#43 Pat Farenga | Shaping Lifelong Learning: The Power and Potential of Unschooling

Patrick Farenga

🗓️ Recorded October 16th, 2023. 📍Coma Ruga, Spain

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In this episode, we go into:

Dive into an enlightening episode of our podcast where we explore the transformative world of alternative education models with Patrick Farenga, a luminary in the homeschooling and unschooling arena. This episode promises an in-depth look at the evolution of education, from traditional classrooms to innovative concepts like charter schools, and micro-schools, and the impact of the global pandemic on educational approaches.

Core Discussion in this episode:

  • Historical Evolution: We journey through a century of educational shifts, witnessing the transition from conventional methods to modern alternatives.
  • The Unschooling Philosophy: Unravel the essence of unschooling with Patrick Farenga, exploring its potential to reshape societal norms, parenting, and work-life balance.
  • Debating Education's Value: Engage in a critical discussion on the relevance and financial implications of college education, contrasting the tuition landscapes in the US and Europe.
  • Insights from Experience: Drawing from Farenga's rich experience and our collective perspectives, we explore the challenges and triumphs of unschooling, highlighting its role in fostering trust and lifelong learning.

We also touch upon the future perspectives of unschooling:

  • Envisioning Educational Futures: We speculate on the potential future of education and work, considering the increasing shift towards unschooling and remote learning methodologies.
  • Societal Implications: Reflect on how mainstreaming homeschooling could reshape educational structures, emphasizing inclusivity and breaking down age-based segregation in learning.

This episode offers a rare opportunity to rethink education's role in our lives and society. Patrick Farenga's insights, combined with our analysis, present a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities within alternative education. Tune in for a session that promises to enlighten and inspire, whether you're an educator, parent, or lifelong learner, keen on understanding the evolving landscape of learning.

▬ About Patrick Farenga ▬

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.


▬ EPISODE LINKS ▬

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Jesper Conrad 

AUTOGENERATED TRANSCRIPT

0:00:00 - Jesper Conrad
Welcome to Self-Directed. We are your hosts, cecilia and Jesper Conrad, and now it's time to welcome this week's guest. Today, we yet again have the pleasure of being together with Patrick Ferenker, also known as Pat Ferenker, who has been so deep into the whole homeschooling unschooling movement, for I cannot even count the years, patrick. How many years is it?

0:00:32 - Patrick Farenga
Well, 1981, so 42 years 42 years.

0:00:37 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, first of all, thank you for the dedication and I know that your work and the work on the growing without schooling magazine have meant for many families. Recently we had a guest on our podcast who actually mentioned that they got sent the growing without schooling to Australia.

0:00:59 - Cecilie Conrad
It's nice to see you.

0:01:01 - Patrick Farenga
I was going to say we've been interviewed so often we can dismiss with the formalities, right Well yeah, you could call it a formality, but it's also the personal.

0:01:11 - Cecilie Conrad
It's really nice to see you and it's really nice to be able to stay soon beyond the same continent. And I look forward to having this conversation with you today. And also that we had this little intro talk before we hit record where we can talk about today something other than attachment and teenagers. We might touch upon attachment and teenagers, but the political climate intro will be we can talk about what's going on in the States at the moment.

0:01:45 - Patrick Farenga
Sure, sure. Well, as I had mentioned to you earlier, one was this September 20th, september 28th and 29th, there was a conference at Harvard University, this emerging schools model moving from alternatives to mainstream, and so, after 42 years now they're saying, oh, you know, homeschooling and the thing, and largely a lot of things that happened during the pandemic, phrases that didn't exist, like micro schools and learning pods. These are the things that they were discussing, as well as charter schools and let's see I'm just looking through the different people there and then businesses that there were some very large businesses that fund charter schools nationwide and some of them were interesting. There was a virtual schools and AI made it. There was a panel on AI, which was interesting, but overall it was.

As I mentioned to you. I'm still trying to collect all my thoughts about this because it was really, on the one hand, very encouraging to see that there is all this energy and some of it is grassroots. Like I said, there's some very large businesses behind, operating behind the scenes, propping up some of these smaller businesses and micro schools, but basically it was either homeschoolers who found teachers to work with them as either a homeschooling co-op or what they call a micro school, where they were like put like maybe as many as 10 or 20 kids in someone's home with two teachers, and so it becomes like a small school for a couple of hours and then the parents pick up the kids and some of them got even more elaborate, where, like, they would have morning classes and then afternoon nature walks. That was actually, I think, more of a charter school situation, but it was interesting to me. I'm not sure.

0:03:55 - Cecilie Conrad
I'm familiar with the charter school. What does that mean?

0:03:58 - Patrick Farenga
Yeah, let me explain that.

0:03:59 - Cecilie Conrad
School, school makes sort of intuitive sense.

0:04:02 - Patrick Farenga
Yeah, very small, what's?

0:04:05 - Cecilie Conrad
the charge.

0:04:06 - Patrick Farenga
Political about this is in the United States, you know, we have a separation of church and state and we have public funding for public schools, but private schools are privately funded, they don't receive any public funding, and so for years, people who've been pushing for school choice created this concept called the charter school movement, and this has been around now I guess maybe 15 or 20 years now, and charter schools exist in a lot of states and basically they receive a charter from the state that allows them to operate a school that receives state funding, and the idea behind the charters was to show that they can experiment and do different things than what the public schools were doing, and they would act as laboratories for innovation and show us all these wonderful new ways. And by and large, in my opinion, most charter schools turned out to just be prep schools, you know, schools that are modeled after the elite private college preparatory schools, and that really was a lot of their goals was to get students into college, and as is the goal of most public schools. But what was interesting is some of these charter charters and largely the microschools and the hybrid homeschools, as some of them were calling themselves at this conference that that wasn't like one. One charter school had a theme of entrepreneurship, so they would have their students, regardless of their age, creative business. They'd show them how to run the business, how to market the business, and then they would be graded or evaluated on how successful they were at making their business come true. And that sounds like a lovely plan, you know.

I mean for kids. One, and I know that a couple of all three of my daughters got involved in their own like business. I think every kid does at some point in there. So I mean that made sense. But then the more I thought about it is that all there is, you know, is it entrepreneurship for 12 years for these kids. So I mean, you know I would answer questions there, but I'm grateful at least some people were thinking a little outside the box, but they were using themes and then, and then the you know, and then another thing. So charter schools were an attempt or an attempt to try and make education more meaningful and relevant to those students lives, and again, it's been a mixed bag.

0:06:44 - Cecilie Conrad
But the difference between a charter school and a private school is that the charter school can experiment, but it has public funding, correct? And the private school can experiment and have curriculum it wants and it will still be accepted as a school. Yeah, whatever your curriculum, really.

0:07:06 - Patrick Farenga
Well, most private schools are become prep schools, you know.

0:07:11 - Cecilie Conrad
Okay, so obviously it will be.

0:07:14 - Patrick Farenga
That law is what you know, what is always allowed alternative schools and this was one of the things that came up at the event. I was talking with Ken Danford, who runs talk about teenagers the liberated learners network. Are you familiar with that? There are a bunch of. Ken started a school, I think 23 years ago, not a school, a learning center. See, this is another thing. In America, if you call something a school, it has legal implications and regulatory implications, but if you're running a learning center.

0:07:53 - Cecilie Conrad
You're free. It's not really one.

0:07:54 - Patrick Farenga
Okay.

0:07:54 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, you can have anyone.

0:07:55 - Patrick Farenga
So, yeah, so Ken, read it. It's called North Star. Self directed learning for teens started at 23 years ago, which was one of the first. My colleagues who's an, a chef or who edited grown without schooling magazine for 16 years she was one of the teachers there facilitators I guess we'll call them and it was a wonderful place that spawned some not imitators, or I say just spawned other other colleagues to create their own learning centers, and so I think there are now eight of them and they're caught and they've, and each one has a different name.

