Why school?

“Why is it that when kids turn five in our society they are typically expected to spend hours a day 5 days a week in a government institution? Why do they not get a choice in how they spend such a significant portion of their childhood? Why is there so little involvement from the very people affected the most by these choices? Why is it not questioned or challenged?

Separating subjects and making education feel like something that must be done to people in a way that is separate to life creates a self-satisfying system. A system that creates people dependent on a system to give knowledge and provide answers and a system that depends on people accepting that.

It only took one generation for it to become an expectation and for normalcy to fall to this model.”


Read the rest here at Racheous.

Is that what we want? Kids who get straight As but hate learning?

“From her first day of school, we pointed her toward that altar and trained her to measure her progress by means of points, scores, and awards. We taught Marianna that her potential is tied to her intellect, and that her intellect is more important than her character… Above all else, we taught her to fear failure. That fear is what has destroyed her love of learning.”

Read the rest of Jessica Lahey’s “When Success Leads to Failure” here.

Upcoming Open House

Hello everyone! A quick email to tell you about our next Free Learners Open House, which will be on Saturday, August 29 at 2pm.

For those that want to be a part of the creation of our exciting freedom-based and democratic learning centre, you don’t want to miss this meeting! We are going to talk about what free learning is, why our community needs this learning alternative, what our next steps are, and what you can do to be a part of it. If you’re not sure if you want to participate, but are just curious about what we’re up to, you can come, too!

Space in this facility is even more limited than at our previous meeting, so I do need you to RSVP with confidence if you would like to attend. I want to be sure that those who want to attend, can!

For more info, or to RSVP, please email nanaimofreelearners@outlook.com. See you there!

The Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education

“Now here’s another term that I think deserves to be said out loud: Forced education. Like the term prison, this term sounds harsh. But, again, if we have compulsory education, then we have forced education. The term compulsory, if it has any meaning at all, means that the person has no choice about it.

The question worth debating is this: Is forced education–and the consequential imprisonment of children–a good thing or a bad thing? Most people seem to believe that it is, all in all, a good thing; but I think that it is, all in all, a bad thing. I outline here some of the reasons why I think this, in a list of what I refer to as “seven sins” of our system of forced education.”

Learn all of Peter Gray’s seven sins at Psychology Today.

General Info Session 

Hello everyone! I am writing to you today to let you know that our first info session is scheduled for Friday, August 14 at 7:30pm in the Oliver Woods Community Centre (Salal Room 3).

This meeting will be an opportunity to meet and to hear a little bit about the vision for the Nanaimo Free Learners. I’ll talk about what a free education is (and what it isn’t), how it benefits our kids, and where we need to go from here to make the dream of bringing ethical education to Nanaimo into a reality. There will be plenty of time for discussion and Q&A, so bring your questions and ideas. This is the chance to put your name out there if you want to be a pioneer in non-coercive education in our community, so if you can make it, please do! We will schedule another meeting a few weeks after this one for those that can’t make it.


If you are planning to attend, please RSVP by email to nanaimofreelearners@outlook.com so we have an idea of numbers. Please note that this should be an adults-only meeting (though babies in arms are of course welcome). 


I am so excited and inspired by all the messages I have been getting over the past week! So many of you have written to me to tell me your stories and I have loved reading every one of them. The theme I am seeing is: you have seen the failures of the public education system and will try anything to keep your children out of it. You see your children’s love and excitement for learning and are terrified that they will lose it. You recognize the need for a change, but don’t know how to make it happen.

785a467ddd42e4a4c65efed5d5bf43d5The change is happening. We are committed to creating a new way for children in our community to educate themselves and to escape the rigid and controlling system of a conventional school. Children are more than capable of educating themselves provided they are given time, space, and trust to do so. Let’s create that space!

Our vision for the Free Learners of Nanaimo is a self-directed and non-coercive environment where children are free to dictate their own educational paths. There will be no curriculum and no mandatory classes or subjects; rather, we will engage in “life learning”- learning through interaction, life skills, and following interests. Compared to a conventional (forced) education, this is a scary theory- but it’s a proven method of education that you have already witnessed yourself. Think about how much a child learns from the time they are born until the time they go to school: they learn to sit, stand, walk, talk, play, ask for things, share… the list is endless. This authentic learning doesn’t just stop at age 6!

