Year 2012 — Volume 6 — Issue 12

A Personal Journey Into Home Learning
Pages: 1-29

In this narrative the author, Colleen Raja, shares her personal experience and reflections on the decision she made to homeschool. Through reflection and story she shares her own struggles and triumphs in learning about herself, her surroundings and the true desires and needs of her children. She also addresses and debunks some of the typical stereotypes and objections to home learning. In the end she sees that what had taken her several years to discover about and desire from the lifestyle of home learning took her children mere moments to embrace.
Colleen RAJA


Letting The Child Work: Real Learning, Real Play In School
Pages: 30-52

Unschoolers, and those who practice democratic, free, and progressive education philosophies, are often uncomfortable with a particular choice their children make: as Summerhill’s A. S. Neill observed: “Every child under freedom plays most of the time for years” (1964, p. 116). Those who see children as active, motivated learners can be disappointed when, given an environment rich with fascinating choices, their children spend most of their time in fantasy. The families’ discomfort can result in a reversion to more conventional schooling. Beginning with an early encounter with educational democracy during the 1970s at Toronto’s ALPHA Alternative School, supported with commentary from educators from schools that took a parallel path, and from psychologists and education critics both historic and contemporary, this article gathers arguments that support play as not only a pleasure but a necessity for growth, learning and mental health.


The Boy Who Learned To Read Through Sustained Video Game Play: Considering Systemic Resistance To The Use Of ‘New Texts’ In The Classroom
Pages: 53-81

Various studies have discussed the pedagogical potential of video game play in the classroom but resistance to such texts remains high. The study presented here discusses the case study of one young boy who, having failed to learn to read in the public school system was able to learn in a private Sudbury model school where video games were not only allowed but considered important learning tools. Findings suggest that the incorporation of such new texts in today’s public schools have the potential to motivate and enhance the learning of children.
Rochelle SKOGEN


The Wall On Gladstone Avenue
Pages: 82-92


“Since the house is on fire,
Let us warm ourselves…”
(Calabrian Proverb)

It all began in the village. We would wake up with the sun, we would rest our laboured bodies underneath the moon. Gli vecchi (old folks) often told us: “In the end, all that will remain is our story. Nothing else really matters.” This article “The Wall On Gladstone Avenue” will take you into a life of duality and how immigrants “press-on” to acquire knowledge and manifest meaning in a new land — Canada.




Year 2012 — Volume 6 — Issue 11

Draw the Dots, Let the Students Make the Connections
Pages: 1-3

Learning is the acquisition of knowledge that occurs in a variety of constructs. This poem is modeled as an advocacy for self-learning, a cry to stop the standardization and allow students the freedom to explore their interests. As educators we should not hoard knowledge passing it along at defined stages, but rather provide learners the opportunity to explore the world around them and recreate meaning as they make connections based on their interactions. As we move towards a model of inquisition we will create a community of learners where knowledge is shared, not owned, and we are truly embracing uniqueness and individuality where every learner’s true self can shine as they transform into mavens.


A Narrative: Meditation In The Lives Of Children With Chronic Illness
Pages: 4-19

The presence of chronic illness in one’s life often entails endless appointments, tests, medications, treatments, and procedures. In the instances of children with chronic illness, they do not know what life consists of without their illness, and consequently, have lived with many restrictions. Children with chronic illness and their families are not only in need of traditional methods and strategies from the medical model but are often in need of additional strategies to support and cope with the nature and effects of the chronic illness. This paper focuses on how mediation, mindfulness, and visualization strategies aid individuals with chronic illness.


Learning Math With My Father: A Memoir
Pages: 20-33

If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind. –Kahlil Gibran

We all build our own houses of wisdom, each of us; we cannot build them for each other. Teachers cannot simply invite students into their “houses of wisdom,” but can often find ways to help learners to enter and explore their own minds. While Constructivism has had a positive impact on the teaching and learning of literacy mathematics instruction continues to rely heavily on rote memorization and drills. As a young child, I learned to love math. My love of math stems from learning math with my father. He did not focus on rote memorization and drills. The primary emphasis was for a real purpose. My self-confidence was enforced when he started me out with problems that were less difficult and had many different solutions. These solutions were valued and respected, which allowed me to trust in my own problem solving abilities.

