#11 - The Legacy of John Holt: A Conversation with Pat Farenga about the unschooling movements beginning.
🗓️ Recorded January 24th, 2023. 📍Casa Nina, Sampieri, Sicily, Italy
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Connect with Patrick Farenga:
- Website: https://johnholtgws.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HoltGWS
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@Johnholtgws
About this Episode
Patrick Farenga is a writer and education activist who worked closely with the late author and teacher John Holt and continues his work today as the president of HoltGWS LLC. After Holt died, Farenga published Growing Without Schooling magazine (GWS) from 1985 until 2001.
We first met Pat Farenga when he interviewed us for the John Holt Growing Without Schooling website in 2018. Since then, we have become friends, and now it is our pleasure to introduce you to this wonderful man who has done so much for spreading the knowledge of unschooling and for John Holt’s work in particular.
Pat Farenga met John Holt in the 1970s and became a close collaborator and friend. Together, they worked on several projects aimed at promoting unschooling and helping parents navigate the challenges of homeschooling. Pat was an integral part of John Holt's organization, Growing Without Schooling, which provided resources and support for parents interested in unschooling.
After John Holt passed away in 1985, Pat Farenga continued publishing the Growing Without Schooling magazine. A magazine he today is re-editing into books, so the many great stories of how you can live a life without school are available for even more people.
Thank you, Pat, for all the work you are doing to help families live their lives - free from school and free to learn.
Clips from this episode
Schooling and education are not the same thing. Do you know the origin of the word "education"?
"Did you know that the word 'education' comes from the Latin 'educara', which means to draw forth? Specifically, it refers to the act of drawing forth mother's milk - a nurturing, nourishing act that's all about supporting growth and development. But in our modern schooling system, we've lost sight of this original meaning. Instead of drawing forth the natural curiosity and creativity of young learners, we push them to conform to a fixed curriculum and schedule. That's why unschooling and self-directed learning are so powerful - they prioritize the individual needs and interests of each learner, and give them the freedom to explore and grow in their own way.
Have you ever wondered if homeschooling or unschooling could be a good fit for your family?
One way to get a better sense of what it's really like is to meet some homeschoolers and their kids. This is the #1 piece of advice Pat Farenga gives when he meets people who are curious about Unschooling:
“Go look for someone who homeschools or unschools - And try to meet their children. What got me convinced that homeschooling works was my conversations with the kids. It was very interesting to talk to them … and all of a sudden it's like, wow. “
We highly recommend talking to some families who are already doing it. And don't just talk to the parents - try to meet their kids too! Unschooling isn't just an alternative to traditional schooling - it's a vibrant community of families committed to nurturing their children's curiosity and helping them thrive.
So if you're interested in learning more, reach out to some homeschoolers or unschoolers in your area. You might be surprised by what you discover!
Jesper Conrad: All right, we're here today with Pat Farenga, whom we first noticed on the scene. Cecilia did earlier than I, but we read about the whole unschooling movement and John Hald and the growing without schooling. And then you, patrick, did it into you with us some five years ago I believe, and since then we have become friends and have yet to see each other in real life.
Patrick Farenga: I know isn't that interesting, it's all been through the internet. Yeah, i feel like I've traveled with you a little bit.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, we've talked a lot over the years.
Jesper Conrad: I actually don't even know if you have legs, you know.
Patrick Farenga: My secret is out.
Cecilie Conrad: I think, yeah, I think we do, because when you got that new webcam, remember you had like there was a lot of work to get into.
Patrick Farenga: Oh yeah.
Cecilie Conrad: And you were really annoyed with it And you had to walk to the other side of the room too.
Patrick Farenga: Oh, so you did see, i had legs.
Jesper Conrad: Pat, we know a lot about you but people listening into our podcast maybe haven't heard about you or like they ring a bell. So if you can give your story on how you came into the whole growing without schooling and got interested in world schooling not world schooling on schooling and all that I know it will be a long talk.
Cecilie Conrad: That will be the hour.
Jesper Conrad: That will be the hour.
Patrick Farenga: Well, I'll try to keep the brief so we can have more questions. Yeah, I got started in 1981 with John Holt and growing without schooling. John had started the magazine in 1977. It had been published then for four years and it grew out of his frustration trying to change school. His first couple of books were bestsellers How Children Fail and How Children Learn And it got to the point that he was taught a graduate course at Harvard in education I think it was in 68. Like this was in the late 60s when his first book came out in 64. The next one, I think, in 67.
Patrick Farenga: And so he even got invited to speak to Congress about because back then, like there were all these not revolts, it's a word of a protest against the Vietnam War and all sorts of stuff that were going on. You know, student rebellions were happening And John was one of the first people to have note to take the students side in a lot of these issues And that was one of the things that confounded. It's funny. A friend of mine actually got a hold of the transcripts of John's talk with Congress Someday. I hope they get it. But basically what he said is they didn't understand the word he kept saying because John kept referring to individual children and how children learn individually And they just wanted to know how we could like pull a lever and make everything work throughout the whole system, How do we write a law that works for everybody Exactly?
Patrick Farenga: Completely missing the point of individualizing education and the need for it. They don't see the need for it because they're running big institutions, big schools, and they've only gotten bigger. Since then, we've lost neighborhood schools and like crazy here in America, in fact, a lot of the buildings have been turned into stores or movie theaters and stuff and abandoned. We have these magnet schools now they call them.
Jesper Conrad: But how did you end up working together?
Patrick Farenga: Well, here's how I wound up working. I was a graduate student in English. I got my master's in English literature and I thought I'm originally from New York. So when I finished graduate school I went there to work And with my wonderful new master's degree in English, i became a store clerk in a department store. I did that for about six months And the whole time I was traveling to Boston to be with my girlfriend, who became my wife day, and I finally said you know, i could work in a department store in Boston just as easily and save a lot of travel. So that's how I wound up coming back here to be near my girlfriend And I wound up working in a bookstore.
Patrick Farenga: But fortunately for me, that bookstore was near where John Holt his office was. He had an office on the suite on the third floor of this building, but on the ground floor next door it was a bookstore called the Paperback Booksmith, and the one in downtown Boston was very big and popular And John was a frequent customer there, and so I was working at another branch that he had opened, just literally like the next street up. It's called Booksmith Another Edition, and that was where they sold what they call remainder books, you know hardcover books that were at an incredibly discounted price. But John's turned out that one of the cashiers who worked at the remainder store where I became assistant manager just because I had this degree that made me assistant manager Even though I had never worked in a bookstore before, i was like you've been patronized. So you know, there I am in the bookstore and the cashier, their husband, was working as a volunteer at Holt Associates with growing, you know, helping to publish growing without schooling magazine and help John do his work.
Patrick Farenga: And I mean, like anyone, back in 1981, you heard the word homeschooling you're like what's that, i don't know. So I didn't write immediately warm up to this idea. But after working in the bookstore for a while, and especially when the owner did this, we had so many people coming in because it was a recession This is the 1980s, you know 1981. So many people my age would be coming in off the street looking for work as cashiers and stuff And they saw that were a new store and open. So the owner put up a sign that said you need a college degree to apply something like that. And I'm thinking to myself to do this, to do what, i've got a master's degree And they tell me I need to do this. That really started to bother me. But then I realized now on hindsight, that was a way to prevent certain people from applying. You know, i mean back then I was just thinking college. You know we don't need it.
