keynote, Panel discussions & Break Out Sessions

Keynote Presentation:

saturday - 4:45 - 6:00 PM

radical unschooling & peaceful parenting

Dayna & Devin Martin

Panel discussions:

friday - 7:00 - 8:00 pm

saturday - 1:30 - 2:45 pm

saturday - 7:30 - 9:00 pm

Making School Optional!

Ken Danford and teens from several liberated learner centers (North Star, Princeton Learning Cooperative, Bay State Learning Center, Deep Root, BigFish, Beacon, and perhaps others) will describe their experiences of using this support to make the transition from schooling to self-directed learning. They will share a range of stories - some of the teens left successful school careers to have more freedom to pursue their interests, others were struggling with personal issues or actively resisting the school’s expectations. Some members are independent homeschoolers who see these programs as worthwhile additions to their routines. In addition to sharing personal stories, they will share some similarities and differences about how the centers operate, and discuss where these programs fit into the concept of democratic education.

Kick off:

Saturday 9:00-9:45 AM

Interactive session with Kathryn Haydon

Creative Thinking: A Path to Happiness and Deeper Learning

Is everybody really creative? In this dynamic, interactive session, Kathryn Haydon will shed light on the science of creativity and its power to deepen learning and support growth. Participants will actively engage their own creative thinking and problem solving in the process. You will return home with inspiration and strategies to help you nurture creative thinking and problem solving in the classroom, in your family, and beyond.

Presenter Bio:

Kathryn Haydon, M.Sc., founder of Sparkitivity, works with leadership teams to create sustainable cultures of innovation, and with teachers to integrate creative thinking across academic content. She also develops strategic interventions for struggling students. A former second grade, Spanish, and enrichment teacher, she has written and spoken widely on the topics of creativity, creative learning, and supporting creative and gifted students. She co-authored Creativity for Everybody (2015) and Discovering and Developing Talents in Spanish Speaking Students (2012), and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post and other top publications. Kathryn is a graduate of Northwestern University, and holds a master of science degree in Creativity and Change Leadership from the acclaimed International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY-Buffalo in New York.

Break out sessions:

Group a - saturday - 9:45 - 10:45 am

Don't Forget the Reflection!

"We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience." Slowing down to reflect not only enhances the knowledge/experience acquired, it has implications for a student's confidence and motivation. But how??? Take a quick tour through the ages & stages, with some tips for reflection.

In this session participants will explore why reflection is essential, and gain tools for promoting reflection across the ages

Presenter Bio:

KD ​Maynard ​is the director of admission/college counseling at Oak Meadow. She has held roles in college admissions, college counseling and financial aid, academic advising, teacher training/curriculum development, and a variety of administrative/leadership positions at Brown University, World Learning, Marlboro College, The Putney School, Community College of Vermont, and University of Massachusetts Amherst. She also worked on a NSF grant to reform engineering education for undergraduates. KD’s liberal arts background (AB from Brown and MALS from Dartmouth) provides her with a worldview that seeks to make connections between and among people, ideas, and a sense of a greater good. Her experience includes creating and supervising college-level first-year seminars that incorporated study skills and student success strategies.

Sustainability Skills, Service Learning & Safari Adventures With the Maasai

We will present our trip for students this summer....Students will work side by side with the Maasai people of Tanzania. From building a playground at a village school, to gathering water and milking goats, there are a variety of ways for students to get their hands dirty, and our days on this journey will be full and fulfilling.

Presenter Bio

Liz Jackson is the Director of Gogi Abroad

Gogi Abroad was founded by Liz Jackson, an experienced, passionate educator who has been teaching adolescents and leading international trips for over 10 years. Gogi Abroad is a small, dynamic organization with seasoned, enthusiastic leaders, who get to know each student and work closely with families to insure a safe, inspiring experience.

Liz Jackson holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Lesley University and brings fifteen years of experience as an educator of both Spanish and Waldorf curriculum. She is a seasoned trip leader and an avid traveler. Her passion for travel and experiential learning is rooted in her own transformative experiences studying abroad as a teenager. She loves witnessing her students’ growing awareness of the the world as they travel together, and she brings both the compassion of a mother and the clarity and knowledge of an educator.

