to join journalists from around the country to speak with NBC News President Steve Capus and SVP of Education and Chief Digital Officer Vivian Schiller to find out what was planned for this year's Education Nation Summit. During the call we learned about many of the exciting activities planned. This year I am especially looking forward to the coverage that includes an increased focus on student voice as well as attention to the issues around "college for all" and is it really worth the cost.
However, there was one important group missing.  

Home educators.

The number of home educated students has doubled in the past few years and this is no longer just a choice reserved for certain religious groups.  It has gone mainstream. As a public school educator I have become enthralled not only with this movement, but with the amazing success that children who are living life without school are having both from the standpoint of academic achievement, college acceptance, citizenship, and achieving career goals.  

Some may wonder why Education Nation and other mainstream press shine the spotlight on charter schools which serve the same percentage of our nation's students but simply neglect to recognize another thriving and more successful movement. Could it be, as some savvy home educators in my online group have suggested, that it is being left out because it has no place in the corporate reform movement?

Let's hope not.

The research tells us homeschooled children outperform publicly school children on nearly all measures. I suggested that it was time to shine attention on this segment of our population that has proven itself to be one of the most effective paths to college and career success. 

I was pleasantly surprised to hear they were open to the idea.

Through the time I spend as an advocate and moderator of a online home education group for adults and teens I have had the opportunity to connect with some of the most prominent voices in home education who are guiding parents and young people in this journey.  Below (listed alphabetically) are my recommendations for those who would make terrific guests on Education Nation to provide a missing perspective that deserves to be included.

Blake Boles
Blake Boles is the author of two books (Better Than College and College Without High School), the director of Unschool Adventures, and the founder of Zero Tuition College. In 2003 Blake was studying astrophysics at UC Berkeley when he stumbled upon a treasure trove of books by authors John Taylor Gatto, Grace Llewellyn, John Holt, and other pioneers in the realm of alternative education. Deeply inspired by the philosophies of unschooling and free schooling, Blake custom-designed his final two years of college to study these subjects 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. Blake delivers presentations and workshops for conferences, camps, parent groups, bookstores, and radio audiences. He has appeared on NPR, The Huffington Post, TEDx, and Ignite. He spends much of his time working directly with young adults through his company Unschool Adventures. His biggest passion is sharing his enthusiasm and experience with young adults who are blazing their own trails through life. He is 29 years old.

Laurie A. Couture  
Laurie A. Couture is the author of Instead of Medicating and Punishing: Healing the Causes of Our Children’s Acting-Out Behavior by Parenting and Educating the Way Nature Intended and has been a contributor to several magazines and other media, including The Attached Family,, Life Learning and Juno. Laurie has a background as a child trauma specialist and mental health counselor. Currently she is a proud unschooling mom, unschooling coach and public speaker who appears at numerous conferences and most recently was a guest on the Anderson daytime show, hosted by Anderson Cooper. She was also featured as an expert in the documentary film, The War On Kids (2009). You can keep up with Laurie via her blog, YouTube channel and podcast
Linda Dobson
Linda Dobson and family began their homeschooling journey in 1985. They were having so much fun together that she wanted to share news of this educational approach with as many other families as possible. She co-founded a local homeschooling support group that now offers support and learning activities to a growing membership. She helped found the New York (State) Home Educators' Network. Upon creation of the National Home Education Network (NHEN) in 1999 she served as its first public relations advisor as a media contact providing reporters, journalists, and researchers with background information and interviews. She was also's early years' advisor. Linda's articles have appeared in dozens of magazines, including Good Housekeeping, but her favorite stint was asvHome Education Magazine news reporter and analyst for almost a decade. She has authored eight books, and contributed to many more. Linda is experienced with the media having provided scores of interviews for radio talk shows, feature stories, including German Public Radio, and publications including The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, Reader's Digest, Better Homes & Gardens, and "Live Online" for theWashington Post.

Patrick Farenga
Patrick Farenga was the Publisher of Growing Without Schooling magazine (GWS) which was the nation’s first periodical about homeschooling, started in 1977. In addition to writing for GWS for twenty years, Farenga has written many articles and book chapters about homeschooling and has written Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling (Perseus) and The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling (Holt Associates) Farenga also appears on local and national television and radio shows as a homeschooling expert; he has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America,Fox and Friends, Dr. Drew Pinsky, The Voice of America, NPR's The Merrow Report,Fox Across America, Geraldo-At-Large, and CNN's Parenting Today.
Farenga and his wife learn at home with their three girls, now ages 26, 23, and 19.