How can we hope to lead children to the thresholds of their own minds when we remain intent on forcing them into our ‘houses of wisdom’? What alternative ways can we devise of interacting with children that respect their confidence and leave intact their levels of understanding, that lead them to the thresholds of their own minds excited about entering?
Yolanda De La CRUZ



As the public education system in Northern Ontario continues to take a downward spiral, a plethora of secondary school students are being placed in an alternative educational environment. Juxtaposing the two educational settings reveals very similar methods and characteristics of educating our youth as opposed to using a truly alternative approach to education. This video reviews the relationship between public education and alternative education in a remote Northern Ontario setting. It is my belief that the traditional methods of teaching are not appropriate in educating at risk students in alternative schools. Paper and pencil worksheets do not motivate these students to learn and succeed. Alternative education should emphasize experiential learning, a just in time curriculum based on every unique individual and the students true passion for everyday life.

Cameron Culbert was born on February 3rd, 1977 in North Bay, Ontario. His teenage years were split between attending public school and his willed curriculum on the ski hill. Culbert spent 10 years (1996-2002 & 2006-2010) competing for Canada as an alpine ski racer. His passion for teaching and coaching began as an athlete and has now transferred into the classroom and the community. As a graduate of Nipissing University (BA, BEd, MEd.) Cameron’s research interests are alternative education, physical education and technology in the classroom. Currently Cameron is an active educator and coach in Northern Ontario.




Year 2011 — Volume 5 — Issue 10

Comparing A.S. Neill To Rousseau, Appropriate?
Pages: 1-19

The following article explores a comparison drawn by several authors between A.S. Neill and J.-J. Rousseau. To conduct this exploration, the article first delineates a methodology that rests on the analysis of key educational themes. Then, the article contextualizes the works of both Neill and Rousseau. This contextualization clarifies the subsequent comparative analysis. This analysis examines Neill and Rousseau’ stances on knowledge, learning, teaching and the nature of learners. This examination identifies evident discrepancies between the discourses of both authors. As a result, it concludes that the likening of Neill to Rousseau is largely inappropriate.
Marc-Alexandre Prud’Homme and Dr. Giuliano Reis


Setting The Record Straight: Interviews With A Hundred British Home Educating Families
Pages: 20-57

This study provides the first in-depth insight into home educators’ thoughts in the UK. One hundred UK-based home-educating families were interviewed, 33 twice, mostly in their own homes, after having been randomly selected from a larger sample of families responding to an initial home-education questionnaire (Rothermel 2002). Participating families were from diverse socio-economic groups, family structures and cultural backgrounds. The interviews were undertaken with a view to exploring issues within home-educating families that would not necessarily have become apparent through the questionnaires alone. The interviews revealed clear friction in some families, both within the home-educating family and between them and their extended family, which directly related to home-education. Generally however, the home-educating families were satisfied with their choice and relished the close family relationships engendered. These extensive interviews underline the view that viewing home educators as ‘types’ is useful only to those local authorities aiming to integrate children into school.
Paula Rothermel


Re/Viewing Student Success in an Era of Accountability
Pages: 58-99

This paper examines how student success is defined in Ontario schools. In the current era of accountability, student success is often narrowly defined in terms of student achievement on standardized tests. Alternate definitions of student success are explored by viewing student success from the vantage point of various stakeholders. Finally, the author suggests that we need to re/view student success by envisioning it from the perspective of the students themselves.
Christine Duncan


Why Do You Stand So Far Away? A Qualitative Look At The Lived Experience Of Alternative School Students.
Pages: 100-127

In recent years, research has begun to focus on identifying and understanding those factors that contribute to the likelihood of a student’s not completing high school (risk factors) and those factors that contribute to keeping a student in school (protective factors). This paper details the qualitative findings from a survey study of 145 students and in-depth interviews with 12 alternative high school students. Data was analyzed using a Rapid Assessment team analysis approach (Beebe, 2001). This paper provides a description of the qualitative interview data, with support from the survey data. The study also identifies strategic approaches that students claim are effective in keeping them engaged in school and the factors that hinder their abilities to complete high school.
Dr. Michael I. Poutiatine and L. Veeder