So if there’s no forced learning, what will children do all day? Everything else! We envision an environment full of exciting and enticing materials and resources that will encourage children to follow their passions (or find one). Guides- not teachers- will 10923298_10152855147512825_593683379776220930_nbe available to facilitate a child’s self-directed journey to their goals. Without the confines of bell schedule determined by someone else, children will be free to immerse themselves in their chosen activity. When an individual is allowed to direct their own learning, they are able to follow their passions and learn on a deeper level, in a more complete way. Without an adult filtering the information, topics are often learned in a much more diverse and broad way.

This is a radical and paradigm-shifting way to approach education and it’s not going to be for everyone. But for those that don’t fit in at a conventional school, or for parents who want something different for their children, this could be the answer.

So where do we go from here? We need to form a community to create this amazing new place and we need team builders and volunteers to bring the vision to life. We will start creating both of those things at a information session coming up in the next two weeks. Here we will discuss the vision in a little more depth, outline the next steps and connect with others who are invested in an alternative education option.

If you want to attend this meeting, please make sure you add your email address to the mailing list as the details will be sent out through email. Can’t wait to meet you!

Do we have the right to educate children?

“An education (or, what is taught in school) is pretty well defined here. We can see the curriculum online any time we like. It is clearly laid out for us what a child should learn year by year. It appears that education is the filling up of a child with a pre-determined set of knowledge. But is there really only one type of education? And is it the same for every child? And who gets to decide what is important enough to include? Who decides what things are more important than others? Looking through the curriculum it’s easy to see that a lot of education is centered around ‘academics’. We get the distinct impression that things like reading, writing, and mathematics are more important than the arts. But what if you’re an artist or a dancer? Surely a one size fits all approach is very limiting? Surely being ‘successfully educated’ means something different for each individual person according to their strengths, interests, and what they plan to do in their lives.”


Continue reading at Happiness is Here blog.

“This idea is crazy.”

A free education sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it? If you’ve never heard of non-compulsory education before, it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea. Kids who are left to their own devices won’t actually learn anything, will they?

Actually, they can- and they do. Conventional school is only one way to get an education, and there are places all over the world that have been doing things differently for years. Check out these amazing schools that are offering their students an incredible environment to educate themselves in.

Summerhill School in England is the first of it’s kind and has been in existence for almost 100 years! Founded by A.S. Neill, Summerhill is a boarding school that produces thoughtful, intelligent graduates that go on to become doctors, artists, lawyers…

The Sudbury Valley School of Massachusetts was founded in 1968 and is a leader in the world of alternative education- so much so that democratic schools are often referred to as “Sudbury schools”.

The Albany Free School was founded in 1969 and prides itself on helping to rehabilitate students that had “slipped through the cracks” at their old schools and help to rebuild their love of learning.

And more locally, Windsor House School has been operating out of North Vancouver since 1971. Publically funded, this democratic school offers students a completely child-led and respectful education.

So maybe it isn’t so crazy after all?

Calling all revolutionaries!

Hello again free learners! I am so excited to get this project off the ground and to start turning this vision of a free and non-coercive learning centre in Nanaimo a reality. I am searching for like-minded individuals that are passionate about children’s rights in education and who want to be a part of the creation of a group that is committed to creating a radical environment of choice, freedom, and opportunity for children to learn in.

revolution_smallThe right people for this group are those that are dissatisfied with public and conventional education models and who recognize the need for an education revolution. They will see the value in a self-determined education, respecting a child’s instincts in their own education, and be committed to campaigning for change in how both childhood and compulsory education are managed.

If you are interested in alternative education, home education, life learning, unschooling, children’s rights, or just want to be a part of the solution, I want to hear from you!

Ideally I will find 3-5 people to form a core group of co-founders to bounce ideas around with and to set these ideas in motion with. You can be any age or gender, a parent or not, a businessperson or an artist- as long as you are committed and we mesh, I want to meet you!

If you want to be a part of the team, please send me an email at nanaimofreelearners@outlook.com. I can’t wait to make a change in our community!