Like there's the Princeton learning co-op, I think it's called, and that's in Princeton, new Jersey, and they're there, they're all around, yeah, pretty much the Northeast in here, and and they focus on giving teens a spot to hang out, like they don't have to go to classes. If they're enrolled they could just sit in the common area, they could do stuff arts and crafts, they, they could organize events. But then there are daily like events. You know, like you can work with Susanna on writing, you can do math with Ken or somebody else. They have other teachers who come in and out. So you know that's the gray area. You know that alternative schools, like you know, in Cambridge, massachusetts, near me, there's actually a brick building that says the Graham Parks alternative school written right there. It's like they're bragging that they're an alternative school.

But as I learned at this conference, as I was sitting with Ken and some other people involved in the, you know, these sorts of learning learning centers Lori Walker of the villages out in Portland, oregon she's been running one from for many, many years herself, and one of the things that came up was alternative schools and the history of alternative schools in America got started as a as part of the civil rights movement to help, you know, bring minorities up to par is because they they felt that, you know, standardized tests and standardized curriculum were all not appropriate for kids and families that are suffering from poverty and all these other issues and put them on the same, you know, taking the same SAT tests where they give questions about, you know, par three golf courses and owning and mortgages, you know, to kids who've never been to a golf course and families who've never don't stand a chance of owning a mortgage. So so the alternative school movement got started that way and was popular and that's what John Holt was writing about in the late 60s it was part of, but he saw that that was changing and what we learned from this event the emerging school models is that. So now school choice. And it was the conservative right wing that was promoting conventional schools, saying standardized tests of a way to go, and eventually they whittled down the alternative school movement till it was practically non existent, as you know. You know it's just a few little handfuls of groups like arrow and other groups that are trying to hang on there and support it.

But now, politically it's weird because all the language of school choice is now on the right wing, you know, saying that. You know we need school choice to get the kids out of these woke indoctrinations of you know, presentations of history and all this other stuff. And so now the school choice movement has gone from supporting alternatives for underrepresented families and trying to find other ways of helping him. So now it's on, it's being run, not run. It's. The language has been, is being used to promote these schools and, like I said, some of them do seem like like they're trying to do something different, like the entrepreneurship one and stuff like that, but by and large they're not. You know, they're not like alternative schools in the sense of giving children freedom, and they're not, you know, of the ability to direct their education as much. One of the big takeaways for me from this event was that so many of the people were talking about learning outside the box. You know, we have to think outside the box, but no one wanted to change the box, no.

0:12:24 - Cecilie Conrad
Yeah, I also think when you call it an alternative school, it's still a school.

0:12:33 - Patrick Farenga
Yeah, and that's my second point is I've always been saying we need alternatives to school, not alternative school. Yes, you know the other places for children to be and yeah, yeah, this, you know the models that they were presenting here. Yeah, or one, what one step in that direction, but they're hardly revolutionary, other than the way that they affect the funding mechanism. You can help small groups, but it still struck me as like everyone was going into their little pods.

you know and and and like the idea of you know, because in America, you know, and most democracies were pluralist country and that's and that was one of the reasons why, you know, they felt that compulsory education was needed. After this, you know, after the during the industrial revolution, you know they, what do we do with the kids if we have all these adults who no longer like have their agrarian you know their lives, you know, or mercantile lives? Now, you know, now they got to work in factories nine to five, or those days it was like nine to nine, yeah, and you know. And so school? You know compulsory schooling is kind of like an unjust and quick fix. You know, based on the model of the mechanistic model, that schools are factories of learning. You just run the kids through the factory.

0:14:02 - Cecilie Conrad
And so at the time probably was the better option for the children. It was better to for the state to intervene and say no, the kids can't be in the factories, they have to be in the school they were, absolutely, because they were in the factories and they're in the coal mines.

Yeah, even worse. The problem, the main problems we have now, is everything has changed. I have. I have. She calls herself my grandmother, but she's actually my granddad sister. She came when my granddad died at the funeral and said I know your granddad wasn't a very present granddad in your life. I would like to volunteer to take his place now that he's dead. Can I be your grandparent? Yeah, she's just amazing.

0:14:49 - Jesper Conrad
He's fantastic.

0:14:50 - Cecilie Conrad
She really is, and she'll be 100 years in March.

0:14:56 - Patrick Farenga
Next month.

0:14:57 - Cecilie Conrad
When you talk to her, she has perspective and she has this amazing memory. She remembers everything. Everything. It's amazing, everything is clear to her so she can really really show perspective on what happened the last. She remembers the last 95 years or more. She remembers, you know, she for her. She remembers getting running water inside the homes. He remembers when moving was by foot and horses.

Right she remembers the silence, or she remembers silence and stars. She remembers both of the big wars, it's just all of it. And well, she was born after the first one of them, but just in the aftermath of it, so it was all anyway. So when you talk to her, it's clear that so much have changed the childhood of someone being born today, or someone today in school age, let's say 12, in the middle of the chaos. It's just so much different from this aunt I have who was born in in 20. 1924. But the school is the same, yeah, the school she was in and the school kids are in today. Well, there's the iPad.

0:16:20 - Patrick Farenga
Maybe they have, but it's going to say kids have iPhones. Yeah.

0:16:24 - Cecilie Conrad
But this basic structure who gets to decide and who stands in front of the class and and the curriculum, and the sitting down, and the age segregation and and the test at the end of the year and the ranking of the children and this machine is the same machine, which is, when you think about it, really weird. Even workspaces for adults have changed a lot over that century, but the schools, well, maybe they're not allowed to hit the children anymore.

0:17:07 - Patrick Farenga
I think 16 states. 16 states allow paddling using a wooden paddle on a student.

0:17:18 - Cecilie Conrad
You know they are violent over there.

0:17:19 - Jesper Conrad
They yeah.

0:17:21 - Cecilie Conrad
Every time I talk to an American who tells me I chose not to spank my child, I'm like it's illegal in Denmark. I'm like what? Yeah, I mean right, it's illegal to spank, don't hit people. Well, yeah, see in America, right.

0:17:37 - Patrick Farenga
So like that, which makes perfect sense to me, so legal to, to you know, to hit somebody, especially someone older and younger than you. Instead, it's like no, that's my parental right. I know, right, I know. Unfortunately, in this, this crazy spot, you know, this is one of those crazy spots where, like you know, same thing with guns. The vast majority of Americans want guns regulated and more people are coming home schooling because they don't want their kids to get shot in schools. You know, here in America. But just try and put any sort of constraint on a gun and you know you'll be.

0:18:16 - Cecilie Conrad
The whole thing explodes yeah.

0:18:18 - Patrick Farenga
Yeah.

0:18:19 - Cecilie Conrad
Okay, let's not be too judgmental yeah, I mean. I'm, I'm, I'm sometimes a little hard on the Americans. I just I really am surprised that that could even be a thing you consider when, in the 21st century, they want to ban home schooling.

0:18:38 - Patrick Farenga
I mean, they're talking about doing background checks. So John Oliver I don't know if he's a British comedian, it's an American to me here a lot, he just he just it's on my Facebook page. I put the clip up there, for in the growing without schooling page, where he had a whole episode about home schooling and noted how you know children are abused among home schoolers and that we need to have a law, you know, that bans home schooling or at least as background checks on home schooling parents before they can home school. You know, and it's just like well, why do we have to do that? Why not just have a law it says it's illegal to beat up a child?

0:19:20 - Cecilie Conrad
Why not just?

0:19:21 - Patrick Farenga
give the children the rights that they're going to get when they're 18? You know why can't you beat someone up until they're 18 without a penalty. You know?

0:19:28 - Jesper Conrad
and really weird. Besides, people shouldn't hit each other at all, then it's, as a parent, not the best way to help your child to understand how to solve issues. If you have a problem with a friend, it's you solve it by talking, not by hitting. It goes for small kids, it goes for for for grownups I am. What you said earlier made me think about a thing. When you say alternatives to school, I am now not the 41 years down the game of working with on schooling only around plus 10.

I have no doubt that learning by curiosity and learning when you're ready, and all these things that the on schooling philosophy have shown me, is, I believe, the best way to learn. When I look back at my own every life, this is what I see have happened and I still see can happen. I go down oh, this is interesting, and I just work on it, understand it, learn a lot of stuff and I have a lot of fun with it. So I believe this is the correct one of the best way to to learn. Something is actually what is happening on on schooling families.