Patrick Farenga: But now I realize no he's actually using the college degree as a way to prevent non-college people from working a cash register and stocking shelves and talking about books. I mean, you know, the assumption was if you're a college graduate, you're going to read all these books. But outside of a few of my colleagues at that store, most of them didn't read a lot of books and most of them couldn't care less. It was just the job, you know, and they couldn't wait to go do what they wanted to do after work. You know they wouldn't talk about the latest novels or you know what was happening. So you know, it was sort of a wake-up call And I decided, you know, i don't want to do this.
Patrick Farenga: I can't. I can't. This book business is not what I like, but I still like books. So Cindy was running the cashier and she said well, if you want to volunteer at Holt Associates, you could pack books there. They have a mail order book business And you do. You also do a lot of typing and you can learn word processing, which back then was a skill unto itself. It was a whole machine by itself. It's not like today. You know where you have word processors built into your phone, you know.
Patrick Farenga: So John Holt had an Olivetti word processor and Boston at the time was completely inundated with Wang word processors. In fact the Wang company was. You know. It used to be called the Wang Opera House, they don't know. You did that. You know. Hello, mighty have fallen right, no one remembers. And Wang and word processors and stuff. But yeah, you know the late 70s to the mid 80s, until the late 80s, that was a real big deal And I went there to learn these skills and John was not there.
Patrick Farenga: John was doing a tour of Scandinavia. He'd been invited by the University of Kötberg I think you pronounce it in Sweden to speak And then friends of his Rasmus Hansen, i think, was his name from Denmark. You know John spoke around Sweden, norway and Denmark over three month period, and so he was. you know that was because teacher Ron had just come out and it was just considered so crazy, you know that. You know he was getting a lot of speaking to talk about it. And so when John finally came back, i, you know, because I was still working, i wasn't getting paid to work at Holt Associates at that time, so I was working in the evenings, volunteering, and because I was still working at the bookstore during the day And one night there was John Holt.
Patrick Farenga: He had come back from Scandinavia and and as was you know, he was a single man and he often liked to read books in the office, you know because, and he would read like I don't know, three or four books a day. Sometimes It was amazing how quickly and thoroughly you could get through stuff. And so when he saw me there, we introduced himself, we talked And we immediately hit it off because, you know, i learned that he was from, he was born and raised in Manhattan, in New York, and he loved jazz, and so the two of us just, you know, i'm from the Bronx and I like jazz and in fact that was something I was actually studying at the time was taking lessons and jazz piano. So it was really, really into this And we really hit it off.
Patrick Farenga: And finally, one night, one time it may even been the first time, i think it was actually John asked me well, what do you want to do with your life, pat? And right out of the woods, i want to be a teacher. And he looked at me and said because I like working with children And I could seem doing this right now I took his glasses off, leaned into me and said Pat, you realize, if you become a teacher, you're not going to work with children, you're going to work on children. And I was just like what I taught? teachings. That's not what I talk about.
Patrick Farenga: And if you ever read any of my books, i said, no, it's true, i was supposed to have a learn word processing, you know. And so he recommended that I read any one of them and then be happy to talk, but he's not going to. Yeah, he just spent three months talking about this stuff in Europe. He's not going to start from scratch with me. He said if you're interested, read a book and we'll talk about it. And then he recommended Ivan Olajir's De-Schooling Society to me. He said that would be something else. But he says unless you have this foundation, i'm not going to spend my time right now.
Jesper Conrad: I'm not going to spend time with you?
Patrick Farenga: Yeah, all right. Yeah, I had to talk about jazz and other things.
Patrick Farenga: You know, Because it's still true, here it is in 2023. And I still hear well, what about socialization? Right, it's just like, oh my gosh, we have so many three generations. Before I was coming on the call, i was trying to set up a Facebook Live event for this coming Sunday about unschooling neurodiverse children, and so I remembered that I had an issue. There was a couple of issues, but there was one that was a cover story about unschooling children with special needs, and that was in 1996. And to think that here we are today still saying to ourselves will unschool children, will they get into college? Is it appropriate for special needs children? It's like I've been there, done that And now I'm 65 now And I'm like, yeah, i kind of feel like John, like no, i don't want to talk about those things. I mean, you can readily find that information out right, especially now that we have the internet. Back then it was very, i mean, you have to go to a library and find out something. Now it's so much easier. So, yeah, i thought it was kind of crazy, But at the same time I took them up on a challenge.
Patrick Farenga: So the book Teach Your Own it just arrived Literally, that was one of my first jobs is to open the cartons and put the hardcover editions They hadn't come out in paperback yet And put them up on the shelf right. And so I took that book with me And I couldn't understand it. Teach Your Own made no sense to me in 1981. So I wound up talking to Peggy Durkey, who was John's office manager and who worked with him for many years, and she said well, john's books just keep growing one out of the other. So I wanted to read How Children Fail. That's the one that I really made me understand where he's coming from. So I did, and then I got it, because that book I could relate to, because it's about being a teacher in a classroom, something that I wanted to do and something that is a student that I have some very recent experience of.
Patrick Farenga: So I really identified with him talking about the charade of learning. The kids pretend to know the answers And the teacher's grateful that he thinks they know Because they can move on, because he's losing half the classes. This half is not getting this, and so he really talked about these strategies and the issues of schooling And it really hit home. So when I started to talk to him about classroom techniques and one of the things that interested me was he was into a Cuisinare rods And really in How Children Fail, really in How Children Learn, even I think more goes on about using these manipulatives. And as soon as I raised it he was like, eh, i'm over that. Yeah, it was more gimmicky than useful And kids will learn their colors and how to count without these things. I mean, they're nice to have, But I don't think that, like if we're running a classroom, that that would be the first piece of equipment I look at.
Patrick Farenga: And so it turns out that he was always challenging his thoughts and his writing And indeed in 1983, he revised How Children Fail and How Children Learn in light of his experience with unschooling. And when you read those books, what I love about him is he didn't excise any of the old texts that way. What he did was he put a line down the left side of the old text And then the new text would be indented a bit And he said, yeah, i thought I was a real clever teacher then when I did this. But it's really refreshing to see that because I especially in academics. This book builds on this, this book builds on that, and everyone develops this uvra or a canon of work that can't be challenged or is just so impeccable. You're the expert that knows everything.
Patrick Farenga: And John was much more humble.
Cecilie Conrad: I realize that.
Patrick Farenga: Even though he wrote it in 1964 with a complete conviction. Things changed. He grew, people changed, the world changed. Just look what's happening now with artificial intelligence and how that's changing. I mean there was an article in The New York Times saying that high school reports are doomed. No one will know if it's a student or a computer writing it now. So there have been all these changes, but school hasn't adapted. I mean we still in the United States. It is different in Scandinavia and Denmark in particular.
