Thank you for being curious about my work.
I am (in no particular order of importance in my mind) a book author, journalist, editor, former broadcaster, business owner, and mother of two adult daughters. I also consider myself to be an agent of change. When I was barely out of my teens, I recognized the need for rethinking how we work, play, and educate ourselves in order to restore the planet’s social and ecological balance. For the last forty-plus years, my mission has been to help people understand the interconnections within the web of life on Earth and to encourage everyone to challenge the assumptions inherent in the often conflicting choices we make in our daily lives.
I co-founded my company Life Media with my husband Rolf in 1976 as The Alternate Press to publish books and Natural Life Magazine. These days, Natural Life Magazine is prospering as a free source of digital content and continues to help its readers to integrate natural parenting, green living, sustainable housing, socially and environmentally responsible self-employment, organic gardening, and natural healing into an ecologically responsible lifestyle.
Trained as a school teacher in 1969, I quickly rejected the factory model of processing children and became an early proponent of experience-based, self-directed learning – or just “homeschooling” as it was called in those days. It’s now called “unschooling,” but I prefer “life learning” or “living as if school doesn’t exist.” I founded The Canadian Alliance of Homeschoolers in 1979 as a national support and advocacy organization that kick-started the homeschooling movement in Canada, cooperating with John Holt as he breathed life into a parallel movement in America. In 1987, I wrote School Free – The Homeschooling Handbook, which is now in its sixth edition (in a recently updated e-book version) and has become a best-selling classic around the world.
In the mid- to late-1980s, I also worked as a freelance editor and reporter for a variety of local newspapers, newsmagazines, and business publications. At the same time, I wrote articles for national magazines, wrote and hosted a weekly small business television show, and authored two coffee table economic development books. I again freelanced in the late-1990s and early 2000s, writing a weekly small business newspaper column and hosting a radio show.
In 1996, I was recruited to a successful run at the leadership of the still-fledgling Green Party of Canada. I resigned as leader the following year because I felt there was too large a gap between the party’s stated goals and those of many of its members, and that I could be a more effective changemaker by resuming my life as a writer and social entrepreneur.
My experiences in politics, advocacy, and journalism have given me an understanding of the environmental and social dangers inherent in the globalized corporate mindset and of the transformative power of local small business, social entrepreneurship, and “unjobbing.” I’ve been involved in that field since the mid 1980s, when I began to help homeschooling families create home-based businesses – as Rolf and I had, ourselves, done a decade earlier in order to help our own daughters live and learn without school. In the 1980s, I founded the now-defunct Home Business Network, a source of advocacy, information, and support for home-based businesses, and for the next decade helped legitimize and legalize home business, and taught women to start home businesses. My book Bringing it Home – A Home Business Start-Up Guide for You and Your Family was published in 1996 and is still helping people to plan home businesses and to balance work and family life. Life Media has published an updated e-book version.
My second book on living school-free, Challenging Assumptions in Education: From Institutionalized Education to a Learning Society, was published in 2000. It is a look at what’s wrong with public education and at the hows and whys of deschooling our families and society. It has been on the reading list for college education programs internationally and was updated and reissued in 2008, and again more recently in e-book format.
After John Holt’s Growing Without Schooling stopped publishing in 2001, I founded Life Learning Magazine as a way of encouraging and supporting families to trust their children (and themselves) to learn without being taught. Dr. Peter Gray, author of the Psychology Today Freedom to Learn blog, has called it “the leading journal of the unschooling movement.” I am thrilled that this now-free digital source of information has developed a strong and supportive reader base and that the website is packed with hundreds of well-written articles about the philosophy and practice of unschooling. In late 2008, I edited the book Life Learning: Lessons from the Educational Frontier, which is a collection of essays from the early days of Life Learning Magazine.
Also in 2008, as a continuation of my work with young parents, Rolf and I launched Natural Child Magazine, a spinoff from the Natural Child column that we had published in Natural Life Magazine beginning in 1992. In 2015, we began to delve more deeply into the topic of play with Child’s Play Magazine. In line with changing trends in publishing, both of those magazines have now joined Natural Life and Life Learning as popular websites full of free articles on their respective topics.
In addition to editing and contributing to our own publications and websites, I have written essays and chapters for dozens of texts and popular books including Linda Dobson’s The Homeschooling Book of Answers: The 101 Most Important Questions Answered by Homeschooling’s Most Respected Voices, AERO’s Turning Points: 27 Visionaries in Education Tell Their Own Stories, The Legacy of John Holt, and Natural Born Learners.
My tenth book, Natural Life Magazine’s Green & Healthy Homes, came out in 2010. Like Natural Life Magazine, this book is about applying good old common sense, research, and skepticism (if it sounds too green to be true, it probably is!) to empower ourselves to create a better life for ourselves, our families, and the Earth by making changes in our homes.
My eleventh, Beyond School: Living As If School Doesn’t Exist (2012), is a collection of essays about how families and individuals can live and learn without coercion or struggle, and with trust, respect, dignity…as if school doesn’t exist. Together, they create a case for a different way of helping children and young people learn about today’s world while becoming equipped to live in tomorrow’s world.
My most recent book is a collection of memoir-style essays and poems about mothering and daughtering, entitled It Hasn’t Shut Me Up.
I have been a poet since I was a teenager and have two published books of poetry, both currently out of print. I also write regularly on my blog. Currently, I am working on three new books, one about self-employment and the future of work, one tentatively titled Messy, and one about ageism/adultism in family life and education. A list of my books and their availability can be found elsewhere on this site.
What is most important to me in my writing is that I come from a place of experience, rather than of academic research or “expertism.” I aim to write plainly, concisely, and with clarity.
In my life and my work, I also value honesty, integrity, curiosity, communication, mindfulness, civility, balance, laughter, conciseness, simplicity, and friendship. I believe that every experience and encounter provides us with an opportunity to learn and grow. Or, as Carl Jung wrote, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Another hallmark of my life and work has been my belief in cooperation and support, rather than competition. As a result, I have served on the boards of countless non-profit organizations, provided advice and mentoring to many businesswomen, and helped many businesses begin and prosper. In recent years, in an attempt to slow down, simplify my life, avoid stress, and make more room for writing, I have eliminated my participation in that regard. But I still try to provide moral support and publicity for others whose work excites me.
- You can read a history of my life learning unschooling experiences as published in the book Turning Points: 27 Visionaries in Education Tell Their Own Stories.
- You can read an interview with me that was published in Life Learning Magazine.
- Here is an interview with me from 2009.