But when? Then I can sometimes think but would it work? I it's a really big shift that would need to happen in society. If just say, 50% of everybody started doing it Because there's so many parents who have grown up with this idea that you need to have two full times jobs and and and you need to be a productive member of society to have some selfishness. You have some selfish, demon, self word. So I'm a little in doubt if it. I'm like sitting and thinking but can it work If everybody were on schooling? I cannot a phantom the society right now. I know it sounds maybe a little weird, but I'm like it's a big step. It's the right thing for the children, but it would take a lot of work for the parents.

0:21:47 - Patrick Farenga
Yeah, yeah, well, that's why I think that unschooling is changing things incrementally. You know, I mean, and I think that's just probably the best way, no one, I mean revolutions cause more revolutions. So, you know, one of the interesting things that came up was the one of the co-chairs of this event at Harvard, paul Peterson, said that, as you know, because I've been here in the number of years, because I've been here in the number of homeschoolers go as high as is like 12 million during the COVID thing. That's because people were just defined to call themselves homeschoolers, you know, but he said, you know, dr Peterson said at this event that homeschoolers now represent about 6% of the population, about 3 million students. So that that's an increase.

Because you know, john, john and again this gets to the point that you were bringing up Jesper, which is John Holm, never thought that more than 2% of Americans would homeschool their kids because they don't. We're not a very child friendly society and he recognized that. You know that. You know it's just going to take time and people just got to get used to this idea. They have to see examples of it and so I think it'd be pretty amazed that you know, it's up to 6%, you know, according to this gentleman, and even if it, you know, even if it is, that doesn't mean they're all on schoolers by any stretch of the imagination, you know. I mean you know the class you know, one of the most popular. I don't know if it's most popular, but certainly for as long as I've been involved in homeschooling there's always been the classical curriculum.

0:23:28 - Cecilie Conrad
People you know which is fine, and I think the classics are great.

0:23:32 - Patrick Farenga
It's good to know about Odysseus and Ylid and the Odyssey and all that stuff. Range of rule, absolutely you know. But you want to make that your complete curriculum for your children, day in, day out, for 12 years. That's your business and they do it.

You know, and so they're part of that. You know, 6 million two and I think they're probably a larger part than the end schooling part. You know, because people tend to teach the way they were taught and they're really. You know, it's just like we tend to parent the way we're a parent. You know, that's why these these terrible things just keep going on generation, generation and some families. But you know, if, like yourselves myself, you know you question it, you just kind of take a step back to what else could I do with my kids. You know, then that's and that that's how it changes.

You know, like, for instance, you know the guy running one of the AI schools that you had a patent. You know he was bragging about how they could use artificial intelligence to how to work with any child's interests. So, no matter what your kid is interested in, we're going to help them learn. So the example he gave us two factor math equations. You know he says so if your kid is interested in Star Trek, the AI will use Star Trek examples to teach them two factor equations. Well, that's great, yeah, if the child wants to learn two factor equations at that moment. But basically it's like this instrumentalist idea that you know, these are all ploys to get you to.

0:25:09 - Cecilie Conrad
How can we gamify our curriculum? How can we push our agenda? That's basically it, yeah.

0:25:17 - Patrick Farenga
I mean you know if a child is learning how to use a checkbook, you know that's a great way to learn two factor equations. You know credits and debits and things like that. That way you know, I mean there's many ways. And then of course, playing board games, you know, but that takes patience and it takes observation. You know say, oh yeah, that's what you know. My kid knows how to do math. You know we can play. You know board games or poker and card games, you know, and they can calculate. You know the score and the pot for the money and whatnot you know. So you know there's a lot of ways.

And that was another thing that I think you know was of interest to me at this event because the homeschoolers on the panels there were a few homeschoolers on the panels. One was a single mom from Detroit was running a homeschool co-op. It was very interesting and you know, and they and the question came from the audience and from the and from, like, the organizers more than once during the two days. You know, how do you know your child is learning? And the homeschoolers by and large said because they're happy with what they're doing, I could see that they want to go to this class. They want to do these things, they're joyful, and then I can just see the administrator.

How do you measure joy? Where's the metric? You know you can put that paper and, sure enough, you know when the data crunchers for the charter schools, you know they wanted to show, you know how well the schools are doing stuff. You know when they were pressed. Well, why, why? Why must we use, you know, conventional school rubrics for unconventional learning? He said, because it's easy, it's the easiest thing for us, and I'm just sitting there, maybe for you, but what about for the kids?

0:27:09 - Cecilie Conrad
Yeah, it's their childhood.

0:27:10 - Patrick Farenga
The stick here. You know, you know. Again, going back back in the early 80s, there was this homeschooling, unschooling family in Northern California, the Colfaxes, and they pretty much used forage, which is an agrarian sort of club for kids and their son, grant, raised dairy goats and on their farm and the dairy goats all died and Grant figured out what happened and he wrote articles about it. He worked with the forage people and this took a few years and long story short, grant is now a medical researcher for the federal government. He got accepted into Harvard and it was so unusual back then that I think I mentioned the story once before, the one of the like the equivalent of the Daily Mirror or the National Enquirer here in America. When Grant got accepted to Harvard they ran the headline Goat Boy gets into Harvard.

0:28:13 - Cecilie Conrad
But it's interesting, though, how the shift between the childhood education that happens, let's say, before they are 15. It's a little different in the different countries where the line is. We have a shift at around 15 in Denmark, whereas schooling is mandatory before that, and then you have something equivalent to high school which will prepare you for your real education, like your profession, but that's not mandatory. So our shift goes there, and letting go and being unschooler until at least that shift for all the mandatory years and let the kids do whatever they want is something that we have now done with the children, to have our children, and I find it very interesting how now they come to this age where you would normally do a structured preparation for university, and then they actually want to do it now.

0:29:19 - Jesper Conrad
The brains are hungry on a different level.

0:29:22 - Cecilie Conrad
The brains and they want structure. They've obviously been studying all the years in their many different ways absorbing but also structured, sitting down to learn something if they wanted to. But we touched upon math before and I just right now we're observing something very interesting that one of them never did an organized math course, never did a workbook. Always sometimes, you know, would dip a toe, but not really anything. But, as you say, play board games, play Minecraft, have conversations, ask about the tax system or the discount in the shop or I don't know whatever. We talk about, like, yeah, you know how it goes, but no structure, no formalities and no math teacher. None of us are experts.

Nothing enforced at all, and nothing enforced and now he is studying a course under. So Cambridge has a preparation course for something the equivalent of high school. It's really high level. Their A level is above the standards that we're used to from our country. He's just doing it. All the wasted time from five-year-old to 15-year-old I mean all of the preparation, all the workbooks, all the rehearsals of the multiplications, all the equations that they had to calculate, all of the homework would have been wasted time. He's just I mean seriously, from day one he has the book, he has the workbook, which is both online, and he just thought I'm not even helping him. Yeah.

0:31:11 - Jesper Conrad
He's doing it. And we're talking four to six hours a day and he's having fun.

0:31:17 - Patrick Farenga
Yeah, and he comes out totally cool. He's going to talk to Katie in the first place.

0:31:23 - Cecilie Conrad
The preparation, those first 10 years, is just waste of time. That's right, because the moment that they are ready, it seems like it's just an excuse to hold the children there sitting. Yeah, yeah.

0:31:40 - Patrick Farenga
I mean, that's another issue that we here in the state in America have never come to grips with, which is childcare. People go broke paying for childcare here. It's really hard for single parents who have to work and stuff. Even for two-income families who have to work. It's really expensive because of all rules and regulations and all this stuff. But you know why aren't we review childcare as part of the education process? Now, john Holta wrote in the first version of teacher own, and it's an ad, kept it all. It's in the current edition as well. It says schools of education should get their students to go to families who have newborns and help them so that they understand, one, how children learn and, two, what it entails to raise a child. I mean, they're only going to be there on a part-time basis, helping the mom a couple of hours a day, so but even that would be more eye-opening than yet another lecture about what a six-year-old needs to learn in first grade.