Jesper Conrad: But I had to go into your personal story again because that part I haven't actually heard. I'm curious. So, being a volunteer to ending up now if I could count, many, many years later, having it turned into a profession and a career. So at some point you must have gotten paid for instead of volunteering. So how did they develop and keep you doing your keep?
Patrick Farenga: on. So what happened was that Tim, the gentleman that was volunteering at Holt Associates, decided to leave. He actually became, if you could believe this, a typewriter salesman, because it was right at that juncture where typewriters were still being sold in computers and were just coming in. So he left to do that And so I took his part-time job And so I was able to still work in the bookstore during the day, but now they've paid to pack books and type up John's letters in the evening, and I did that for a while. And then Peggy Durkey, his office manager. The recession was finally starting to end around 1981. And I think it was 82? Yeah, i don't think it was more than a year that I've been there And she got a better job offer, worked for an accounting company, and so she and John asked if I'd be interested in becoming office manager. And actually I take that back.
Patrick Farenga: Before I did that there was one other step. Growing without schooling was always a marginal publication. Financially It was always funded by either the sales of our books through the catalog or from John's speaking engagements and personal income. So it was always kind of dicey, and so we decided one of the ways to raise money was to take ads in, growing without schooling. So they made me ad manager And I was able to bring some ads in and stuff like that. So I think that was another reason why they felt I was qualified to be office manager because I was doing that outreach and having some success, although back then, even then, when I look at the ads, like business card size and they're all text and stuff, but that's the way it was.
Cecilie Conrad: That's the way it was back then.
Patrick Farenga: Yeah, yeah. So I wound up becoming the office manager And John and I. We shared the office. He had separate offices But he liked to sit and read near me And it made him accessible to me And we'd talk about what he was reading or what I was doing, and so we really became close and really got to know each other And we had a lot of time very well.
Patrick Farenga: And I was still a single guy at the time And my wife was working for the National Organization for Women, because they were trying to get equal rights for women on ballot in the States, which, by the way, we still don't have. It hasn't passed on all 50 states. It did pass in Massachusetts though. So she was very skeptical about homeschooling My friends, of course, you know, oh, it's just a trap to keep women pregnant at home. And I was like, well, i don't see it that way. And because I was meeting families, i realized there were two income families. Sometimes the dad would be the stay-at-home person because the mom had a better job and could make things happen. So I knew that they were there, but there was still like the exceptions to the rule.
Patrick Farenga: It really wasn't until, let's see, we got married. I forget 84, 85. And John was at her wedding And it's so funny, everybody was noticing different things, right, about our service and memories and stuff And what I remember afterwards like after we came back from a honeymoon which we took in Denmark, we went to Copenhagen and then traveled to Oslo and flew home from there. Oh gosh, i just lost my train of thought. It was.
Cecilie Conrad: People's different memories.
Patrick Farenga: Yeah, so John, my wife and I remember the family, the service. What John remembered was at the church he noticed that the altar boys were wearing sneakers And I was. He was way back in the audience. I was right next to them. I didn't know this, but it's funny what different people pick up on you know. So, yeah, you know. so we went way back and then it got. You know it's been. I think about this a lot now because I've gone through so much. A lot of people have died in my family in the last few years and just this past week no, last week, last Sunday, my dog died. I know you lost a dog when we were talking down in Spain And, yeah, my daughter raises this guy, since he was six weeks old And we all loved him. He was, you know, definitely a family member, so that was really hard, yeah, yeah.
Patrick Farenga: But when John Holt got sick, that was the first time that I had to really face like as an adult helping another adult deal with death. And that was quite, quite actually I was 26, 25 or 26 at the time, so I'm not very well-versed in these things, even though I grew up in a family of funeral directors. But I only knew how to handle things in the chapel. I did not handle things in a sick bed in a people's home. So that was quite, quite a learning thing And it took a long time.
Patrick Farenga: John tried all sorts of alternative therapies and I was always setting him up like he went to Mexico, tried to think of all the hoxy treatment. Then he did oh gosh, what was it called? It was with chlorophyll, wheatgrass, wheatgrass therapy. So we would get like all the tons of wheatgrass shipped in once a week through FedEx and he would juice it all up. We did that.
Patrick Farenga: And then he went to Ohio to have like some laser, you know, because it was a huge tumor on his leg And so he thought that we could get excised with this. And it just kept getting worse. And eventually his friend Merloid, who was also his editor for many years, had recommended a doctor in Connecticut. But he trusted her and he trusted this doctor. So he finally had the procedure done. And I should say why he didn't trust the doctors before this, because several years earlier he had noticed this lump on his leg. The doctor said we should probably remove it. So he goes in the hospital to have it removed. And the day of the surgery they marked the wrong leg And John told him no, it's this leg, because when I knew it it was like the size of my fist. But when he had it then it was just like a pimple. It was small And so you know. And he got in an argument with the nurse saying you got the wrong leg and walked out. He just walked out, that's it. And he kind of ignored it until it got so big that he couldn't wear pants, you know, had to wear shorts. It was crazy, in fact. It got so big he couldn't wear shorts. At one point We were looking for kilts. It was pretty bad by the time he did it. So he finally had it removed. But the doctor told him I'm not sure we got it all. I mean, i got that lump, but you've had this for a while And sure enough, within weeks it had spread throughout his body. So I had to take care of him and figure all that stuff out. You know he was moving, you know eventually he had to go to the hospital And then, once they stabilized him at the hospital, we got him back to his house, his apartment in Beacon Hill, and you know he was basically we did hospice there.
Patrick Farenga: And that was another lovely moment in my life was when I was looking for help Because you know, i just got married, we didn't have kids yet, you know, and I was like when was it supposed to leave work, just go sit with John until like midnight or stuff. We were trying to figure all this out. So we put out a call for helpers, you know, and some families just volunteered. In fact, the woman, her name was Lila Berg, she flew in from England, she was a children's book author who knew John to help care for John. So people, just it was just beautiful, you know, just people coming out of the woodwork, local people would come to do the evening shifts and then, you know, lila would be there during the day. You know it was quite moving, you know. And one of the things that I remember from that was John was always interested in the Suzuki method and you see, right now we're all fat.
Patrick Farenga: You know, it's all China, china. China, maybe Indian economically, but in the 80s it was Japan, japan's, eating our lunch. They know what they're doing And so, but John was just always interested in Japanese culture through music. You know Love classical musicians. In the Suzuki method, you know, which emphasizes learning by ear and not introducing sight reading until later on. You always liked that approach because he said that's how children learn to read. You know you develop your ear forms you know.
Patrick Farenga: So you know he was. I'll never forget this. He was, oh yeah, and this was a cellist from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His name was David Chickering. He was a friend of John's and he came in to care for John and he would play his cello. You know, while John was just lying there in bed And John, towards the end, would just be asleep, it seemed for hours, and I'm sorry to the nurse, and so we had to wake him up, and when we did, he had a temper, but it was very rare that he showed it. This was one of those times. John, john, wake up. What, what? why did you wake me up? Why did you wake me up? I was singing in Japanese.