Recently, in 2016 Liz traveled the world for eight months with her two boys and her husband. They traveled to thirteen countries, and the experience was transformative and expansive on many levels. They began their adventure with the intention to connect with new cultures and people from all over the world, with special attention to water and natural resources. They experienced first hand how global warming is changing climate world wide, and how many cultures and tribes are feeling its effects.

Liz resides in Vermont with her husband and two young sons.

For more information about Gogi Abroad:

Entrepreneurship as Self-Directed Education

What if your self-directed education could be financially self-sustaining? What if you could pursue expensive educational experiences at no cost or if they could actually make you money? While most entrepreneurship education focuses on content knowledge, business plan development and pitches, Nicole Colter believes entrepreneurship is first, and foremost, a mindset. This mindset can be developed through creative thinking and experiential learning. Unschoolers are already developing this entrepreneurial mindset simply by self-directing their education. In this interactive session, together we will explore how families and/or small group learning communities of teens might use entrepreneurship as a form of self-directed education.

Presenter Bio

Nicole Colter is a serial entrepreneur and educator who is passionate about Self-Directed Education. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Creativity and Change Leadership from the International Center for Studies in Creativity and will complete her Master of Science in Creative Studies in August 2018. She is particularly interested in exploring education practices and environments that create self-directed learners and is currently intrigued by open education including connectivism, rhizomatic learning and emergent curriculum. Her other interests include entrepreneurship education, mentoring, community development and cooperative business. Nicole will launch Entrepreneurship Learning Communities throughout New England this summer. She also offers services to individuals, groups and businesses looking to make significant changes through creative problem-solving facilitation, creativity training and/or dynamic change coaching. She helps clients clarify their vision or challenge and to work through the transformation and implementation stages so that effective change can become reality.

Break out sessions:

Group B - saturday - 11:00 am - 12:15 pm

Fire ‘Em Up! How to Encourage Students to Be Invested and Engaged in Their Own Learning

Join Oak Meadow Independent Learning for an interactive session about student motivation in independent learning. By exploring best practices and useful tools in independent learning participants will learn about markers of student autonomy, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, creating an effective learning environment, supporting the learning process from a developmental perspective, and evaluation and assessment of independent learners. The presentation will include a shared discussion, question and answer and tools (handouts)

Presenter Bio

Steve Lorenz received a BS in Secondary Education from the University of Dayton and MS in Education from CW Post College with further graduate studies in Educational Leadership. He is the former Head of School for The Grammar School in Putney, Vermont. He is a former member of the Oak Meadow Advisory Board, and is currently employed as the Oak Meadow School Liaison as well as a member of the Oak Meadow Board of Directors. Steve also serves as an Independent School Reviewer for the Vermont Agency of Education. Earlier in his career, Steve served as elementary school principal and a secondary, elementary, and early childhood teacher. He has been involved with independent and public educational institutions, including serving on the board of trustees for Vermont Academy and on the board of directors of a local public school. Steve has served on a number of New England Association of Schools and Colleges Accreditation Committees and Self Study Committees. He served as the executive director of a not for profit natural history museum and environmental learning center in Vermont.

Revolutionary Change and the Will to Win

I want to facilitate a discussion about the various forces that currently impact, impede, and support alternatives to school and how such people/schools/centers can improve their visibility and standing in their communities. I want to avoid the conventional political focus on power relationships and explore the specific how-tos of this effort. John Holt wrote "an enormously important variable and one that every revolutionary society must deal with, is how they feel about each other, how much they like, respect, understand, and trust one another. Anything and everything that we can do to increase the amount of happiness, satisfaction, self-respect, sense of worth, trust, joy, etc., that a particular person or group of people feels and to reduce the disappointment, envy, despair, alienation, rage, and hatred, makes society that much better." This workshop will explore this concept by discussing the various small-scale but important efforts, ideas, and actions individuals and groups are taking towards this end.

Presenter Bio

Pat Farenga worked closely with the author and teacher John Holt until Holt’s death in 1985. He is the President of Holt Associates Inc. and was the Publisher of Growing Without Schooling magazine (GWS) from 1985 until it stopped publishing in Nov. 2001. GWS was the nation’s first periodical about homeschooling, started by Holt in 1977.