0:32:47 - Cecilie Conrad
And also you asked before, jesper, how would it work if, let's say, half of the population decided to unschool or even just homeschool, which would mean that half of the population, half of the families with schoolchildren, which is not half of the population would probably have to decide to have one parent stay at home.

That's like the reason you say probably wouldn't work, but that's just not the entire truth. There are so many ways that we could change our idea about what work life looks like. It doesn't have to be eight to four or five days a week the same five days a week, by the way, for both parents, so that we make sure everyone has weekend at the same time. So the lines will be really long in the supermarket Sunday afternoon. We could distribute the working hours throughout the entire week, throughout the 24 hours of the day. We could work less, we could consume less I mean, most of us could easily consume less we could live more humble, we could have own less cars and we could drive them less, and it seems like these derivates of a society where people work less and therefore consume less and therefore burn less of the resources of the planet would be a good thing on many levels.

0:34:15 - Jesper Conrad
Absolutely.

0:34:16 - Cecilie Conrad
Another solution, not just about the childhood, but about the problems that we are facing.

0:34:22 - Jesper Conrad
One of the things I was pondering is, if I look back at my own many years of fatherhood now, I remember how it was going to work and I'm very grateful for the situation we have now where I can work from home and I don't need to work a lot, because we have succeeded on many levels of our dreams. But the level one of the things I remember is sometimes sitting at work, and Cecilia sent me wonderful pictures of what she and the children were doing and I became envious. Honestly, I actually remember sitting at work and thinking why is that not in my life? I want to be free as well.

0:35:09 - Cecilie Conrad
Another question that I've had for many years, for even maybe longer than no. Well, I became a mom quite young, but at least for as long as I've been a mom which is half of my life I've been thinking why is it I cannot have a professional, interesting, academic career, working three days a week? This is impossible. Yes, I can decide to do part time, but then I will be the underdog. It will never be fun. There is no way that I can use my you need to be an entrepreneur and be A great brain in a work situation.

0:35:50 - Jesper Conrad
I'm in a workplace now.

0:35:51 - Cecilie Conrad
What I could, if I may have created my own.

But the way we have structured career life, it's either you give 145% or you give up. So it's not for humans. It's not for humans who wants to use their brain or whatever it is brain in the end, whatever talent that they have to contribute with on this planet, but also go home and take the time to talk about nothing with their kids and maybe go for a run and slow cook or whatever. Have some of the outside of working life and a good big chunk of it. Because could I have worked three hours, three days a week in a meaningful job and you could have chosen the same? We could have needed no help and could have unschooled from the beginning.

But those jobs you have to create them yourself.

0:36:54 - Patrick Farenga
That's right. That's right, although things are changing and it's so interesting that we're in this part of the conversation because that was one of the things I learned when I first came to Holt Associates. I grew up in an Italian and American middle class family in the Bronx. All of a sudden I'm at this company where John Holt is saying things like we need to conserve water. It was very much into ecology and promoting things like the book Silent Spring, one of the first books about climate change and how we have to be careful with the earth, really about how we can be less dependent on the market and the state for our needs Not free, just less dependent. That really got me. I hired Susanna Schaeffer to be the editor of Growing Without Schooling Magazine.

After John died, her dad came to the office he visited. He bought a mixture that his daughter was in a good spot. He's looking at all the books that we had. One was about childbirths, doing home births. The other was teacher-owned, doing homeschooling. The other was caring for your own dead, not doing expensive funerals and stuff. His name is Isaiah. Isaiah looked around and he says you know what the problem is with you guys? You never get out of the house there's a lot of truth to that because we wanted to bring it back.

That was something else that got me about the emerging schools thing. It was all about the education market and participating in the education market. I don't want my kids to think that they're going to get an education by buying stuff. You learn some things from buying things comparison. But come on, and Olaj pointed out, where do we get this whole idea of consumerism? Because we're fed little bits of information and then rewarded them through the school curriculum. We're being trained to ask for these rewards and to act for them.

Even back in 1981, john saw because he mentioned this in a teacher-owned when he wrote it that year that the population was shrinking of school-aged children. Now in America people are saying we don't want kids because we can't afford them, it's too expensive, and apparently in South Korea that's a real issue. And in China people don't want kids because it's become too expensive, it's too much work, it's too difficult. It's like wow, what's going to happen to society? But on the other hand, the opportunity for the education end of this is well, we went to and now, with technology, we're even talking about doing this more like educating the masses instead of educating individual people, so having smaller schools, more neighborhood relations and thinking more of like bio regionalism and being rooted in a place instead of I can't tell you.

I was doing an interview with a podcaster from France a couple of weeks ago and it was kind of bugging me because I saw three different ads for college that were running in various places. I was reading, each one had the same tagline change the world. Come to college and change the world. Boy, wow, what about getting a job Now? We go to college to change the world. It's a site like we've gotten so big with our aspirations but so teeny with our abilities to execute them.

0:41:29 - Cecilie Conrad
We feed people these things and also narrow with our options. Yeah, I mean, we're walking this well, not we personally, but lots of people walk the same path and they believe it will lead them to a good place. And in the States, more than in Europe, I suppose there is a big market factor to it, because I mean you have to save up for college, you have to pay for college and many people live on campus and that's very expensive and there's all this. It's big money probably, I mean. And for European it's different, especially for Scandinavian. It's for free. You go to university for your paid. Actually, you get a monthly salary for studying from the state and even student loans are state regulated, so you will not be exploited the rest of your life because of your student loans.

0:42:30 - Patrick Farenga
It's crazy that you're in America. We can't even talk about this. People just shut you down. Oh, that's socialism. And I was like, if it is bring it on.

0:42:38 - Cecilie Conrad
I heard it. I heard what was it. Yeah, I saw a Netflix thing with my oldest son about student loans and it was interesting because it was clearly an American production and we had to discuss and look up how the differences are, because student loans is very different here. And I heard I'm not very much into politics so forgive me, I don't know who it was, but it was an American politician who called it communism to give away education for free.

0:43:08 - Patrick Farenga
Oh, yeah, yeah, and that's how they dismiss everything. We won't even discuss it, it's just communism?

0:43:16 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, and I'm not a big state fan on many levels, but I'm like, if you are a state, then to invest in the brain trust, to invest in the future of your country, the future inventors, by giving them the best possible education, how can that be communism and a bad thing?

0:43:40 - Patrick Farenga
I mean it's kind of crazy.

0:43:42 - Cecilie Conrad
I mean, what's the reason for having a state if it's not about making sure the citizens no-transcript are doing good Right? So while we need with the, we need welfare, we need those who fall through the cracks to be caught by something so they don't fall all the way down and break Right, and we need, obviously, healthcare. Yeah absolutely yeah, it's. It's very eye-opening for me to travel, and that, to me, is thinking outside the box.

0:44:15 - Patrick Farenga
It's like every time, you know, they say we have to. The way to fix education is we need better teachers, we need better materials. It's like, what about providing the families with security? Yes, and they know that they're not going to lose their home because one of their parents got sick and can't work, because all our healthcare is tied to work until you become 65, you know, and you retire On Medicare, which is basically a socialist program. Yeah, it's takeover, yeah, which I'm very grateful for that, and social security, but but yeah, you know, we're in a very, we're in a very strange place and, and you know, the colleges really rule the roost about this, because everyone wants to get into college, and they used to.

When I was growing up there, they were like, oh, colleges aren't about, you know, job training. They're about making a well-rounded individual, and you know so you could do all sorts of things. But now it's all about job training and now they're finding out that you know even computers. You know if you'll do so well, yes, but you know even computers. You don't need a four-year degree. You know that you could probably do it with a certificate, and then you need to do the latest programming language. Whatever you could take that course, get that certificate. You know you move on, you know, but they don't want to go there because they got four-year income streams. You know, I mean that's, you know, I mean, you know.