Kate Fridkis
Kate didn’t go to preschool. And then she didn’t go to kindergarten. And after that she didn’t go to elementary school. Or middle school. Or high school, even. And then she went through a normal phase and went to both college (Rutgers) and graduate school (Columbia).
She is now 26 years old, is happily married, lives in New York City, has a master’s degree in religion from Columbia University, is a part-time chazzan (cantor) at a synagogue (a job she’s held since age 15), and is a full-time writer. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Salon. She’s working on getting her first novel published. She writes funny and insightful essays about body image on her popular blog, Eat the Damn Cake and is a blogger at Psychology Today.

Peter Gray, Ph.D.
Peter is a research professor of psychology who writes and speaks about innovative teaching methods and alternative approaches to education. He is author of Psychology an introductory college textbook in its 6th edition. His current research and writing focuses on the evolutionary purposes of children's playfulness and curiosity and how these are increasingly suppressed by our school system, by the prevalence of adult-structured activities for children outside of school, and by the decreased freedom of children to roam and play independently of adults. Gray’s most recent book is being published this winter and is called “Free to Learn: Why releasing the instinct to play will make our children happier, more self reliant, and better prepared for life. Gray has appeared as a guest expert on child  development on various radio and television outlets,
including NPR, The Today Show, CNN  International, and has been quoted in magazines and
newspapers, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Men’s Health, and the Boston Globe.

Laurette Lynn
Laurette Lynn's recent book, Don't Do Drugs Stay Out Of School challenges families to rethink the necessity of compulsory education by highlighting the unhealthy condition of the current public schooling system. Laurette believes that the modern forced schooling system has almost completely robbed society of some of the qualities of basic humanity including critical thought, creative intelligence,  and overall wellness of being.  Through who books, articles, and audio downloads, she encourages and advocates for the support and practice of natural organic learning through home-based independent learning; rather than manufactured and institutionalized, forced schooling. Laurette Lynn was also the host of Unplugged Mom Radio© a popular web talk radio show for school free families and other outside-the-box thinkers.  Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Laurette Lynn now lives with her family in Oklahoma.  Her children have never been to school and the whole family has enjoyed a school free life for more than ten years.

Dayna Martin
Dayna Martin has been at the forefront of the unschooling movement for the past decade. Author of, Radical Unschooling: A Revolution Has Begun, and her newest book, Sexy Birth. She’s been featured on Dr. Phil, CNN, Nightline, and Fox News several times. She was even used as an informational resource for Unschooling stories on the Discovery Channel, The Today Show and Our America on the OWN Network. She travels the world as the UnNanny, and is a featured speaker at the major unschooling conferences worldwide.

Amy Milstein
Amy Milstein lives in New York City's Upper West Side with her husband and two children who are life learners and have never been to school. Amy is a pioneer of unschooling in the big city.   Their goal is to create an awareness of unschooling  as a viable option for families looking for alternatives to traditional curriculum based schooling. Amy writes about learning & alternative education on her blog and was recently featured in’s feature story about the growing popularity of homeschooling in New York City.  

Penelope Trunk
Penelope Trunk is a widely successful author and speaker about career advice and management who began homeschooling her two sons (one with Asperger’s) due to my advice.  Penelope has been documenting her homeschooling experience via her blog which is now the #1 blog on the topic of homeschooling.  Penelope has the perspective of a mom who has done enormous amounts of research and is figuring out the best way to raise her children and she has definitively decided that children will be most successful if they are kept out of school.  Penelope has written several books on career advice and
has written about education for a wide range of publications such as Time magazine, Business Week and the Wall St. Journal. She has appeared on CNN, 60 Minutes and 20/20. 

Education Nation spent a large percentage of their coverage on charter schools, but said they did not have room to fit the topic of home education into this year's summit. They will consider it for next year. 



  1. Penelope Trunk is a widely successful author and speaker about career advice and management who began homeschooling who two sons (one with Asperger’s) due to my advice.


    1. No Anonymous,
      What I've recommended to Ed Nation is not "ME" but rather those engaged in this work.

      Yes, I do have a connection to each of these people, but it is about them and their children.

  2. I want to add that I would be happy to be a representative. I have 15 years of professional experience working with children ages toddler to age 19; I have a background in education, social work and mental health and I have consulted in public and private schools for 15 years. I work first hand and on the front lines daily with the children who are negatively impacted by public school, who are labeled and medicated because they cannot conform to a developmentally inappropriate system. I unschooled my son until his graduation this past June. I am speak with authority on the issue of Home Education of all types, including homeschooling, and how organic learning is how children naturally learn.