Farenga and his wife learn at home with their three girls, now ages 26, 23, and 19. In addition to writing for GWS for twenty years, Farenga has written many articles and book chapters about homeschooling for publications as diverse as Motheringmagazine, Paths of Learning magazine, Home Education Magazine, The Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, The Encyclopedia of School Administration and The International Encyclopaedia of Education, 3rd edition, 2010 .

Farenga has written Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling (Perseus) and The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling (Holt Associates); articles about homeschooling and democratic education (Encounter Magazine, Summer 2011); and essays about unschooling in a number of publications such as Un Mundo Por Aprender (University of Colombia, Bogota, 2011), and the entries about homeschooling for the International Encyclopedia of Education, 3rd Edition (Elsevier, 2010) and the online edition of Encyclopedia Britannica (2012, forthcoming).

Farenga also appears on local and national television and radio shows as a homeschooling expert; he has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, Dr. Drew Pinsky, The Voice of America, NPR's The Merrow Report,Fox Across America, Geraldo-At-Large, and CNN's Parenting Today. Farenga has been quoted as an expert on homeschooling and unschooling many times in the national media. Farenga addresses audiences about homeschooling, unschooling and the work of John Holt throughout the United States, Ireland, Canada, Colombia, England, and Italy.

Grassroots Awareness Building

Three private schools have recently been founded in Ottawa, Canada, by teachers and parents who opted out of the public school system, not because they wanted to, but because they felt they had no choice. They believe in public education, but not the kind being delivered. One of schools stems from North Star, another from Acton, and the third is striving to be a prototype of future learning.

People associated with these schools have joined with other concerned citizens to form a group called Uniting for Children and Youth (UCY) that has the purpose of raising the public’s awareness of the benefits to giving young people more control over their learning. This public awareness is being channelled to encourage local and provincial authorities to undertake pilot programs designed to systematically investigate how to provide real choice for learners right inside their community schools. We know that there is no valid reason for not providing this kind of choice in public schools. Schools-within-schools can be successfully managed. Rather than drive innovative teachers out of public education, we need them to develop their programs in community schools, for the benefit of all who want them, freeing the teachers from the distractions of trying to make private schools viable.

This breakout session will introduce what UCY is doing in Ottawa and seek to grow the thinking around how such groups can be most effective.

Presenter Bio

Richard Fransham has been an educator working on school reform for over 30 years. He is one of the founding members of Uniting for Children and Youth. Recently he enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Ottawa in order to improve his chances of conducting much needed research on how to move beyond the traditional school model.

Break out sessions:

group C - saturday - 2:45 - 4:00 pm

ask me anything with peter gray

Join Peter Gray as he answers your questions about self-directed education, learning through play and any other questions you may have about education.

Presenter Bio

Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College and author of a widely used college introductory psychology textbook (now in its 7th edition). Much of my research focuses on children’s natural ways of learning and the experiences of people who have taken a self-directed route to their education. He is author of the book Free to Learn and a founding member of the Alliance for Self - Directed Education.

Executive Function Challenges: How Creative Teaching and Learning Helps

The session aims at briefly exploring how creative teaching and learning enhance executive function (EF) skills in 21st-century classrooms. Working in small groups, the participants will be guided to translate creativity skill sets into designing meaningful and engaging lessons that not only meet the academic integrity of the curriculum but also improve specific EF areas students find challenging. The groups will then reconvene and share their lessons. Finally, holistic EF and creativity across curriculum will be briefly discussed.

Presenter Bio

Iman Rasti, Ph.D. earned his Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Liverpool, England in 2012. After more than a decade of working with young adults at undergraduate and graduate levels, he decided to shift his career to work with children about five years ago. Since then, Iman has worked as a middle school English and humanities teacher, English department chair, and mindfulness and executive function coach at multiple independent schools. Currently, Iman teaches humanities at Rippowam Cisqua School in Bedford, NY, where he is also the Co-Director of Wellness Initiative and one of the members of the Grassroot Innovation Cohort. He has been trained in the Torrance Incubation Model where he integrates high-level creative thinking into his content areas in order to enhance student engagement and intrinsic motivation. Iman has published several academic articles and presented at national and international conferences on topics such as text linguistics, wellness, creative teaching and learning, and holistic executive functioning.

