Learning Without Borders

One of my favorite keynotes this year at AERO was Blake Boles’ on “Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going.”

I appreciated his review of the history of alternative education, which includes homeschool and unschooling. He discussed the challenges which small programs and organizations face, including differentiating themselves and then also working with each other to create a strong movement to go forward. Having been involved in several alternative programs over the years, I was glad that he acknowledged the not so “sexy” part that financial sustainability plays. Though it is more intellectually stimulating to debate pedagogy, the economic concerns of running an organization on a shoestring budget are where the rubber meets the road for many. 

Blake mentioned that he’s “bounced around” alternative education for 15 years and noticed that families do the same. That phrase resonated with me. It characterized our family’s experience and was one I often heard from the families I’ve worked with over the years. I’ve been involved in child-centered learning since the mid-1970’s, both professionally and personally. Like many, our family had moved among public, private, and alternative programs, and 25 years ago we became “accidental homeschoolers,” when one of our kids decided he wasn’t going back to prison, aka conventional school, after a holiday. This opened a whole new chapter in the adventure. Over the years, we all came to understand that choice and agency are two of the most critical aspects of helping ourselves and our children become self-directed and lifelong learners. Now I ask myself every day about how I can continue to promote that thought in the learners with whom I’m in contact.

Last, but not least, Blake appreciated the pioneers in the alternative education movement who were honored during the conference and their tireless efforts over the decades. I know many of them and some have been my mentors over the decades. However, although the number of learners under the umbrella of alternative education is growing, it is still a fringe movement. To develop a larger movement, we need to put a greater focus on our commonalities and avoid petty arguments about small differences. We all need to cast a wide net and invite in everyone who wants to have a choice. Together we can grow a movement,

These are just a few of the musings from Blake’s keynote. If you’re curious to hear more, check out his podcast where he has posted it, at https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/off-trail-learning/id976183057?i=1000444453363

‎Off-Trail Learning: Blake Boles on the Future of Alternative Education on Apple Podcasts


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