Year 2011 — Volume 5 — Issue 9

Images of Alternative Learning in Films and Television Programs
Pages: 1-17

This study examines how homeschooling, unschooling and alternative learners have been portrayed in five recent films and television programs. It also investigates whether the media are grounding their representations of these students and their parents in reality, or if it is disseminating harmful stereotypes that may have detrimental effects for those who choose to learn in this manner in real life.
David Cameron Hauseman


Weapons of Mass Distortion
Pages : 18-28

In this personal narrative I contend that the traditional conventions of schooling can distort and mislead us in mainstream schools and universities. The long-term consequences of these practices have paved the way for the corporate curriculum’s privatization agenda for what Illich (1971) hailed as the ‘hidden curriculum’ of our consumer-based society.
Jonathan Pitt


The Need for Grades in Terminal Degree Programs
Pages: 29-37

This paper examines the issue of grading in terminal degree programs as well as exploring the history and utility of grading. Through personal reflection, the author reveals how grading is a coercive management tool which conditions people to act, speak, and participate in ways which they would not otherwise if grading were not present. Finally, the author urges for reform in grading practices whereby educational settings deemphasized grading althogether – creating fruitful learning experiences that encourage learners to take risks, talk freely, and explore topics and readings beyond the course expectations.
Stephen Tedesco


Education as a Ubiquitous Learning Web, Immersed in Living
Pages : 38-56

This essay describes the personal philosophy of education I have developed through my formal and informal education in both South Korea and the United States. While much of the world considers institutionalized school education to be the essential and only way to be educated, I suggest, instead, relational, communicative, and informal ways of learning, which occur in a ubiquitous learning web, immersed in living. To open the discussion, I describe how my early experiences as a public school student in my home county of South Korea, shaped my developing perspective on educational systems. I then integrate published theories to articulate my view of an ideal educational system, which values personal interest, community-based learning, and informal education.
Yuha Jung




Year 2010 — Volume 4 — Issue 8

Journey Through Intuition
Pages: 1-19

In this article I wish to share how I learned about intuition through personal experiences and why it is important in education. Intuition is linked to epistemology, language, emotions, health, memory and involves the inner life of the person. For most of my life, I had very little understanding about intuition and deemed this phenomenon as useless in education. I started to learn about intuition as a result of my spouse’s catastrophic death. The grief I experienced precipitated a loss in my belief system and I felt a significant decrease in my ability to function in a logical or rational manner. My journey into intuition enabled me to forge a new way to live my life. I believe that each person has the ability to learn about intuition and how it can be useful in guiding one’s life. The mainstream school system however fails to recognize intuition as a valid way of learning despite the research in this field. Students are therefore being given a partial education. Given this, I feel there is a serious problem which emerges if people are led to believe that the mainstream education system is offering students a complete education.
Christina Legree


The Audacious Learner
Pages: 20-26

The Audacious Learner is a risk taker. She approaches learning boldly, overcoming fear because she is driven by the will to know. In this paper, I utilize ideas from “Blogging with Audacity” (Skellie, 2008) whose work analyzes what makes a successful blogger and blog. I draw parallels between the successful, unconventional blogger and the unconventional, self directed learner.
Beatrice Ekoko


Education for Pastoralists in Mongolia: The Role of Non-Formal Education
Pages: 27-39

This study explores the nature of education for pastoralists in Mongolia as it has changed with the introduction of a market-based economy. Pastoralists face the challenge of sustaining their livelihoods in the wake of modernization and its ideologies embedded even in the education available to pastoralists. This study explores the strengths and weaknesses of non formal education and its ability to provide education for Mongolian pastoralists. Perhaps thinking outside the box about education and learning in Mongolia can shed light on global education issues.
Jennifer Reddy


The Montessori Method
Pages: 40-57

Dr. Maria Montessori provided the world with a powerful philosophy and practice for the advancement of humanity: change how we educate children and we change the world. She understood two things very clearly: One, that we can build a better world, a more just and peaceful place, when we educate for the realization of the individual and collective human potential; and two, that the only way to create an educational system that will that will serve this end is to scrap the current system entirely and replace it with a completely new system. She gave us a system through which to accomplish that goal: The Montessori Method. The following is a personal and professional account of the Montessori Method of educating children.
Cathleen Haskins