Patrick Farenga: Okay, that must be quite the right thing, yeah, but your music was so, is so important to him. You know, and I'll never forget when I got the phone call that you know I was at the office and no, i wasn't at home at the time. I think they called me and said John had passed. So I had to go down the apartment and then, you know, get a doctor and all that stuff in there to get a death certificate and have his body removed. But I forgot about David Chickering. So as I'm walking down to his apartment it was a basement apartment in Beacon Hill, right near the Charles River, right where the Boston Symphony Orchestra plays its summer concerts. You know he chose that deliberately So he could literally just walk across the street to hear the free outdoor concerts. And as I'm approaching the building, i could hear a cello playing. And as I got closer and closer, it was just David playing, you know, playing for John. It was just very touching and very, very appropriate, you know, and yeah that you know so. And then I think that was 1985.
Patrick Farenga: And after John died, i found myself with the reins and you know it was just myself and Donna Rishu who became the editor of a magazine and was really like solid. She really kept. She held a lot of things together, because while I was working with John's, she was publishing the magazine. She kept all the correspondence going. She had it, you know. And so that was really, you know, really important. And again I'm realizing, you know, i mean I've fought this many times throughout my life, but I'm realizing again just as I recount this, so much of this is about social connection. You know, i mean John was a single man. He didn't have any children, he was unlucky in love. You know, i mean he asked people to marry him and she said no more than once. Yeah. So you know, and you know, so I'm familiar with that part of his life. But at the same time, you know, there's so many people that gathered around him and loved him, and so that was an important lesson for me as a young man to realize.
Patrick Farenga: You know, as I'm used to this, i grew up in a very Italian family with a funeral home and you know we all wore suits and go down to the funeral home and pay our respects over three days, and this was a like a whole nother way of dealing with death. You know. You know there was no funeral. You know we was cremated and we had a memorial service a few months later, you know, which I understand is common, but you know, for non-Catholic I mean for a Catholic Italian growing up in the Bronx that was. That was yet another learning experience, like, oh, there's other ways to do dying too, you know, you don't go to the hospital, then they declare you dead and then you go to the funeral home. So I had to. So it was another eye-opening thing for me, you know, and it was really.
Patrick Farenga: I learned so much more than just about education by being a grown-up without school. And then Donna ran the magazine for a couple of years and then she got pregnant and wasn't sure she could continue. And so Susanna Schaeffer, who John had told me he recommended her because we knew that Donna might, you know, change her mind or leave at some point. But John had recommended her because she was working at an alternative school in Michigan called the Clon-Laura School, which at the time had a great home-based education program and the founder of the school, pat Montgomery, she was a is, she's still around, she's a firebrand. She would, at any time any school official tried to question why you're a home school and using the Clon-Laura curriculum, she would, on her own dime, fly down there and argue with the guys you know, and she's picked a lot of time in court, you know, successfully arguing that you know.
Cecilie Conrad: Clon-Laura is still around, isn't it? Oh, it's still around, but I don't think they have a home-based education program. I think they do, i think. I met an adult woman, about in her early 30s, who Yeah, nicole, i'm not in a fortune.
Patrick Farenga: What's her name? Chandra Chandra Montgomery. No, no, no, no, no, no.
Cecilie Conrad: This is just someone I met who had her education that way. She was, oh, she was, she's a graduate of Clon-Laura.
Cecilie Conrad: She grew up in Barcelona and she had. She was never in school and she did the Clon-Laura, she told me, and that was how she, like, managed to grow up in Barcelona without ever being in a Spanish school. That's right. That's right, and she's young-ish. I mean it's it must be 10, 15 years ago. Since she stopped. She was planning to put her children through the same program, so I think it's still around, but it still has like curriculum and Right, i mean.
Patrick Farenga: Yeah, they focus more on the campus program because you know they had. They built a beautiful school I was there for. In fact, when they honored Pat, i flew into Michigan to help with that. You know because Pat's retired and their daughter, chandra, has been running the school now for many years. But yeah, it's anyway, go ahead, ask me another question.
Jesper Conrad: No, no, no. I have a question because, first of all, thank you for the very touching story about your time together with John. But what kept you going? It was before you even had children and you have, as you say, you took over the reins and been on this for many, many years. What is it with homeschooling, unschooling, that talks so strongly to you that you continue?
Patrick Farenga: To me it was, first of all, my own personal experience of school was very successful as a student. I wasn't a genius, i was a middle to the top of the middle, so it was sort of great. But I just kept wondering I mean, really right up until eighth grade, is this all there is? It is just read a book and take a test, read a book and take a test. And I'll never forget, in eighth grade we're doing all these high school, what high school do you want to go to? sort of programs. And since it was a Catholic school, they were directing us all these Catholic places And I didn't want to go to Stepanak, which is where everyone was going, the Archbishop Stepanak High School, because I just felt it was more read a book and take a test.
Patrick Farenga: And so I wanted to look for options And my dad said well, look, if you want to come down, we were living in Elmsford, new York, at that time, but we moved from the Bronx. But when I was in third grade we moved up to Westchester But dad still had to work in the Bronx. So he said well, look, there's a great high school in the Bronx Ford and Prep. You can drive down with me in the morning and drive home with me after work if you want to go there. So I went to an open house there and it just blew me away because they were introducing a thing called the Fordham Prep Plan where you got to make your own schedule for the day. You checked in with a mentor twice a day That was basically your homeroom teacher, and they were organized once a month ahead what they called X days, where each department would put on a special event, like the science department put on a movie about nuclear, what would happen in a nuclear war, and stuff like that. And so it was so different and so cool. I was like I'm there And it was on the Fordham University campus, so the high school shared, like you were around, like all these the college facilities. It was just a lovely, it was a campus. So it was a completely different field than going to a city high school. You know that would just take a regular bus to. So instead, you know, i drove down with dad dropped me off and I take the bus to meet him at work afterwards And I was really really like pleased with Fordham Prep.
Patrick Farenga: In those days, people it was, it was it's just opened my mind to like, oh, it doesn't have to be readable, can take a test, you can watch a movie, you could talk to people, you can have discussion groups. I was the one who first introduced the discussion groups, you know, and it was really interesting. But being the field of education which is ultimately terribly conservative, and you know, by the second, by the time I was a junior, there were, you know, so in three years they were pulling back on the program And then in my junior year or maybe it was my senior year, but one of the no, it would have been my junior year because it was a senior that the senior student died of a drug overdose Right 19,. So there's sort of a 1970s, 69 or 70. And immediately the parents. You know there was all this pressure And of course we're students. I don't know, but I heard from my parents in the communications they were getting it was because of a liberal nature of the school.
Cecilie Conrad: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Patrick Farenga: That's why he, you know he used drugs and that's it Right. So by the end of my senior year they were clamping down And I think within two years, like after I got into college, no more Fordham prep plan. They didn't use it, they just went back to being a classic Jesuit high school, you know, following the essential curriculum. But I got a taste. You know, i got a taste And I was like that's how I like to learn. You know it's a social activity. It's not like this. You know, read a book and take a test and then see how you can compare it to everybody else. You know, i mean that that. That always has bothered me. It just seemed like an exit, a performative exercise. Not really, because I knew I forgot John.