0:45:38 - Jesper Conrad
It wouldn't be good for them if you could learn it in three months. It would sell a lot of income. And I have a personal question, because one of the things I believe that the people listening into our podcast also likes is some of the personal stories of how it had been to be on schooling. And you met John Halt, if I remember correctly, before you got children right. Yes, yes, and so you had met the philosophy. You knew all about this, but I know from my story that in the start I had a lot of doubt if this really would work. So I imagine it might have been different for you sitting and working together with John Halt. But from there to trusting the process with your own children, how was this process? Did you have a lot of fear? Did you have this normal? Will they ever learn a thing? Or were you so well trained in the philosophy at that point?

0:46:40 - Patrick Farenga
No, you know, I appreciated everything that John was saying. But I'm a real, like I got to feel it and see it sort of person. I mean, intellectually I get things but if I don't feel it, you know it's not real yet. To me, you know, it's still just an idea.

And one of the great things about working at the Holt Associates Office was one home schoolers would come in and volunteer and they were always welcome to bring their children and then, as it started to grow more, john had once a month open houses. So I'm like I think it was on Wednesdays and then people come to the office from seven to nine to talk with John, to talk with any of the employees there, to look at the books on the shelves and talk about them, just to meet other home schoolers. That's what convinced me the more I met homeschooled parents and children and in those days we were like the only game in town. So it wasn't like this horrible political thing now where everyone identifies themselves home a Christian home schooler, or I'm a secular home schooler. You know they all just came there and everyone their kids weren't. There's nothing exceptional about them. You know that. You know you say, oh, I could tell you don't go to school, so that was the first thing.

The second thing was they were more comfortable with adults. Yeah, sure, there were a couple of shy ones in the crowd, but by and large they were used to talking with adults and having adults take them seriously. But they weren't constantly trying to grab attention because their parents ignore them for so long, you know, they knew that if they asked a question they get a response and then move on. So I started to realize like yeah, there's something different here and I like it. You know, and that's why I realized. You know, and especially when you talk to the kids about what they're interested in, they could hold their own. They weren't, like, acting childish, which is what we kind of expect in a certain ages and school situations. You know, they were themselves Now and, like I said, some were shy, absolutely not everyone was was, you know, a meet and greet back slapper sort of person. But you know they, they were real. You know they weren't pretending to act, they weren't acting like children.

They were acting like little like themselves, like they were comfortable. And that's what I realized and you know, and especially as I started to meet older homeschoolers. And then, you know, before I had children, we let parents bring their kids in to the office. So that experience of, you know, working single moms and dads with their children in the office. And I was looking for this photo earlier. I don't think I could put my hands on it, but the 10th anniversary of growing without schooling, which would have been 1977. I mean 1987, we started in 77.

We took a photo, we took a montage of people in the office. You know, I was the only man there with my daughter, lauren, who was nine months old, dressed in her onesie, on my desk. And then there were, you know, all the other parents who had children and then a couple of people, like Suzanne, who wasn't married at the time, didn't have children. But you know, there and it's just like, yeah, you know, I mean I've just been around kids in the workplace and in my life a lot longer than any any of my friends ever have, and all my friends who love their children dearly and stuff. You know they're all looking for that, for that break, like they want to go to a resort where there's no kids and stuff like that, and it's like, okay, you know I can appreciate that, but I don't know.

My daughters are all grown up, they're all in the 30s now, but you know, I still like hearing the neighborhood kids, I still like going to the playground and watching kids play. You know I, you know I don't, I don't. The segregation of the ages is another thing that you know. I think home, home schooling and unschooling helps break down and that's important for us to realize that children learn by being around us and that that really helped me. You know just just the example of having kids come into the office.

0:51:09 - Jesper Conrad
I'm so envious because we didn't have a lot of older on school and home school and so around us where I could see that it worked. I know we recently on another episode talked about the trusting the process, about the kids learning to read in their own speed and how I had difficulties with that. So it sounds to me like you, you saw it work and just trusted the process. Did you had any fears when it became that time where you were thinking now they have to learn, or you had just seen it work and was relaxed about it?

0:51:47 - Patrick Farenga
I was pretty relaxed about it. You know, my wife came from a very conventional, you know, education background and mother was religious education teacher in Catholic schools for 20 years and she grew up in the military. But that was actually a plus for her. But she understood. She always said that she and her brother learned so much more by traveling around. Her dad was stationed in Vietnam and so they were there in Hawaii when he was there, and then Washington State and then Germany for many years. It was an army based there and while he was working you know, working in the army, she and her mom did a lot of traveling and sightseeing and that's what they got.

So my wife was very she became open the idea once she got into the notion of traveling and using local things. But you know, still she, you know it took her a while. She was still, you know, we'll go out and go for a hike, but only after you do such and such, you know. So it was still set up, but you negotiate, you know. Maybe this is the other thing. It's just like what you know, everyone has slightly different comfort levels with unschooling. It's great when both parents are on the same level, but it took us a while to find that equal degree. Well, it took us a while as well.

0:53:11 - Jesper Conrad
It took us a while as well, and what I'm hearing and just wanting to give to the people going on this journey and the people on this journey is please share, please show the newcomers that it actually works. Let them hang out with you and meet real children who have just lived life, because it gives this trust that you can see they grow up to be normal. It's not like we need to take in our children and use them as poster children, but somehow I think it really helps the process for the doubt you can have as a parent.

0:53:51 - Patrick Farenga
Right? Well, that's why John called it growing without schooling. He says you're going to grow and learn whether you go to school or not.

0:53:59 - Cecilie Conrad
We recently talked to middle of Segal, who is named Liberty's son, and he said well, I've become a case study and I'm okay with that when we talk about it. But because his mom is so famous, obviously everybody is staring at him and have been for many years and it made me think about how our comfort levels with sharing our children's story and especially with so we've always been quite open about how their process has been and they are okay with that. We've been checked before but we never put them out there. It's not our children doing this podcast, right?

I've actually been thinking recently whether we should find a way to help them share their stories, because I also remember and I think this is one of the reasons it was easier for me to see the point of unschooling because I did get to spend some time with unschooling families on a quite regular basis and they had children that were older than our children and I saw them and they were not square, they were not green, they were not weird.

So I've seen it real life and realized, you know, it's really an eye opener to just see how it works, which is the reason one of the most important things we can do to help those who are curious is to just be open minded and share our stories and maybe invite people into our homes and or meet ups at the park or whatever, whatever to just lower the stress level a little bit and show how real life can happen, even if you don't school. It's a big chunk of the basic structure of how we see life. It's just like if you try to imagine living without money, as if money didn't exist. It's very hard to do and I couldn't do it. I'm not saying I could do that, I'm just saying it's as big a part of our understanding of what culture is, what life is, how everything unfolds, so trying to take that out is really going to rock the whole entire structure of, and it just helps to see children who were never in school.

0:56:33 - Patrick Farenga
Yeah, for a little while. Well, you know, john, john Holt had on his biography which I would send out to you know people had one and one and two book and for speaking engagements, but this was after he spent GWS I grow without schooling in 1977. Ever since then on his biography it said, you know, education was the line. And then underneath he says I believe a person's education is as much as personal business as his relationship, as much as personal business as his religion and politics, and should not be forced to answer any questions about it.

0:57:06 - Cecilie Conrad
Yeah.

0:57:10 - Patrick Farenga
We wear our educations. I mean people like that. You know what's the Joker on here? Oh, I went to a little college across the river from Boston. You know that's code for Harvard.

0:57:23 - Cecilie Conrad
Okay, I'm not going to talk about that.

0:57:27 - Patrick Farenga
Yeah, the silent Braggs. You know or you know, and we get a lot of our identity from our education here and, I think, in other places too.

0:57:36 - Cecilie Conrad
I mean it's it's become a badge, but well, it's been years and I think we should also distinguish between. There is the compulsory schooling of small children, ages, let's say, five to 15, where it is a forced situation. The child is not allowed to leave the building, very often not allowed to leave the chair. It is a very prison like situation and there is a lot of structure, a lot of, I would even say, mental violence going on and there is no freedom for the subject, for the person, the child involved. Later on in our country it becomes voluntary after 15 and you can discuss the level of voluntary if your parents tell you to do it and you're still living at home, but at least it's not state mandatory anymore after 15. And you have the university or college where it should be voluntary. At this point you're a young adult, you choose your, your line in life and hopefully you're studying something you find highly interesting.

