Category Archives: Publications

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



Year 2007 — Volume 1 — Issue 2

Are important and authentic Teachers members of our family?
Pages: 1-7

In this paper I would like to share an episode that happened in one of my graduate classes where we expanded the definition of teacher and therefore received a wider response to the question of who is your most important and authentic Teacher. It was interesting for me to note that only one person picked a school teacher and that of the 17 most important and authentic teachers among this groups lives 14 out of the 17 were family members.
Carlo Ricci


Holistic Education – A Personal Revolution
Pages: 8-22

This paper analyses the holistic approach inherent in unschooling, which takes learning outside of the restraints of mainstream education in order for each child to become the author of his or her own curriculum. Although educators now advocate student-centered modifications to the school system, we still view people in schools as agents, factors or products of an indispensable institutional agenda. The latest research and revisions developed in the name of reform are still generated in the context of a system that is unable perceive its own inadequacies and so projects them onto others-students, teachers and parents. Inspired by the work of Paulo Freire (1972), I contend that students must realize the pervasive oppression of schooling and gain power over themselves and their circumstances in order to become socially literate. These values of awareness, resistance and freedom involve going beyond reform to a genuine remaking of the learning environment in the spirit of holism.
Steven Taylor


Self-Directed Learning and Student Attitudes
Pages: 23-52

It is a commonly held belief that students who enjoy their experience of school perform better academically. Thus, educators often struggle with the questions of how best to motivate students and how to make learning fun. Some parents and educators, however, have simply moved away from traditional educational practices and are choosing to let students take charge of their own learning. The intent of this study is to evaluate the attitudes of students in two Sudbury model schools – schools in which students from ages 4-19 are completely responsible for their own education – and to show the positive correlation between freedom and choice in the learning environment and positive student attitudes. This study involves the opinions of 23 students from two Sudbury model schools, forming a small focus group. The schools both volunteered for the study, and students were asked if they would like to participate. The students who participated ranged in age from 4-16. Each completed a questionnaire that included both scaled questions and open-ended questions. Overall, students reported having a very positive experience of school as assessed by the questionnaire. There were also recognizable trends in their narrative answers that pointed towards an overall appreciation for the level of freedom in their schools. In general, the study proved that in the group surveyed there is a positive correlation between freedom in the educational environment and the students’ attitudes about school. This study points to the validity of self-direction in the learning environment, and notes several options for follow-up studies.
Jennifer Schwartz


Authentic Learning
Pages: 53-63

In my paper I use my own children as examples of how this way of learning might look like. They are people learning from out of their own curiosity- evolving new interests and ideas as they go along, rather then having learning imposed on them. The paper also features Radio Free School, a weekly radio program produced by my family which is reflective of what I like to call authentic learning .
Beatrice Ekoko



Year 2007 — Volume 1 — Issue 1

Unschooling Passions
Pages: 1-30

Unschooling is about learning through living. As unschooling parents we want to open up the world for our children to explore. But what if your child is passionately interested in just one thing? Doesn’t that close off his access to the world and limit his learning? I have two children who have discovered passionate interests. Instead of spending my time trying to convince them to try new things, I decided to explore their interests with them. I was amazed at how much of the world came to life when they were free, and encouraged, to immerse themselves in their deep, passionate interests.
Pam Laricchia


The Mystery of Pleasure: Thoughts on Teaching and learning Sex and Gender Relations in a Democratic Montessori Elementary Environment
Pages: 31-55

Dr Maria Montessori (1870-1952), saw the child as a ‘spiritual embryo’ naturally gravitating towards a state of ‘normalization’ through the evolving discovery of a ‘cosmic task’ that emerged from inquiring into one’s identity and role in the universe. Although she laid a philosophical framework for this ‘educating of the human potential’; she never openly discussed sexuality and sexual knowledge as a necessary part of this development. Dr Riane Eisler is a contemporary feminist systems theorist whose ‘partnership model’ of sexual politics embraces (and, in fact, openly endorses) the tenets of the Montessori approach.
Matthew Henry R. Rich


War Against the Imagination: Technology, Kids, and Autonomy
Pages: 56-62

All children’s movies produced, marketed and distributed by corporations are carefully designed sales delivery systems. They exist to sell. Secondarily, but of no less importance, they transmit ideology: even the most banal animated features transmit the social values and expectations of dominant culture. War Against the Imagination begins to develop a critical understanding of how the growing technological sophistication of story-telling media is changing both what and how stories teach young children. How are the boundaries between fantasy and reality disintegrating in the digital age, and of what impact on the lives of kids growing in our communities?


Apprenticeships: When schooling means more than doing
Pages: 63-74

This paper is theoretically grounded in an educational movement known as unschooling. Unschooling is a learner centered democratic approach to education. Jerry Mintz (2004) defines learner-centered education as “an approach that is based on the interest of the student rather than curriculum driven, where someone else has the idea of what you ought to be learning,” and he defines democratic education as “education where students are actually empowered to make decisions about their own education and if they are in a school their own school.” This paper is about apprenticeship programs and how schooling and paper certificates have become more important in determining if someone can do a particular job than them actually doing it.
Carlo Ricci and Lisa Hill