Patrick Farenga: John wrote this. And how children fail. The only difference between a good student and a bad student is the good student is very careful not to forget what they studied until after the test.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah.
Patrick Farenga: And that just bam, that just hit me like a time, because that was Fordham prep. I mean, you know, i mean that's what it became. It's just like, yeah, just just give the answer and you're going to get a grade and everything's going to be fine. You know it, you know it was. It was not like this, this more holistic experience of of like. In fact, you know, during Fordham prep plan days either, on the X days, some of the departments would do travel, like into the city to do stuff, you know. So I saw that that it could be. Education didn't have to be like the way that we're doing it. Then I went to college and you know, looking to do college is college.
Cecilie Conrad: No one's going to change that, you know although it's going to happen, i don't know how it is. Please say okay actually, you know, I'm from Europe, We don't have college. We do. I think you it's obvious what it is to me. It's not How's college college.
Patrick Farenga: College in America is a four year, a four year contest to see if you can get a job once you graduate. You know and some people are so focused, like particularly business schools are pre-med you know what you're going to do for those four years, right, and then you're going to go to the job fairs. But if you're someone like me, a liberal arts major, an English major, you know, i mean, i was I wasn't even aware there were job fairs on campus, You know they didn't announce these sorts of things, you know.
Patrick Farenga: And so I was going to be an English teacher because that was my favorite subject and that's it. And I worked in the funeral business as a kid, and you don't want to become a funeral director, You know. So you know, I mean, those are my only choices, it seems. You know, I didn't have enough experience of the world, You know, and that's another thing that I really appreciated from John and from you know, growing without schooling is seeing that education does not have to just be going to school, They have to have school at all, And that. And that really appealed to me because after I finished graduate school, you know, which I enjoyed, but I also I also got the feeling like there was, especially in English, It was all my favorite book about theory was I forget the author's name, but the book was called Against Theory, Because you know, everyone has a theory about these books, but then you realize it's like they're just reading their theories into these narratives that were written 100, 200, and even five years ago, or even today.
Patrick Farenga: I mean, it's kind of, you know, I became so theoretical and you know it's like, but I still love to read and write, you know, And John, you know, fortunately showed me that. You know there's a lot of authors who never went to school or, you know, not even accepted in the academy, you know, but who were still worth reading and whose books were around, and you know he turned me on to a lot of, you know, classic literature and stuff that was not even on the. You know there's an important book. It's called How to Lie with Statistics. Teeny, teeny little book came out in the 1950s. It's still like, wonderful because it's got illustrations and you know, but because it was talking about, like, how to avoid all the political and marketing bullshit that's going on in the world, And that was then. It's still a very valid book.
Cecilie Conrad: You get that thing.
Patrick Farenga: Yeah, Yeah So yeah, yeah.
Patrick Farenga: So that's why, all of a sudden, education became open. It was the whole world, It wasn't just school. All of a sudden education, be me doing things, not me sitting there taking in stuff and memorizing, you know. And then of course, I realized, like the things that I like to do, I play the piano, I do magic. I mean, I was doing it even back then. I mean that's always been part of me. It's like I learned because I move. That's part of me too. I need to touch and you know I'm a haptic learner, perhaps you know. But that was never even mentioned, You know, I mean, I never thought about it.
Patrick Farenga: I learned about learning styles and multiple intelligences later, and all these theories, And again their theories. You know that I keep feeling like they're good guesses. But they, you know, but they're always used to justify making kids do what adults think they should do. Yeah, Instead of what John is saying, the free exploration of the world is how a child learns. It's how we all learn, You know. I mean, if you're going to limit their explorations, you are controlling their learning, And sometimes that's appropriate, but usually it's appropriate when a student says I would like to learn this. Well, here's how you play piano. Here's how you do a magic trick. That's when you get into the details, and if they don't have the discipline to stick with it, you're not getting you know, you're not getting.
Patrick Farenga: You know your job doesn't depend on it, you know, like the teacher's does, you know. So it's a shame. I think that you know. The whole grading system is completely warped education, you know, and you know. Judging to judging in America, these judging teachers by their students grades, it's just, it's just crazy, you know, but that's, that's how we do it.
Cecilie Conrad: But at least that's honest. I mean, as I see it, all of these standardized tests that we're unfortunately getting in Europe as well, now, even in Scandinavia, they are not there to actually measure how the kids are performing, which you might be able to have a good you know reason to see how is it actually going with these children. That's not the reason for these tests. It's to see how the how the teachers are doing, so that the teachers can compete with each other and how well they're doing, and they're just making the children's lives hell because they have to read the study for these tests to see how good the teacher is performing, instead of maybe making a good life for the children. Yeah, i think the tests and the grading is.
Patrick Farenga: I'm so sorry to hear that because you know, in Finland I know that they completely de-emphasize grades.
Cecilie Conrad: Well, Finland is a different league. Yeah right, I know, But again like, and this is what John kept saying.
Patrick Farenga: You know, everyone said this was I think he even wrote this in the 1950s. Everyone said that no one could run a mile in a minute. And then a guy named Roger Bannister did that. He ran a mile in under a minute, you know. And John said you know, throughout my high school and college, that was just like a given, because he was into sports, you know he would do weightlifting. In fact, he found like he would. He kept track of how much he was lifting every day towards the end of his life there. Yeah, he was really, you know, really meticulous on record keeping. So anyway, you know, i forgot. Again I'm wandering, it's okay.
Jesper Conrad: No, I'm having an accusation.
Cecilie Conrad: It was about Finland and the tests.
Patrick Farenga: Oh yeah, Right, And yeah, And John was always talking about, like alternative assessments, other ways to do things. You know, And you know it never, it never gets accepted. But we have successful models, You know, and so that, that that's what, why, to me, the most important thing about homeschooling, but unschooling in particular, is that it's empowering us, you know, because modern society has gotten to the point, I mean and this is no joke anymore, Right? I mean, in the 80s it was kind of a joke They'd say, oh, you know, they're looking at, you know, the government or big businesses looking at everything you do, See, you know. But now it's really true, right?
Cecilie Conrad: We're watching this right now, yeah.
Patrick Farenga: So you know, there's always been that, that you know big brother sort of you know thing associated with this And, as John points out and many, many people besides John, appointing this out obedience to authority and you know, and using, you know education as a social control tool. You know, that's been, that's been a real eye opener for me because, you know so, education was for our benefit, it's like. No, it actually benefits a lot of other people and institutions besides us and probably in bigger ways. You know. So once I got that you know understanding, i realized, like one of the things that, john, i thought was crazy, but now I know it's not is if you saw a mom breastfeeding, you said good for you. If he saw someone making their own meal or something, how did you do that? What did you get there? You know, oh, you do that so well, you know, and you know I forget. One of his friends told me yeah, john like acts, like it's the first time he's seen, seen something all the time when he sees this stuff. And I asked him you know why one time, a particular about the person is again, i never my mother probably used formula. You know, i never saw a breastfeeding, thought sort of working at the whole top is, you know, and then it was just like you know, John, it was like anything that you know makes this effective, less dependent on the market or an institution is better for us, because society's just going to this whole way where we're dependent on that.