Year 2010 — Volume 4 — Issue 7

How my now six-year-old daughter learned how to write her name, recognize numbers, read some words and draw: A narrative
Pages: 1-14

In this paper I want to share how my now six-year-old daughter learned how to write her name, recognize numbers, read some words and draw. By doing so I hope to offer an alternative to a schooling-centered curriculum that would have us believe that the only way to learn these things is to have an expert train young people to do these things. Methodologically, this paper is a narrative. I also consider this paper to be a political piece of writing. For me writing politically in this paper means, in part, engaging the reader in a dialogue about, on the one hand, trusting and respecting young people’s right to learn what they want, when they want, how they want and, on the other hand, imposing an externally directed curriculum on them. I am arguing in favour of the former.
Dr. Carlo Ricci


“Walking by Ourselves with our Toes”: An Exploration of Soul
Pages: 15-23

Much of our time as professionals involves a focus on rational thought: completing administrative tasks, setting course outcomes, planning lessons, marking assignments and evaluating tasks. As Thomas Moore reminds us in his paper Educating the Soul, “today’s emphasis on mind has resulted in a neglect of the soul” (as cited in Miller, Karsten, Denton, Orr, & Colalillo Kates, 2005, p. 9). In this article, Kara Arviko sets out to explore what it means to discover and nourish the soul, and to identify how that discovery impacts her interactions with and understanding of her students. She concludes it is a journey worth taking.
Kara Arviko


Shattered Dreams: The Success and Failures of Education in Kenya During the Pre- and Post Colonial Days
Pages: 24-88

In most of the African, Kenya included, there is little to show in terms of development though most of the continent has been independent for over 4 decades. The Post colonial days are marked by abject poverty, many civil /ethnic strives, and an education system that is largely dysfunctional. I have tried to trace most of the social and educational problems in the independent Kenya to the colonial history. We inherited an educational system formulated during the colonial era whose objectives were to create dependency as opposed to liberation. Many years after independence, we continue to view our problems using borrowed lenses. It is my argument that the solution is to rethink about our educational problems with an aim of finding workable solutions. This means an education system that will be grounded on the local economic and cultural realities. This will be contrast to the present situation which is centered on schooling rather than learning. This has resulted on the sad situation where the educated can not fit into their social/economic environment and hence can not contribute towards the societal good.
Karugia Ndirangu


Portrait of the Artist/Researcher/Teacher: A Reflection on the Nature of Learning
Pages: 89-145

This research paints a portrait–both literally and figuratively–of the practice of an artist/researcher/teacher. Arts-based inquiry is used as a methodology for self-examination into the art, research, and teaching practice of the author, using the critical theories of unschooling and a/r/tography as a contextual platform.
Rebecca Codack




Year 2009 — Volume 3 — Issue 6

We Don’t Need No Education — We Don’t Need No Thought Control: Reflections on Achieving Musical Literacy & the Importance of Unschooling
Pages: 1-13

During a recent curriculum methods class, one of my students inquired about my musical training. Since the vast majority of my musical experiences transpired outside the forum of formal music education, I was unable to answer the question without getting into my life’s story. This experience motivated me to chronicle my lifelong musical experiences and subsequently reflect on them. These reflections ultimately substantiate that the process of rejecting formal music education and engaging in self-teaching has been the primary method that allowed me to achieve a high level of musical literacy. The paper also argues that the process of self-teaching in the musical arena is very similar to the principles of unschooling (a term coined by American author and educator John Caldwell Holt) where learning is based on the student’s interests, needs, and goals.
Dr. John L. Vitale


Situated Adult Learning: The Home Education Neighbourhood Group
Pages: 14-36

Many families who home educate turn to a neighbourhood home education group for support, resources and guidance. The purpose of this paper is to first outline briefly the context of home education in the UK and US, to analyse three different types of home education neighbourhood group as communities of practice and then to theorise how these parents learn some of what it is to be home educators through participation in such groups as members. The analysis is based on evidence from long-term home educating parents collected through thirty-four in-depth interviews and the Community of Practice framework (Wenger, 1998).

