Monthly Archives: January 2014

News from Life Learning Magazine

Life Learning MagazineWe have two pieces of great news for those interested in Life Learning Magazine.

1. We are currently running an exciting subscription promotion. One thousand free, six-month introductory subscriptions to Life Learning Magazine will be given away between now and January 31, 2014, on a first come, first served basis. The only requirement is that eligible recipients for this promotional offer must have never before subscribed to Life Learning Magazine. We hope this will be a good introduction to the magazine for anyone who might consider subscribing after reading three issues. (If you’re already a subscriber, feel free to pass this information along to friends or support group members.) Details can be found here.

2. We have just published the first Life Learning Magazine Annual. This 118-page, large format PDF contains all the feature articles that were published in Life Learning Magazine during 2013. They appear exactly as they do in the magazines – complete with full-color photos and layouts, and live links to resources. Plus, we’ve added a table of contents that makes it easy to find the articles you’re looking for. It’s a convenient reference to your favorite articles from the whole year, all in one place. This is the first of a series; we will be working backwards to create an Annual for each year of publication since the magazine’s launch in 2002. So stay tuned. It can be purchased by going directly to our Natural Life General Store.

Articles by John Taylor Gatto

Articles by John Taylor GattoLife Learning Magazine has a “mother” publication called Natural Life Magazine, which my husband Rolf and I launched in 1976 so we could both stay at home with our school-free daughters. Since the first issue, Natural Life has covered a wide range of topics – from natural health and green living to organic gardening and sustainable housing…and including natural parenting and homeschooling. In the first few issues, I wrote about our early unschooling adventures (it was called simply homeschooling in those days), and a few years later, we publicized John Holt’s new newsletter Growing Without Schooling.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s, when I met John Taylor Gatto at a conference where we were both speaking. He liked what we were doing with Natural Life Magazine, he and I became mutual fans, and he quickly offered us some of his early articles for publication. They fit in well with Natural Life’s editorial mission of self-reliant thinking as a way of creating social, environmental, and educational change. His articles tend to be long and are sometimes controversial, but they are based on solid experience and thought.

You can read a couple the early articles by John Taylor Gatto in full on the Natural Life Magazine website:

Since then, of course, we started Life Learning Magazine (after Growing Without Schooling ceased publication in 2001), and John has continued to send me articles. You can read some of these articles by John Taylor Gatto on the Life Learning Magazine website:

Update, January 8, 2014: We found another article by John Taylor Gatto on the Natural Life Magazine website!

Unschooling Lets Kids Control Their Own Minds and Activities

teen-boy-relaxing1Appearing to hang around and do nothing at all is dangerous – whether you’re a teenager in a public place, an adult at work, or a child in school (or even in some homeschool settings). Inactivity is perhaps one of the most frowned upon states in our culture. And certainly, many parents get nervous when their kids don’t seem to be accomplishing anything – especially something that the parents have organized or mandated. Adults are “supposed” to organize, and kids partake…at least until they turn a certain age (18 maybe), at which point they’re supposed to miraculously know how to take control of their own lives. In fact, the danger of allowing kids to control their own minds and activities may be one of the main concerns many people have about unschooling.

I can recall sitting at my desk in school as a child, pretending to read a text book as a cover for thinking (or “daydreaming” as it was derisively called), or practicing looking attentive while the teacher was talking and my mind was somewhere else entirely. I knew that she wasn’t in charge of my mind or my life, but I had internalized the message that such realizations were subversive, and that it would be disruptive for me not to hide that knowledge. Nevertheless, unlike some of my peers – most often boys – I got away with going my own way in school because I was an otherwise well-behaved girl who got good marks.

And now, because I’m a well-dressed and groomed adult, I get away with “loitering” in public places listening to music, observing the passersby (because that’s what writers do!), or scribbling in my journal.

Years ago, my unschooling daughters weren’t always so lucky when they spent time in public seeming to be nonproductive, and found themselves being looked upon distrustfully by many adults. But their freedom to direct their own childhood thoughts, time, activity, and learning helped them become the productive, balanced, happy, inquisitive, aware, free-thinking adults they are today.

Not all kids are so lucky. As I was loitering this morning at my favorite sidewalk café, I listened to a couple of moms feverishly programming their children’s upcoming activities, apparently unwilling to leave a single minute unorganized and dangerously nonproductive. Not for those kids any time to watch ants crawl along the sidewalk, to play in the snow, ride their bikes, or skate aimlessly around the rink, just for the sake of enjoying skating; no time to consolidate or expand upon any bit of information they might remember from the whirlwind of facts jammed into their brains at school, no time to think or to daydream. No, they might miss an opportunity to “learn,” to advance their school careers, to compete in an organized, skill-building activity. No time to learn how to think for themselves. That would threaten adults’ erroneous belief that they are in change of their children’s minds and their learning.

Now that is dangerous, as I knew so well as a child in school. But just think what a world it would be if we could embrace that danger and any risk why might think it entailed…if all adults respected children’s ability to think for themselves and trusted that they could learn what they need to know. What if adults could put aside their doubts about kids and their need to control them and, instead, could partner with them in everybody’s best interest? What a world it would be, indeed.