Patrick Farenga: So to me, like people, that's why I like this bigger vision of education and this bigger vision of what homeschooling and unschooling is about. It's, i mean, we've reduced it like just as our religions have reduced you themselves into political parties. You know, and I've seen so many, i mean, like the right wing Christians have tried to take over homeschooling, and you know, and everyone has their libertarians want much out of unschooled because it's the. You know they worship the free market. You should worship it too. You know you need to study this economist or you need to be, you know, i forget, like indigo children is another. Everyone has, like, like their hobby force of what works for education and therefore what everybody else should be doing.
Patrick Farenga: And I realize, no, you should celebrate. You want to send your kids to school? fine, that works for you. Fine, and we all know that. You know our kids at some point will take classes, you know, and schoolers always do. It happens, you know. So you know, this idea that you know we're completely out of the system is just nonsense. But anybody who just even takes like one step away is suspect, you know. And now that homeschooling is, i mean, it's only about 4% of the population now, but it was 2% before the pandemic. So you know, and this is the American population. I don't know what it's like in Europe, but I think you did great.
Cecilie Conrad: It was a different number.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah, it was.
Cecilie Conrad: Peter said it was in America up to maybe nine at the moment. Wow, wow, i don't know. I'm not in the state, i'm not looking at the numbers, it's just it looked better.
Patrick Farenga: But maybe during the pandemic?
Cecilie Conrad: I don't know, I don't know.
Patrick Farenga: But even 9%. You know, if you put that in perspective, it's a drop in the bucket compared to the 64 million or children or in elementary school in America. You know, i mean it's still a lot, so we're still minority. But that minority needs to be told that it's OK to step out and form your own idea of what your family can do and how you can learn, and it's not an irrevocable decision. You know, if you want to go back into the mainstream and go into school, fine, you know they'll welcome you.
Patrick Farenga: It happens all the time, you know. But everyone's always worried oh, you know, the kids are going to get left back, they're going to be. I'm very, very rarely seen that. I've seen schools arbitrarily make a decision, say, oh, that child was home schooled for three years, so they can't get into fifth grade. They should really go to fourth. And I've seen people successfully argue no, they can do fifth grade work And let's see if they can. Because it's true, like if you move from California to Massachusetts, they have different curriculums and stuff even in the public schools, different states. They just put you in the same grade, see how you do. Then they make a decision.
Patrick Farenga: So this idea that if you're going to homeschool your child, they're going to be outcast, ruining their life I was so glad to get that over, get over that myself, naturally. That was my first reaction too, back in 1981. But now it's like, why not, especially as we have this? I mean people like Zuckerberg, who just wants to wear a helmet all day, conduct our business in the metaverse and oh, it's just like wait a minute, how do we balance this? And that's one of those things that I really found Yvonne Nielich's work to be very helpful. People think like John Houlton and Nielich saying, oh, don't go to school, don't do anything, just do what you want. And it's like, no, it's a balance. It's like if I want to be a doctor, i'm going to have to go to some school in chiropractic or even a Reiki, right, you've got to go to some classes and get certified. So, yeah, that's going to happen.
Patrick Farenga: But at the same time, we're told that we need more and more school. To me, back in the 70s, there was a debate whether or not to go to college, and that debate was settled because my parents told me a high school degree is not worth what it used to be. A high school degree is now what a college degree is worth. So you need a college. Yeah, so this hierarchy of value education keeps depreciating And we have to keep adding more years of schooling. So now it's like we put the lower age down to five or four now in a lot of states, and the upper age to 18. And then, of course, four years of college. Now you're going to be 21, 22. So we're putting more and more people in this box instead of like well, how do we get in the world? I mean, there's still going to be a need for teachers and classes and groups to do things, but we can organize them differently than we have.
Patrick Farenga: And that's where I think the big message gets lost. With homeschooling and unschooling, it's like it's not every man for every woman for themselves. It's not like this completely individualized thing. I mean, i love how you were talking before we started this about how your friends are coming down to stay with you in Sicily. They're coming from Copenhagen, right? I mean, that's what it's like when you're on school You bring people in and you welcome. You find people who want to welcome you into their lives.
Cecilie Conrad: But I think also, for me at least one shift that we have to make, more than whether or not we take classes or whether or not we study certain academics. We have to shift the whole idea that only academics count. Yes, as if Education. So I could brag and talk about how many languages my kids speak and how many cultures they know about, and how much Islamic art they can produce with their hands and whatever, and everybody would be very impressed. But if I talk about how good they are at cutting the nails of dogs and playing certain computer games, or jumping into an ice cold pool or walking 20 kilometers in one day, that's not like. That doesn't count.
Cecilie Conrad: And I think we have a job to do as unschoolers living outside this schooled lifestyle, to just question this idea that everything before the college degree, everything from birth to job, is about how much academics can you learn, and this de-evaluates everything else. So it's not about how balanced are you, or will you make people happy when you enter a room, or can you find your way through maybe, as you've just shared with us really hard times. I mean, your 20s were not easy years. They were very, very formative years And you had to take up a big challenge of helping a good friend through his last years. Can you manage that? There are so many other things, other challenges of this life Then I mean it's easier to learn math when you're 56 than to learn to handle life. I mean it's kind of too late if you're 56 and you don't even know what to do with yourself when you get out of bed in the morning.
Cecilie Conrad: And I think this whole evaluation system you shared that you like to do magic tricks. People don't take that seriously, even though it's a skill. It takes a lot of work to do a good magic trick and actually it can change the whole feeling of total situation. Everybody are a little more happy when you leave, and well. So I agree that we can do education in many different ways, but I also think that we have to consider not calling it education and coming to just calling it life. How do we want to live our life?
Patrick Farenga: Yeah, John wrote a book called Instead of Education Ways to Help People Do Things Better. Seems to me like a very simple concept, But it will help people do things better right.
Cecilie Conrad: How to just do things, because when you do things, you learn things. No one likes to do things that they are very good at and just keep doing the same thing over and over and over. Maybe some do because there are so many people. Probably there are a few people who like to do that. Most people don't. Most people like a challenge And whenever there's a challenge there's learning going on. So it's more about passion. It's more about doing things we really like to do and doing them well, if we see that we grow and when we grow we learn. So learning And having the time.
Cecilie Conrad: Having the time.
Patrick Farenga: And the school eats up so much time, and then our work does too. It's a real issue And that, to me, is what the balance thing is about. It's like balancing what I want to do with my family, with myself, and the social expectations that others have, because I do have jobs, i work in engagements with other people, and finding that balance is important, but it's so unbalanced right now. I mean, just while we're talking, i forgot to turn notifications off, so I'm wearing these old things up in the corner of my screen, these kinds of things. Then, every couple of weeks, i get notices from my health care company about things I should be doing or watching out for. It's like, leave me alone, there's so much noise.
Patrick Farenga: And then the scam calls And oh my god, don't get me going about the internet and Facebook, and I mean it's amazing how phony so much of this stuff is And it's getting so much worse. So we really need to find authenticity by balancing, like saying no, i'm not going to use Facebook today, or at least for the next three hours, something like that For me it's like taking a break from the internet is a great thing. It really recharges my batteries.