Micro-School Building 101: Personalize Learning for Your Child, and Create an Amazing Business for You!

Micro-schools are a new and exciting movement that is poised to change the face of education - one small school at a time. Want to know more about what micro-schools are and how you can build one as an amazing learning space for your child and community? Join us as we explore the micro-school movement, some of the schools leading the way, and the 8-step process you can take to build and open a micro-school in your community!

Mara Linaberger’s essential belief is that each of us has chosen to be here on the planet at this moment in time for a specific reason – that we’re all on a mission we chose for ourselves. And that figuring out what it is that we love, what we’re good at, and why we’ve chosen to be here now, is the main reason for continuing to engage in rich and meaningful learning throughout a lifetime. Mara also believes that many schools actually slow down or stifle those goals and outcomes. So she’s passionate about helping parents create micro-schools that put education to work, serving kids as they develop their highest potentials while also having fun learning!

Presenter Bio

Mara is a life-long educator, author, musician, and artist, having spent 25 years in service as a public school educator, teacher trainer, and administrator. First earning her doctorate in Instructional Technology, Mara then went on to earn a Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility in the state of Pennsylvania. Having seen the reality of school from top to bottom, she changed directions. Launching “Mindful Technology Consultants” in 2013, she has provided individualized training and support services for online coaches, small businesses, school districts, and larger organizations. Focused on the simplified and intentional use of technology, she helps clients to deconstruct complex language and ideas in order to achieve harmony, to make rich connections between like-minded creative folks, and to bring back a love for creativity and learning.

Mara currently maintains a small apartment in her hometown, that her friends jokingly refer to as “the Pittsburgh hotel room,” while she travels far and wide, directly supporting parents interested in building a micro-school to implement their business plan quickly and efficiently.

Break out sessions:

group D - Sunday - 9:00 - 10:15 am

so you want to start an educational alternative?

Join Jerry Mintz the Executive Director of AERO to learn tips to start your own educational alternative. Jerry will be sharing his knowledge from helping to start hundreds of educational alternatives across the globe and the latest ideas from the AERO schools starter course.

Presenter Bio

Jerry Mintz has been a leading voice in the alternative school movement for over 30 years. In addition to his seventeen years as a public and independent alternative school principal and teacher, he has also helped found more than fifty public and private alternative schools and organizations. He has lectured and consulted in more than twenty-five countries around the world.

In 1989, he founded the Alternative Education Resource Organization and since then has served as it’s Director. Jerry was the first executive director of the National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools (NCACS), and was a founding member of the International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC).

In addition to several appearances on national radio and TV shows, Jerry’s essays, commentaries, and reviews have appeared in numerous newspapers, journals, and magazines including The New York Times, Newsday, Paths of Learning, Green Money Journal, Communities, Saturday Review, Holistic Education Review as well as the anthology Creating Learning Communities (Foundation for Educational Renewal, 2000).

Jerry was Editor-in-Chief for the Handbook of Alternative Education (Macmillan, 1994), and the Almanac of Education Choices (Macmillan/Simon & Schuster, 1995). He is the author of No Homework and Recess All Day: How to Have Freedom and Democracy in Education (AERO, 2003) and is editor of Turning Points: 35 Visionaries in Education Tell Their Own Story (AERO, 2010).

Building Relationships and Self Awareness

Participants will spend time using a method called the Flower Process which provides a creative, fun and meaningful way to connect with others, reflect on who you are and who you want to be. Afterward, each person will walk away with instructions they can use to facilitate the process with any age group.

Presenter Bio

Liam Corcoran is obsessed with learning and creativity. Having experienced a variety of alternative and traditional learning models as a student has inspired him to pursue educational design and facilitation. He currently works for the self-directed learning ed-tech platform SchoolHack Solutions training practitioners all around the country while continuing his relationship and empowerment work with his local community.

Personalizing 21st Century Learning

Education is evolving. A learner prepared for the an increasingly global, innovative future requires a personalized education that equally weights Academic, Social/Emotional Development, and Mad Skills to foster the key 21st Century skills: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration (the 4 C’s).