This is voluntary education and maybe it is walking down the beaten path. Maybe there is not enough conscious choice involved when people go to college and university, but there could be and I earlier said that I find it crazy to call it a communist takeover to give people free education, because I think educating the population is a very smart move from a societal point of view and I believe very much in this level of education. I think it's a very good idea to get a university degree, whether you get a formal one or you do some Khan Academy or your own home study version. We recently found a great course of philosophy how to study philosophy at home. Great, you can meet the university along, list the YouTube explanations and here's the. Read this, discuss that and think about whatever you can do it. In many ways it doesn't have to be formal education, but it has to be voluntary and when you're a young adult and it's voluntary, it's a completely different ball game from forcing young, vulnerable, in many ways helpless children. They have no choice. It's scary.

1:00:25 - Patrick Farenga
I mean it's been that way for a long time. I mean it's ingrained in a lot of adults Because we were raised that way and that's why it's so hard to change it doesn't have to be I agree, sorry, go on I agree. It doesn't have to be that way, and that's why I'm involved in unschooling.

1:00:45 - Cecilie Conrad
Yeah, and we also, you said how you work with all the kids in the office. This is another false premise that exists in your culture and mine. The whole Western world believes that kids can't, they are not allowed to work. If they are allowed to work legally, there's usually a limit on how many hours per week and you cannot bring them to your work. No kids at the workplace. It would be unethical, it would be wrong, and we have. I have heard a lot of semi or 100% racist comments on how children from the Middle East cultures that live in Europe go to work with their parents and then they spent their entire childhood in the kiosk.

1:01:37 - Jesper Conrad
And I just think it's the best training ever.

1:01:39 - Cecilie Conrad
Place to be. You know, mom is cooking in the back room, dad is around, granddad is actually there, your cousin is coming over. You see how the business is run. You're surrounded by people who love you. You have a lot of personal freedom.

1:01:53 - Jesper Conrad
And you get some responsibility.

1:01:55 - Cecilie Conrad
And you get responsibilities as you grow.

There's nothing wrong with it, and we have this idea, probably dating back from when we were protecting kids from dangerous environments in early industrialism, that we cannot bring children to the work spaces, that it would be dangerous, it would be ethically wrong and it would ruin the workforce, that we couldn't, you know, get the work done and this segregation. I think we really have to work with removing the idea that it's wrong to bring children to. Obviously, if you're a surgeon, you don't bring them to, you know yeah, yeah, but it's not everywhere that you could do it.

But you could do it many places and maybe even working as a doctor in the case of emergency or a rotation system. You could bring your child to work once or twice a month and it would work somehow if we could sort of open our minds to the idea that children could be welcome everywhere in society, not just in the prison like structure that we call school.

1:03:04 - Patrick Farenga
But we have this weird notion and I'm pretty sure this is true in Denmark and, again, you know, most industrialized countries and that notion is called educational neglect.

It's like you can go to jail for denying your children, you know, by neglecting their educations, right, and yeah, I mean, you know, I don't want anyone to be treated, as you know, like they shouldn't, like, like the book educated by Tara Westover describes her being raised in Utah by a very strict, fundamentalist family and you know, her dad was bipolar and her older brother was too, and so it was a very, you know it's a very, very difficult situation, you know, but no one reported them for educational neglect, you know, or for child abuse, although when you read the book it's pretty scary.

In fact, the grandma is always trying to get the daughter, you know, or granddaughter, out of the situation. So, you know, there are really, really difficult situations, but that to me is child abuse, not educational neglect. I mean you can learn an example about math like I've used this many times, but you know, when my daughter, lauren was reading, push math, eventually it became too much of a struggle with her, but when she wanted to learn math she was 16, you know, and she took a course at the local community college and in six months she learned. There was a course called Fundamentals of Mathematics and she was there with adults and another kid who had actually graduated high school who failed math, and they all learned the fundamentals of math in six months of regular classes, instead of 12 years of going, or 16 years in her case.

At that time of going through this idea that if you miss it, like you know right now, because of COVID in the States I don't know if this is true where you are, but in the States are all worried about all the lost learning. But wait a minute, what does that mean? It's like you know you're looking at test scores. You've been teaching to the test for all the years leading up to COVID. Then you couldn't teach to the test effectively for two years. Of course it's gone down.

It doesn't mean they're not learning. It doesn't mean they've gotten stupider. It's just that you know and we all know what happens. You're passed the test and you forget what you studied afterwards. You know for 90% of the students you know it's if it doesn't mean anything to you. And working in a kiosk and being around people who are doing work you know worth doing, you know. But work I mean really to be self. I mean this kid understands that in order to put food on the table I need to sell X number of tamales or whatever it is by the end of the day and that may not be the you know.

I mean, yeah, it might be nicer for that child to be in school if it was a nicer spot, but there's no guarantees on that.

1:06:10 - Jesper Conrad
You know, and the whole indoctrinated understanding we have, that school is something that takes 10 years and almost seven or eight hours per day, that is normalized and it's more or less imprinted in our mind that this is the time of period, the period it takes to learn, which is really, really wild.

1:06:35 - Patrick Farenga
And it keeps expanding. Jesper right, it used to be six years old till 12 or 16, I think Now in the States three years old is mandatory kindergarten, wow.

1:06:48 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah.

1:06:51 - Patrick Farenga
And you know I got so bad here in the States because you know the education establishment just is never happy. There's always more to do. So you know kids needed more learning time so they cut out recess, they cut out playtime, you know, yeah, yeah, I mean Peter Gray. I mean that's one of the reasons a lot of his work came to the floor is like what's going on here. You know yeah.

So, yeah, this educational neglect idea is very you know it drives a lot of the fear and pushing towards but what could be to? Be in school.

1:07:33 - Jesper Conrad
I think that could be really interesting is if someone could research how long does it actually take to learn the different subjects, for example the whole of math, as you learn in the public school? How many hours are you using on that in compulsory schooling versus it takes to get your daughter less than six months and not like six months full time at all, right, so if we had those numbers I think it would be interesting for people to look at them.

1:08:04 - Cecilie Conrad
The risk, though, is that this calculation would tap into the idea that we have to learn it.

1:08:11 - Patrick Farenga
Yeah, and then also the thing about you know it's easier for them to use standardized tests. How do you evaluate that they've learned stuff that you know? You can't say I'm going to teach you and then you know, see if you've learned what I taught as opposed to what we're suggesting. You know, it's like the learning is embedded in life. Yeah, so everyone's going to have different schedules. So, yeah, like you know, late reading, as you know, is very common among unschoolers, you know. But in school, if you're not reading by third grade, that's a big problem.

1:08:42 - Jesper Conrad
And I just recently thought about how difficult it must be to run around with that shame imprinted in you that you are not following your peers, if you are a late reader, if you are late to math or if you're late to whatever. I remember, you know, standing in school and should say something out loud. Sometimes you should that and remember the anxiety I had sometimes about it and the fear of the judgment. I mean, why put that upon people? It's not fair.

1:09:25 - Patrick Farenga
Yeah, I'll never forget. You know, for me math went completely downhill and when I forget the exact grade. But they were trying to teach the concept of negative numbers using a number line and that made no sense to me. Numbers don't go out of line from positive to negative. I just, you know, I just couldn't see it.

And you know, but other kids did so they got it that confused. It really wasn't until I remember it was Donna Rishu, who was the assistant editor with John Holt, who explained the number line to me when I was in my 20s. I was like it's still, I get it now. But what a horrible way to describe stuff, you know. I mean because it's so abstract, you know why not? Use like a thermometer or something like that to show positive and negative numbers, something like that.

1:10:18 - Jesper Conrad
And I know my mom. She ran around with an identity of being stupid and not knowing math because a teacher when she was young said to her girls are stupid, they can't do math, and it actually affected which choices she made career-wise and a lot of things. And I mean that person ruined not ruined her life. She ended up living a wonderful life in many other ways, but he just closed down so many options by determining that women are stupid and can't do math back in the 50s, you know right, Right.