Jesper Conrad: I think I would like to ask you is you have grown children And they have been homeschooled, unschooled as well. We are 10 years down the line with our oldest who have never been to school. But if you are a Not our oldest, not our oldest, our oldest We ignore our oldest child. I'm not ignoring our oldest child. She's a grown up So I don't see her as a child anymore. Our second child has never been to school. I say a second home place child right now. But I talked with Cecilia earlier this day about he. We were going to talk with you And she said oh, i remember back when we started this And when I was like that could be interesting to start to homeschool or unschool. But I mean, if you have a baby on the lab, there's so much stuff going on in your life You don't maybe have the time to read all the books out there. So how to start? What are you? Do you have any advice for people who are starting down the road?
Patrick Farenga: Well, i think that one of the best things you could do is to actually meet people in person. I think it could be a real mistake going on to Facebook or a website first. I mean, that's what we do now. But I've talked to more than one person who said, oh, i went to such and such a group And there were just so high handed and dismissive of my concerns, and so I mean people. I mean, i appreciate it, because I spent a lot of time in the 80s talking to my parents, my mother-in-law, so maybe trying to about the value of homeschooling and unschooling in particular. But I appreciate that, like I said, or, at the top of this, like people are still asking about socialization and if they can get into college, even though there's books and research and, again, you can find that on the internet if you want. But the internet has become so poisoned You really need a good sherpa to find things that are worth paying attention to.
Cecilie Conrad: So would you recommend go, look for someone who homeschool or unschool and meet them in person rather than picking up a book.
Patrick Farenga: Yeah, and try to meet their, if you can. I mean try to meet their children. I think that's the thing is like to me meeting the children of these families. We had open houses The first or the last Wednesday of a month John would have an open house And people would come down to the office to talk with John. And what got me convinced that homeschooling work was my conversations with the kids, because none of them were. I mean sure there were a few that were shy and wouldn't talk to me, but by and large there were not. They were used to talking to strangers with their parents nearby For you, yeah, yeah. And it was very comfortable and interesting to talk to them. It wasn't just like, oh, how's school? They would talk about the thing that we're building this. I'm on the sports team, i'm doing gymnastics. It wasn't just like the grind, the usual discussion you have with a fifth grader say you come and have a school. I mean that kind of blew me away.
Patrick Farenga: It's like yeah, they're not talking about cramming for tests and how they hate this book and hate this teacher and blah, blah, blah. Instead it was like oh yeah, i'm doing this, i'm doing that, i help my mom and dad do X, y and Z. All of a sudden they're like wow, it's like what we were saying earlier. I mean, education is not. Schooling is not the same as education. I know We've completely screwed the term education because we forget its origin. I talk about this in a talk I gave on YouTube about the 40th anniversary edition of Teach Your Own, and I've mentioned this more than once.
Patrick Farenga: But real quickly, ivan Illich pointed out the Latin word for education is the word edukari And that means to draw forth, and what it specifically means is to draw forth mother's milk. It's nurturing, it's referring to the act of breastfeeding, of nurturing, and then Illich pointed out that that's why, if you look at some medieval monasteries or earlier, the abbots are shown having breasts, because they're dispensing the milk of knowledge and the milk of kindness and so on. So but we've taken the idea to draw forth the opposite. It's not the baby pulling, it's the adult doing the pushing. Wow. And so if we would only switch that around, because that's what unschooling is about, right? Oh, you want to learn the piano, let's try it. Oh, you don't like the piano, ok, try some drums. Whatever You know music, fine, but in school it's like, no, you've got to keep playing that piano until the end of the semester, and then we'll make a decision.
Patrick Farenga: It's like you know, come on, i'll be.
Cecilie Conrad: It's about voluntary education. I mean, it's about who decides Yeah, we decide Yeah, not about whether you take a class or not. It's about who decides to take that class.
Cecilie Conrad: Right And I think also we took all initiative out of the children because we decide, we get adults and also we started this conversation about the individual versus the institution And, with our governments, we give them the power to, in an institutionalized way, to decide for everyone what they are going to do with 10 years of their life even more sometimes places. And so there is no personal freedom for the children, there's no voluntary education. It's all being decided by someone else. And if you flip that around and say, let's do that from your 32 and 15 years onwards, someone else decides for what you're going to do No one. It would be riot. That would be riot. That would be good to the children. We think that we made this fantasy world where we have the right to do that, and we believe it's really weird that it's a good thing.
Jesper Conrad: Right.
Cecilie Conrad: Because it's obviously not To me it's amazing.
Patrick Farenga: Think about it. It's time, it's our time And, having seen the untimely death of dogs and family members and stuff, time is really, really important. And what do we do to kids? Well, i don't know about you, but I could say I had my years of Spanish. I can't speak Spanish. I had my years of higher math. I could do some algebra, but that's about it. But I passed those courses. I can't remember half of the world history I studied, but I remember the magic. I remember the music. I remember some of the books I've read and some papers that I've written, but I was very, very good. I spent so much of the time. I'm sorry. It's to waste people's time, it seems.
Patrick Farenga: Exactly, and then you pay for it and say, oh, here's an A, you're wonderful, but you don't even remember it.
Cecilie Conrad: I was a very good student. I had a lot of the equivalent of As in my time, and I know, when I scroll back my years of my childhood, what I learned. I learned in my own time. Exactly, i learned to read before I started in school. My mother was a Danish teacher, and so she had a whole library of literature And I sat under the table or in the chair at the nights because I could sleep and read all her books. I studied French in France, not in school. I learned English in the summer vacation with my sister because we took it as a challenge Just let's learn to speak English. And so we did, and I had a few inspiring teachers for short times of my years in school where I remember I actually learned something while being in school setting. Otherwise, i learned because I was cheating. I was not paying attention to what was going on in the school because I had a book under the table reading something that actually interested me. Right, right.
Patrick Farenga: Not unheard of.
Cecilie Conrad: But I got all these A's and they were so impressed, but it was just a waste of time.
Patrick Farenga: It really was Yeah, and because if someone wants to learn something, like now, i want to learn Spanish. So I'm doing Duolingo on my own And it's like no one's forcing me and I have a reason. I'd like to form magic for inner city children. Most of them speak Spanish. I was like you know something I could do with my life. Why?
Cecilie Conrad: not. Spanish is fun. I learned Spanish a few years ago. It's a fun language.
Patrick Farenga: Yeah, yeah. But again, i have mandatory Spanish. I don't remember any of it And I passed Same thing with Latin. I had to take Latin when I was in high school. Although I appreciate it I mean my brother, philip, was a Latin major in college So I appreciate the Latin language That doesn't mean I have to speak it and study it. I appreciate German and Danish, but not on my list to learn.
Cecilie Conrad: I'm happy there are doctors around, but I'm not a doctor.
Patrick Farenga: We don't have to all be able to do everything Right right, but we think, at least in the States, that everyone has to go to college in order to be somebody.