It will be argued that although communities of practice have variable features depending on the type of neighbourhood home education group a parent joins, they all engage in a form of collective situated life learning which helps transform parents to the point where they become ‘home educators’.
Dr. Leslie Safran


Teaching Research through Imaginative Non-fiction: Exploring the Word of Democracy for the World of Students
Pages: 36-54

This article is an exploration of the potential of imaginary fiction as teaching research in a university classroom where the interests and ideas of students are taken seriously. The author reflects on his teaching practice, and through the use of a fictionalised discussion explores globalisation, and peoples’ democracy in aid of uncovering potential spaces for expanding student and teacher learning.
Dr. Jason M.C. Price


Voices: The need for alternative schooling
Pages: 54-66

What follows is writing that some students choose to produce for a holistic education class that was offered at the graduate level. The pieces are reflective and were written after 2 three hour classes where we discussed learner centered democratic approaches to schooling, unschooling, alternative schooling, holistic education and many other topics that were initiated by those who were present. The paper argues that, even if it’s changing how we interact and engage with the young people that we meet in our own lives and context we can make a difference by acting in holistic learner centered democratic ways. By transforming ourselves and how we act we necessarily transform the world because we are a part of the world. Awareness is the first step to action.
Carlo Ricci, Katharine Gauthier, Jeff Baxter and Linda Neault




Year 2009 — Volume 3 — Issue 5

Claiming our democratic rights
Pages: 1-15

Using autobiographical research this paper reminds us that schooling and education are not the same things and that mainstream schooling is an undemocratic institution that “dumbs us down.” The paper also makes the point that we need to slow down and rethink why it is that we are pressuring and hurrying our children to do things in school and in life earlier and earlier, and we need to understand the damage that this is doing to them. Ultimately, the paper insists that we need to reclaim our democratic rights as children, parents, teachers, principals and citizens.
Carlo Ricci


Destructive Staffroom Discourse
Pages: 16-30

Holt’s first book “How Children Fail” set in motion the education reform of the 1960s. Holt illuminated the plethora of problems in ‘cookie-cutter’ mainstream schools, such as the culture of the fear of failure. This qualitative study examines the concept of the “Destructive Staffroom Discourse” in mainstream elementary schools as an impairment to the atmosphere necessary for learning to occur.
Jonathan Pitt and Kristian Kirkwood


Disempowering Families: An examination of school policy
Pages: 31-40

Quite often schools attempt to take on the unofficial role of the custodial parent, creating rules and regulations that infringe upon parents’ roles. Schools also limit the degree to which families can be involved in their children’s schooling. Some school-created literature that is available to parents takes on a tone of entitlement that some parents may not feel comfortable in challenging. As a result there is the potential to infringe upon family values and beliefs. This paper looks at three areas where schools have gone too far in their supposed role to educate children.
Michael McCabe


Reflections in Education: Considering the Impact of Schooling on the Learner
Pages: 41-58

Each child has unique gifts waiting to be discovered and cultivated. Unfortunately, our current school system does not always provide children with the opportunity to develop their special interests. The following article is a personal narrative structured as a series of reflections, and aims to reconsider schooling’s role in assisting the crucial development of creativity. Drawing from ideas of researchers in the field of alternative education, I present reflections on my role as an elementary school teacher, and I examine the impact of teaching, curriculum and our current evaluation system on the development of children’s creativity.
Kathleen Anderson



Year 2008 — Volume 2 — Issue 4

Starting a School
Pages: 1-20

As Holt suggests, we need to create gates so that those who want to escape the walled garden can more easily do so. To this end, creating an alternative school is one such gate. Not surprisingly, many believe that doing so entails a lot more obstacles than it actually does. Some believe that you would need many credentials, for example a PhD, or a Masters in education, or you would need to be or have been a principal in a public school or at the very least a certified teacher. The truth is that none of this is a prerequisite for starting your own school and that anyone with the will to do it can. Of course there are challenges, yet these are not insurmountable. We hope that those who are thinking about starting a school will use this piece as a resource and as an inspiration to start their own school and to continue to put up gates for those willing to escape.
Carlo Ricci and Kristin Simpson