1:10:56 - Patrick Farenga
Well, you know, that's one of the things that we forget about, and I wrote about this when I revised Teacher Own in 2021. It's like the proper course of your education should be birth to death, not K through 12 or K to grad college graduation. You know, there's a lot of contributions that people make when they're older. John Holt wrote his book Never Too Late about learning to play the cello in his 40s.

1:11:24 - Jesper Conrad
You know.

1:11:24 - Patrick Farenga
I mean, and that was, and one of the reasons he wanted to do it was to prove that you know. People say like, oh, you can only learn a language if you're young. You know it's easier to learn when you're a young kid. It's easier to learn to play an instrument when you're a young kid. There's like there may be certain advantages of plasticity and muscle memory and stuff, but it can be learned. In fact, there's an MIT study that I forget when it came out, but I put it in the book and so that older people learn languages as fluently as younger people. Yeah, I read that one too.

1:12:00 - Cecilie Conrad
It's like come on guys.

1:12:03 - Patrick Farenga
But this idea we have to make kids eat Swiss army knives by the time they graduate school. They're ready for everything. You know this well-rounded individual. It's like what nonsense we're rounding ourselves every day of our lives until we die.

1:12:16 - Cecilie Conrad
You know, come on Thing is, I think it comes from. It comes from the idea that statistically, the early readers, or some of the early readers and some of those who get the very abstract things very young, they have extreme high IQs and statistically that will become a more successful life. We know this, we can see it in the data. This means you'll have a horrible life if you have a lower IQ. It has also a lot to do with all of the other choices we make in life. But I think when we try to push these things to young children, it's sort of a competition to make a play. Pretend that the child is extra intelligent or that we can put them a little bit ahead in that game running for the good life. If we push them to act as if they had this extreme IQ, which they probably don't, you might be able to teach a child to learn to read by, let's say, six a child that, if you'd left it alone, would learn to read by eight. There would probably be no difference in the outcome in the other end. But we have this install this weird idea the earlier the start, the better the outcome, which is wrong. It's just wrong, but it's a very stubborn idea. We want the kids, we want them to get up and walk a little earlier than the other kids in the street. We want them to learn to read. Oh man, they could read when they were four. Because what? Because we love them, because we want them to have a good life and we want our hopes for their good life to have some anchor of some sort. We also want them to come home from school with good grades in math when they are, let's say, nine. The reality is, it doesn't matter at all how much math they can do when they're nine in the long run. But it's become this false idea.

One big problem with that, I find, is that it covers up something. It makes us completely blind to something very, very important. What would they have done with those hours had we let them alone? Had we left them to do whatever they wanted? What would they have learned? Maybe they wouldn't learn to play the violin, maybe they couldn't do multiplication by nine.

But there is no way you will ever know. If you put your child in school and maybe you do it with all the kind, loving, great, amazing way it can be done. Put them through those 10 years from five to 15,. Let's say, what would have happened if you didn't? And that's the risk you have to be willing to take as an unschooler to just stand back and observe what is it they are doing instead, what is it they come out with in the other end? And now we can evaluate two, three-ish but two, and I could make a nice little list, but I'm not. I'm working with the privacy thing, so I'm not going to do it today, but I think I have to talk to them first. At least the very least.

I could come out with a list of what happened instead. And we have to be very full of trust in the process when we let go of them and we let go of the idea of the curriculum and just trust life that within those 10 years there is something else they will learn. It's out of our control. It might, some of it might be non-measurable and at the very least, if you're an unschooler, it will not be measured. So you cannot show up somewhere and say they have 89% correct answers to the test because there's no test. But this is the big secret underneath it that it's just so hard to talk about it, because how do you even begin?

1:17:05 - Jesper Conrad
But I think one of the things you touch upon, cecilia, is that being a human and a parent is, in many levels, super scary. You have this child you put into the world and you hope that your child will have a good and happy life, but we do not have to. It's there's not, like it's difficult to measure. Am I good enough that, for example, I don't have a list where I say what, what, where did I succeed? What was good with what I did? So if I can look at some grades and see that my child succeeded in this, this and this and this, then I can be like, oh, I have done something good.

So I understand many parents' needs for an external kind of checklist, because I still sometimes find it difficult to make up that checklist of having that complete trust in the universe and in my children. If I have a dark day I can be like, oh, have I done it good enough? So I think that's one of the things where the whole school thing and all these tests and stuff helps parents, because it is much easier to have a list someone externally have made, which is even saying you don't need to think about if they are happy or not and if they are confident in their life. Just look over here and if there's text here, then it's good. Then you have done a good job and you can relax inside as a parent, because it is difficult to be a parent. I find it sometimes terrifying. Yeah, yeah.

1:18:57 - Cecilie Conrad
So the question is do you trust the curriculum and the state or do you trust the process? That's basically it. It comes down to that.

1:19:12 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, all what I'm trying to seek out is that maybe we should relearn to look at what is important for our children. Maybe we should have more talks in life with our partner about what is it we want our children to master, and it doesn't need to be curriculum based. Yeah, yeah.

1:19:36 - Patrick Farenga
I mean, one of the things that I think is important to note is that it's not like we're doing nothing and our kids just live in this vacuum and they discover stuff on their own. They learn to read because they enjoy reading. How do they learn to read? Enjoy reading because you read to them.

1:19:56 - Cecilie Conrad
And because I enjoy reading, because there's always a book or five on my website table and I talk about what I read last night and they see me get excited discussing literature with my friends.

1:20:11 - Patrick Farenga
We teach ourselves to our children. They're great observers. We're picking up on a lot of the things that we don't think they're picking up on, and so it's really important. That's another reason why it's important to have more friends in the family, other adults and children that you're children can learn from. It's not like we just put them in this little bubble where they're protected and they're going to learn. They learn from the experience, and the experience is largely us, the adults, in their lives, until they reach school age and then as unschoolers it's going to continue, but now we show them how to branch out. So I mean I've heard that knock against unschooling more than once, like, oh, you do nothing with your kids. It's like, no, I mean it's so funny.

On that John Oliver thing about banning home school, where he talked about child abuse and homeschooling, he showed this lawyer from the Home School Legal Defense Association here in America, mike Donnelly, during an interview. And Mike Donnelly is talking about doing a science experiment where they bought a sheep's eye and they dissected it in their kitchen. And John Oliver, he makes like three minutes of jokes out of this and I'm thinking to myself that's a bad knock on Mike Donnelly. That's not fair, because God knows what sort of experiments we did in our kitchen. Every homeschooling family unless you have a laboratory, that kitchen is like the center. I remember one time I asked this teenage homeschooler what's his favorite thing about homeschooling. He said the refrigerator. So yeah, I mean, people got to get used to the idea that, yeah, I don't want to dissect the sheep's eye. We never did that in our homeschool. But yeah, we did a lot of chemistry experiments in there and certainly a lot of cooking experiments in the kitchen and it's not unusual.

So, people, you are who you are and you teach yourself to your children and that's why it's important that we reflect on ourselves and our relationships and try to improve that. And, like you said, you go for a job. They just want to see you got a grade in such and such a course. But we know that employers always complain about college graduates who are slackers, who aren't doing, don't know enough, or that they should know better. Blah, blah, blah. Just test like a good sales person. They usually don't take a test. They're told sell cars for six weeks, work with so and so, and then we'll see how you do. There could be a lot more of that, but instead, it's a lot easier, just like with standardized tests, to say oh, you graduated from such and such a school. They don't have a good reputation for accounting, so we're not going to hire you. I mean, that's how a lot of decisions are made at big companies.

1:23:33 - Jesper Conrad
I think one of the things you said earlier reminded me of what is actually one of the greatest gifts and joys of being a homeschooling parent is indirectly Pat, you're saying if you want to help your children grow through on schooling, you need to live an interesting life where you're passionate and where you give yourself space and room to learn and enjoy. And, as you said, go get some friends, have a big social life with other parents who do interesting things. And it's actually true. When I look back at before we started this line of life, it was my life was more standardized than it is now. I have given myself a lot more freedom and it has rekindled my own lust for learning and for enjoying, and that keeps growing and it's just like the biggest add on of being a homeschooling and unschooling parent, I think.