Cecilie Conrad: Otherwise, you know, and the thing is That's so weird. You know why are we not somebody? just you know Right.
Patrick Farenga: And the thing is, when I revised Teacher Own in 2021, so this is going back to almost two years now I found that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York noted that 43% of college graduates are doing work that does not require a college degree. Yes, 43% Why? you know why. go through that expense and trouble and mental anguish. you know and you're going to wind up like I did. You're the master's degree, working in a bookstore running a cash register and stocking books.
Cecilie Conrad: Well, that would be because you want your college degree, right? If you're having a college degree, then I think you should do it. Yes, absolutely. The problem is the motivation and the problem is who decides.
Patrick Farenga: Yes.
Cecilie Conrad: The person really wants to go to college because that's where all the fun is and they want to read all the books and that's just so very interesting. Go ahead, knock yourself out. I had 10 wonderful years at the University of T. I loved it. It was amazing because there was actually professors around who knew what they were talking about And I was reading real books in loads of languages and it was very, very interesting. I had a lot of fun. I never used my education ever to get a job, but I had a lot of fun and found it very interesting And I think everyone should go do it. I would like another university degree just for fun, yeah. But do you do it to be someone, or to do it because someone else think you have to? or that's a waste of time. It really is.
Jesper Conrad: But, pat, i'm actually glad you ended up with a college degree that made you stand in a bookstore.
Patrick Farenga: I know The way right goes right.
Jesper Conrad: I'm not going to say that Because that bookstore have led many, many people to help get into the fun schooling, and I'm looking a little at the time. We try to keep our podcast to around an hour, but we have so much more to talk about Just one thing. I'd like to say Yeah at least.
Patrick Farenga: Nothing I'm going to add because, cecilia, something you said just triggered it. It's like, yeah, if you want to go to college to study oceanography or marine biology, definitely, but let's not think that that's the only way to study those topics. So I'll never forget this. There's a. I had it somewhere here. Oh, here it is. This is the 30th anniversary edition of the Teenage Liberation Handbook.
Patrick Farenga: Grace Wellen wrote this in 1991. And she used a lot of material from Growing Without Schooling. It's still in here And this is a great book. I just love this book. But one of the things that and I don't think this is in the book, but she said this in a talk that when the first edition came out, she came to Boston and she gave a wonderful talk And I really remember this She said she read in Growing Without Schooling that a daughter asked her dad I want to become a marine biologist, I want to work with the ocean and sea animals, and so he said oh well, then you're going to have to become a marine biologist, and that's that education thinking going right, Yes it is.
Patrick Farenga: And while Grace said well, what about all the other ways that you could study? You could study whale songs. If you're into music, you could study the musicality. If you're an artist, you could be drawing the animals. You could be drawing the sea scapes.
Patrick Farenga: There are so many different ways of approaching marine biology. It just doesn't have to be from an academic point of view. You could work for the Cousteau Society. You don't need a college degree to do that. But what all these things do is they may lead you to a college degree because that may be the next step, but we put all these obstacles in front of people to do jobs that are based on very arbitrary credentials. I mean, to me, the only fair way that this would ever work out in terms of like, oh, i'm qualified to do a job, is that you actually have a test at the job, like six weeks, where you try to sell cars And then they hire or fire you up. Or, if you're a scientist or something, you've got to work on a project with certain people for three times or three weeks or something and see how you gel, and so on. Instead, we just use college degrees as proxies. Oh, you've got a college degree in science. Great, you'll make a great scientist. Well, you know.
Cecilie Conrad: But that was what I was trying to say that my 10 years at university I enjoyed the studying in and of itself Yeah, because I liked it And I knew when I started I want to be here because I want to read these books, not because I want to do what I can do afterwards with this Right.
Patrick Farenga: But it's not a means to an end.
Cecilie Conrad: So if you want to study marine biology, because you're really interested in studying marine biology, not working with the ocean, then go study marine biology. I think it, i mean I really recommend. I'm not against education. I think it was wonderful And I would like another university degree. I think it was amazing. I just think we have to do it because we like doing it, because that's what lights the fire in the morning. We do it as means to an end. That's kind of wobbly. We don't really even know why we are doing it or what are we going to do with it afterwards. Then it's a lot of time and money to spend. That's right, or something we might use.
Patrick Farenga: Yeah, i mean, and there's a lot about the way we structured university life that's worthwhile and that people want. I don't know if this is a trend in Europe, but in America they're putting a lot of retirement Not a lot, but there are retirement communities being built near colleges or built by the colleges so that they could take advantage of these lectures and social gatherings about intellectual topics and whatnot Those people do. If we don't turn them off to education, it's a lifelong thing, But we spend so much time turning it into a do as I stay, sit down, shut up and do as I say, Sort of I don't know how it's going with your first institution, using the first 10 years to turn people off before they are free to enjoy the education at the university.
Patrick Farenga: Well, as Ilich wrote back in the 70s. He said school is set up to pre-LEMA children for office work.
Cecilie Conrad: So they'll be used to it. That's what they're ready. OK, maybe we end it on that, La.
Jesper Conrad: But we should definitely talk again, pat, where we talk On on schooling. it was wonderful to hear your road on to the way you ended up with on schooling. For people who want to know more about growing without schooling and your own work, where should they go? Where will they find your work?
Patrick Farenga: On my website, wwwjohnholtgwscom. Gws is the initials for the magazine Growing Without Schooling John started and that I continued after he passed away. He published it from 77 to 85, and I published it from mid-85 to 2001. So we did almost a little more than two times as many issues as John did So to me, that's another thing, john died, but the work grew and carried on. So, as another thing I said, this is important beyond just this idea of telling a book.
Cecilie Conrad: Yes, still one of the first persons people talk about Once you mention I might want to homeschool read John Holt, yeah.
Jesper Conrad: I would say Tim, go meet real people.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, go meet real people.
Patrick Farenga: That's my yeah. I mean, if you can't, if there's no real people in your then reading John. But you know, gosh, teen Lib is a good book. There's a lot of good books. I've only read part of it but, gosh, i can't think of the title right now. But Gina Riley has a book about the joy of unschooling And she just interviews families, talk about what makes unschooling a happy event for them. So I'm looking forward to reading that.
Jesper Conrad: That could be one of the topic for our next talk. all the great books on the subject out there, so people know what to look for. But now we should end. It was wonderful, we should end.
Patrick Farenga: Yes, thank you again, thank you so much.
Cecilie Conrad: It's always a pleasure speaking with you And enjoy Sicily. I've never been there.
Patrick Farenga: I've been to Rome twice, you know, but never been to Sicily.
Cecilie Conrad: I'm a bit too late Yeah.
Patrick Farenga: Hopefully I'm making it.
Cecilie Conrad: But I've waited a month or two. It's quite cold in Sicily at the moment, actually.
Patrick Farenga: Yeah, i know It's pretty cold here.
Cecilie Conrad: I would believe April would be a good time to go.
Jesper Conrad: But we are learning the culture in deep because the place we have rented there is a pizza oven, so we are Hey, there you go. You're learning the culture.
Patrick Farenga: This is a pizza. No, take care. Good seeing you. Bye.
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