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It reminded me of John Holt. ... [snip]

Yes, Sandra, John Holt deserves much credit for making Homeschooling
But John was a preceded by Ivan Illich with whom he became a close
Both were driven by their concern that education trapped society into
the status quo.
In 1970 Ivan wrote "Deschooling Society" the message of which has been
largely lost by by modern homeschoolers.
Below is a review of that seminal book. I wrote it on Ivan's death. It
may have some relevance to you valuable work.

Bill Ellis


Bill, I enjoyed reading your article on Ivan Illich.

I'm very interested in the legacies of these men and where they would
stand now.

Last week at the Live and Learn Conference, someone came up to me and
said that she had been talking with some Waldorf folks down at the
playground a bit concerned about the apparent love of technology by
most of the parents and children at the conference. I think a lot of
Waldorfy parents start looking into unschooling as their children age
because it seems, to them, to be a logical progression. Several of the
Waldorf websites mention unschooling very positively. But I don't think
they are prepared for what unschooling really is. I hope they weren't
too turned off...hard to say.

But yesterday as my principal-friend Gillian (yes, my best friend is a
teacher/principal! <G>---LOTS of interesting dicussions there!) and I
were painting Duncan's room (he's getting a more grown up room), I
mentioned the Waldorf parents at the conference. Gill had been offered
a job 30 years ago to work in a Steiner school in Germany. She chose
not to because of the four year training period. But she wasn't all
that *up* on the philosophy, so we talked a bit about it.

She was wondering why/how the philosophy had progressed from the early
1900s to now. What would Steiner had thought about where his movement
had gone? Would he have changed with the times? TV (BIG Waldorf no-no,
but it didn't even exist during Steiner's lifetime)? Legos? Video games
(yeah---right! I doubt it!)? Computers? (SURELY!!)

Well, that also got us taking about John Holt. We know that Holt became
more and more radical as he aged. And many unschoolers (me included)
have been accused of taking his philosophy "too far." That he really
just meant HOMEschooling. But I can't find anywhere in his writings
where school at home was ever considered an option. I think he saw that
as simply a stepping stone to real unschooling: some parents might need
to do a little "school-at-home" to get their feet wet before they
diving into unschooling. You know---just a little paddling/treading
before they took the plunge? I don't think he ever meant for parents to
bring school home in any way or shape. I think he figured they would
SEE that learning happened all the time, that children are natural
learners if they just took the children OUT of school and had them at
home a bit. The "schoolwork" would simply disappear after a while when
the parents figured it out.

Holt UNDERSTOOD that we are natural learners. ALL of us!

I can't say for sure that he would have embraced video gaming, but I
really think he would *certainly* have seen its value just by observing
children at play! He would have to have seen the huge connections being
made and joy in the faces of the children while they play and learn. I
can't imagine his suggesting that they were harmful in any way.

He was incredibly progressive. Embracing new technologies would have
been right up his alley to me! He had to have loved challenges and
learning anything new. Can't you see him at level 68 in WoW? <BWG>

Have "we" taken Holt too far? Possibly. But I think he was clearly
moving in a more radical direction in his last book, and I think he
would have had to have been appalled at the school-at-homers (doh!)
that are driving the learning right out of their children by being so
much like school.

I'd like to see more discussion about Holt & Illich and how others
think their thinking would have progressed.

And not that it matters *here*---but Rudolf Steiner and Maria
Montessori as well (I can do them on my own. <g>).


Kelly Lovejoy
Conference Coordinator
Live and Learn Unschooling Conference
Email and AIM finally together. You've gotta check out free AOL Mail! -

Sandra Dodd

-=-During the 1970s a few scattered families broke away from
government schools and started homeschooling.-=-

During the 1960's there were hippie families in New Mexico who were

-=-Yes, Sandra, John Holt deserves much credit for making
Homeschooling popular.-=-

He didn't make it "popular." He made it possible for people who'd
never heard of it, and understandable for those who were afraid of
it. It wasn't a fad, it wasn't "popular." It was, for some
families, a life-and-death option, a desperation. For others it was
an interesting social experiment. For others it was living more
fully by the principles that had caused them to separate from
tradition in other areas of their lives.

John Holt is inspirational. His writings were inspirational to my
education professors in the early 1970's. When I was teaching,
others I taught with were also John Holt fans. The early-'80's book
"Chop Wood, Carry Water" which inspired many people to live more
mindfully cited John Holt, and Growing Without Schooling.

Ivan Illich wasn't corresponding with families who wanted to
homeschool; John Holt was.
Illich had influences too. We could walk backwards through history
or we could look at what's happening now.

I unschool because Carol Rice-McClure and Lori Odhner did. There are
other families that have unschooled because Pam Sorooshian and I did
(or other families they knew or corresponded with).

Unschooling as a straight-out substitute for using a curriculum
doesn't go very far toward people's families being like mine is. The
reason I've written and written is that there's a whole lot more to
it. It's a way of being, of seeing, of thinking. It's a philosophy
that goes beyond schoolish/non-schoolish concerns.

John Holt's writings got me inspired to be a school reformer when I
was still a teenager. I taught in my 20's. I was as radical as I
could be under the circumstances, and I walked away because it
couldn't be changed. I did other things that also prepared me for my
unseen future.

I still like to read John Holt's stuff, but nothing in the past can
change the facts involved in my chldren's current lives.

Kirby is working in Texas and really liking it. He said it's okay
now for me to say that he works for Blizzard (a video-game company),
though their employees are not allowed to discuss any particulars of
what they do at work.
In Pam's family, Roya is about to return from a summer working in the
Alaskan wilderness. Roxana's going to France in February for a

These kids who were unschooled without reservations, unschooled
deeply and fully, are growing up confident, busy, and whole. They
don't have to merge with the real world; they were always part of the
real world.

I have lots of confidence in unschooling when it's done fully and
really lived, not just dabbled in or acted out or talked about.


[email protected]

In a message dated 9/17/2007 4:46:43 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
Sandra@... writes:

<<<Kirby is working in Texas and really liking it. He said it's okay
now for me to say that he works for Blizzard (a video-game company)>>>

Very awesome! How exciting to share with my video-gamers that even video
game careers can be unschooled. Even when the gamer magazines, gamer experts and
industry insiders all say college is needed to get into that field. Thank you
for sharing that!!

Updates on the older unschoolers are always good reading at our house.


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Sylvia Toyama

I unschool because Carol Rice-McClure and Lori Odhner did. There are
other families that have unschooled because Pam Sorooshian and I did
(or other families they knew or corresponded with).

I'm one of those who unschools because Sandra did -- because she talked about it at homeschooling conferences, because she wrote articls about it and posted them online, because I saw her children at a local homeschooling conference and was just so taken with what incredible kids they were/are.

I've never found the writings of Holt or Illich particularly helpful. Sure, Holt's ideas are wonderful, but I find his writing too dry and academic -- and he never had kids! I needed to hear about unschooling from someone who'd actually lived it.


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