1:24:41 - Patrick Farenga
Well, you guys have taken it to a whole other level with all the travel you do. That's just wonderful and I know that you're part of the whole world, school and community.

1:24:53 - Cecilie Conrad
It seems like for many people it's the next level, that once you realize that you don't need the school and maybe you start to unravel the idea of what is a home, Do we really need to have each our own room? Do we really need the two cars? Do we need the mortgage? Because homeschooling one of the first things that happened to most people is they have to realize that it will be a one income family for a while, or one and a half or whatever. You have to face what's the most important, and I remember saying to Jesper in the beginning that I'd rather live in my car than go to work ever again. That was after I beat cancer and I had tried to be away from my children for a while and also faced the idea of dying from them. When I came back I said I'm never doing it again ever.

It was kind of too bad for you because the problem of bringing in the money landed in one place. But I just said I'm willing to whatever. I just don't want to leave again. And it was more complicated than that because we had a great house and my grandmother was the neighbor and I can say this as if I was really brave, but it was actually quite complicated.

But I think many families face this, that now you have to become very clear with your values. What is truly important? Would you rather unschool and eat rice and tomato three out of five days, or do you want to have more expensive food? Would you rather unschool and then you can never have a fancy pair of shoes again? And I think these things once you realize that many unschoolers downscale the whole consumerism part, maybe they move into a more humble living situation, maybe they sell a car, maybe they sell both cars, maybe they start walking.

And in our case we realized how does it even make sense that Jesper has to get up every morning and leave the house with the bike and bike for 40 minutes to bring in the money and the rest of us get to stay at home? But we have to stay at home here because it's close to the office, whereas most of the time we would like to be somewhere else, because it's a country with a lot of rain and darkness. And so we made the transition into homework, working from home, and then home suddenly could be anywhere. And I think, well, in the whole world, school and community I see that that's what's happened to many families. One should take the school out of the equation. The kids are not trapped anywhere, and one parent gave up the working because of looking after the kids.

And then you just need to pull that last little pluck out of the wall and suddenly you have a lot of freedom, and then it doesn't make sense to stay in the same place all the time. At least you start to travel a little more. And we just took it to the. That's the extreme. We just sold our bus actually. So I suppose you got your school bus, the big red bus. Yeah, it's not a school bus, it's a tourist bus.

1:28:11 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, similar.

1:28:12 - Cecilie Conrad
Yeah, we sold it, so now we're really homeless.

1:28:15 - Jesper Conrad
No, we have a wonderful van they're in our car and rent houses from time to time, we do not live there.

1:28:22 - Cecilie Conrad
No, I'm saying it as a dream. We're not homeless. We just rent the homes we need and we have a great van. Yeah.

1:28:28 - Patrick Farenga
Yeah, yeah, that's wonderful. And things are changing so much right now in terms of work. I mean, there was an article in the New York Times a couple of days ago, I think 50% occupancy rate among offices in Manhattan right now yeah, wow, I think people really want to work from home.

1:28:47 - Cecilie Conrad
Yeah.

1:28:49 - Patrick Farenga
And maybe, if they have to, we'll only go in the office a couple of days a week.

1:28:52 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, and it wouldn't be allowed if the business owners couldn't see how effective it actually is. Right, that's the. It's a great thing. It's a great thing.

1:29:04 - Cecilie Conrad
It's a great thing, actually, it's great that finally the world woke up to the fact that people actually do work from home. You can trust people and they like to work and get things done rather than chat around the printer.

1:29:19 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, absolutely, pat. It is a round time, we have a lot of time and we Always great talking with you. Time fly I've been with you at that?

1:29:29 - Cecilie Conrad
Yeah, and every time.

1:29:31 - Jesper Conrad
Yeah, oh, my God, I would like you to tell a little about the work you do so people if they want to know more about the TWS and the whole thing, so if you can tell people where they can hear more, how you can assist them and some of the work you do, that would be a wonderful way to round up.

1:29:56 - Patrick Farenga
Oh, thank you. I mean right now I'm in the process of completely redesigning the whole website. The website address is johnholtgwscom, and GWS stands for Growing Without Schooling. And John started the magazine in 1977, first publication about learning outside of school, probably in the world. And I came in in 1981 and then, when John passed in 1985, I continued to publish the magazine until 2001. So we have 143 issues.

1:30:33 - Cecilie Conrad
Wow.

1:30:34 - Patrick Farenga
And I'm currently bringing all of them back in print and collecting them, but you can view them. One of the first things I did when I closed Soul Dissociates was scan every issue and they're available for free online. You could just go to my website and look through the GWS issue archive, but the original issues, well, I won't show you. But they're really tight, the type is really really small, you can't search them and so on. So all of them have become PDFs now and I'm coming out with Volume 5, which is the volume where when I became publisher of the magazine and so we're starting now with the whole new generation of issues and all of them.

1:31:20 - Jesper Conrad
Quick question Pat, when you call them volumes, then it is you create them into book formats correctly.

1:31:26 - Patrick Farenga
Correct. I'll show you here's volume 2. And this is issues. See if I can write the content real quick. You can see how dense the text is, but I made it think this goes from issue 20 to 30. So there are 10 issues in this one In a volume Perfect. And I'm working on Volume 5 right now, which takes us up to issue 60. And then that means I got 143.

1:31:57 - Cecilie Conrad
You're not halfway yet.

1:32:01 - Patrick Farenga
But to me too, it's like. Now I'm in an issue and I'm seeing my photos of myself with my daughter Lauren, putting her in a papoose and writing the trolley to work Because we had an office in downtown Boston, so we did it that way but also books that we recommended and sold about unschooling and I keep it up to date. In fact it's funny, I got here's an unschooler from Texas, her book Success Without School, just across my desk a couple of weeks ago, unschooling my children from birth to college. So there's what the schools want, which are test scores, and then there's what is known as social proof that something works, and I view books like talking about how your kids get into college or don't go to college and is still successful in life, how unschooling works. That's the social proof. So people and this has been around for years In fact, I consider 143 issues of growing unschooling magazine social proof that unschooling works.

Some people use some curriculum, some people don't use any and others only do it for two or three years. Other students do it for a while. It's amazing how much is out there, and so I'm trying to get all that organized so it's easier to find on the website videos of conferences I've put on and stuff like that. They're all up there. It's all available for free. I'm really trying to. I really want people to see that there's more than one way to teach and learn in our society, and teaching by example, which is pretty much what we're talking about here, is one of the surest and tried and truest ways of helping your children learn. So that's what I'm up to and that's what I hope to continue.

1:34:09 - Jesper Conrad
Please do, and I mean volume five, and there's at least five more volumes.

1:34:15 - Patrick Farenga
Oh, at least yeah.

1:34:17 - Jesper Conrad
And that is. I think it's such wonderful work you do, Pat, and I encourage people to go and purchase them. I presume there's links directly on your website and they can also be found on Amazon, I know, and it's just like it is story after story where people can read of real life examples, and that is sometimes what we need as parents who are going on this journey. So thanks a lot for that work and thanks a lot for your time today. It has been a big pleasure.

1:34:49 - Patrick Farenga
It's a pleasure speaking with you too, as always. Yeah, thank you, jesper and Cecilia.

1:34:55 - Cecilie Conrad
It's been fun, like always. We'll link to your website and the show notes.

1:34:58 - Jesper Conrad
And the books.

1:34:59 - Cecilie Conrad
Great and enjoy Mexico.

1:35:03 - Patrick Farenga
I look forward to reading about your adventures.

1:35:07 - Cecilie Conrad
Yeah, we're leaving in a few days.

1:35:09 - Patrick Farenga
That's wonderful, well, safe journeys.

1:35:13 - Jesper Conrad
Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed today's episode and if you liked it, then please share it with all your friends and family. We would also love it if you gave our podcast a review. Thanks, if you want to support our podcast and work, then you can find us on patreoncom slash the Conrad family. We will continue to travel full time and if you want to tag along, then please follow us on Facebook and Instagram at the Conrad family, and you can also read more than 100 blog posts on our website. The Conrad family. Until next time, make a wonderful day, thank you.

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