Critical Pedagogy and Beyond
Pages: 21-34

In this paper I deal with critical pedagogy’s historical contribution to the contemporary debate on the alternatives to schooling. In particular, I analyse Paulo Freire’s method and its actual applications, and I suggest an interpretative framework to evaluate its successes and its limits. Furthermore, I consider a critical analysis of critical pedagogy based on a teaching/facilitating experience in a formal education setting in the United States. Finally, I contend that educational alternatives to schooling should question the pedagogical fictions of learner and teacher as theoretical generalizations of schooling practice, and should acknowledge the participative nature of knowledge building processes.
Riccardo Baldissone


“No Common Thread”: Identity Crisis at an Alternative School
Pages: 35-65

This study uses the phenomenon, or case, of the White Pine School as the basis for developing an understanding of how schools make their identities clear, distinct, and attractive to participants. This twenty­six­year­old parent cooperative “alternative” private school seems to be experiencing an identity crisis in which there is little consistency of vision and practices with which to enact that vision. The causes, manifestations, and possible solutions to this identity crisis are herein examined.
Kristan A. Morrison, Ph.D


Hypothesis Formation, Paradigms, and Openness
Pages: 66-86

A part of hypothesis formation, while necessary for scientific investigation, is beyond direct observation. Powerful hypothesis formation is more than logical and is facilitated by mind­opening. As Percy Bridgeman, Nobel laureate, said, science is: “Nothing more than doing one’s damnedest with one’s mind, no holds barred.” This paper suggests more open schooling helps generate more open hypothesizing which helps one do one’s damnedest with one’s mind. It is hypothesized that a more open process of hypothesis formation may help schools and society forge new ways of living and learning so that more people more often can do their damnedest with their mind. This writing does not offer a new paradigm but rather attempts to elaborate on the notion that new paradigms are difficult to form without openness to what was previously quasi­unthinkable. More on these topics and issues is included in the author’s Reopening Einstein’s Thought: About What Can’t Be Learned From Textbooks ­­to be published by Sense Publishers in June 2008.
Conrad P. Pritscher



Year 2008 — Volume 2 — Issue 3

Open Universities: You do not need a high school diploma to get into university
Pages: 1-16

In this paper I hope to empower students by exposing the myth that a high school diploma is a necessary first step to getting into a post secondary institution. In what follows, I will be sharing a brief history of open universities, give an example of an open university in a specific context and celebrate its policies, and continue to challenge some more myths about the importance of a high school diploma for success in post secondary schooling . .
Carlo Ricci


Freed to Learn: Five Fundamental Concepts of Democratic Education
Pages: 17-26

Children are natural learners each with distinct interests, abilities and rates of cognitive, emotional and social growth. Democratic Education institutionalizes five key concepts to free these natural instincts and individual differences to drive community self-governance and individual self-directed learning within a formal schooling environment. This paper summarizes the five concepts fundamental to Democratic Education and suggests how they can be applied within a school setting.
Leo J. Fahey


“Let them Jam!”: Incorporating Unschooling Pedagogy in the Secondary School Music Classroom
Pages: 27-35

This paper examines how the principles of unschooling were accidentally uncovered during my tenure as a music teacher in a secondary school in suburban Toronto , Ontario . As traditional music pedagogy during my first year at this school was unsuccessful, I delayed the start of each class in an attempt to shorten my instructional time and lessen the acrimonious relationship I had developed with my students. This delayed segment of class time evolved into an extraordinary and valuable learning experience for all of my students which became known as “jam time.” This form of learning embraced the pedagogical philosophy of unschooling, which eventually motivated my students to increase their musical knowledge and skills as well as embrace traditional music pedagogy. In addition, this paper also examines the contextual philosophy of unschooling versus traditional pedagogy in the secondary school music class.
Dr. John L. Vitale


Rites of Passage, Aboriginal Education and Learning for the 21st Century: Walkabout as a Radical-and Workable-Alternative
Pages: 36-56

The Walkabout Program is an alternative and experiential learning practice that helps students to develop necessary skills for authentic learning and real world preparation through the completion of six learning passages. This aboriginal-based program celebrates the vital transition-or passage-from adolescence to adulthood. The six learning passages include philosophical, practical, emotional/physical/spiritual challenge, career exploration, community/global response, and creative endeavour. Although its primary focus is to challenge First Nations educators to rethink status quo schooling, the Program has equally beneficial opportunities for all students.
Blane Després