In this breakout session, we will define exactly what it means to be a 21st Century learner, how to personalize and apply it to the individual, and begin to design a sample course that engages each individual learners abilities and interests.

Presenter Bio:

Caroline Hunter is a science nerd and Co-Founder of 21CI, an integrated project-based learning framework developed upon the belief that:

● Learning is fun,

● Failure should be embraced, and

● Google knows everything.

Caroline received her BA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and MSc (Masters in Science) from University College London before embarking on a career conserving desiccated organic materials (ie mummies and other dried out bits) for museums and archaeological sites around the world. Building upon her career in conservation, Caroline continues to blend science, humanities and real-world relevance to guide the implementation of a personalized 21CI pathway for her learners.

Break out sessions:

group D - Sunday - 10:15 - 11:30 am

Speech Creating a Democratic Environment within Our Intentional Learning Communities

A primary vehicle for transmitting Democratic Education values, beliefs and attitudes, not to mention a crucial basis for relationships within the learning community, is the speech acts of all who comprise the community. Unfortunately, the hierarchical culture of our society habituates both adults and youth to express themselves through dominant-subservient forms rather than through Democratic Education’s equality in community inducing a strong dissonance between a community’s intention and practice. This participatory workshop will begin a process illuminating dominant-subservient speech and uncovering speech promoting equality in community so workshop participants will be better prepared to match Democratic Education intention with practice.

Presenter Bio

Leo Fahey A professor of Communication, Media and Culture, Leo has from the Fall of 1980 taught undergraduates at Kingsborough Community College, Jersey City State College, New York University, Elizabeth Seton College, Long Island University/Brooklyn, Bronx Community College, Marymount Manhattan College, Molloy College, and Fordham University. He has presented papers and organized panels at national Communication and Media conventions and has given workshops at numerous AERO and AEROx conferences. He remains an active advocate for the Twice-Exceptional child who principally authored bills in the New York State Legislature recognizing this category of pupil for service unique to the characteristics of this population and who promotes Democratic Education in service to the Twice-Exceptional. Leo has also been a tireless advocate for Democratic Education since coming together with other New York City advocates in 2003 on initiatives establishing Democratic Education communities in the City, one of which was the Brooklyn Free School.

Adolescent Health, Empowerment, & Happiness

Explore a holistic view of adolescent health and how it leads to empowerment and lasting change. Delve into Western and Eastern philosophies of health and medicine as they relate to adolescent health, happiness, and empowerment. The emphasis will be on techniques to empower adolescents to take charge of their health and happiness.

Presenter Bio

Dr. Peter Berg, Author of the Tao of Teenagers: A Guide to Teen Health Happiness & Empowerment is the founder of Youth Transformations, where he works with youth as a board Certified Holistic Health and Mental Health Coach and is currently the Assistant Director / Counselor at RSEC Academy in NH.

His work includes helping teenagers empower themselves so they can take charge of their health and happiness and be the masters of their own lives.

He holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and has written extensively on alternative, holistic, integrated educational theory and integrated health. He also serves as a faculty member for the Self-Design Graduate Institute.

Peter organizes the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) representatives worldwide and is a reviewer for the American Educational Research Association. He has consulted on many school and organizational startups and has spent many years as an educational leader. Currently he works with youth as an Administrator - Counselor at the RSEC Academy in New Hampshire.

Building a Digital Community for Self-Directed Learners

I will share the process and lessons learned in creating a digital community for self-directed learners which started as an idea and gradually transformed into a life-changing platform.

Presenter Bio

Jim Flannery, At first glance, my career may seemed scattered across different fields and topics. However, an emerging theme I've noticed in my work is to empower people who are powerless. This may sound cliche, so I'll try and be more specific: I want to unlock doors and liberate people who are trapped inside. More specific? I want to help students trapped in school, elderly people trapped in nursing homes, psychiatric patients trapped in institutions, and inmates trapped in prisons. To achieve these lofty goals, I bring many different skills to the table. For example, I am an experienced startup entrepreneur, trained biomedical engineer, strong public speaker, self-taught web developer, self-satisfying comedian, eccentric physics teacher, and mediocre painter. To keep myself sane, I like reading, rock climbing, skateboarding, and traveling. While I don't mind fighting alone, success requires a team. Let's talk about coordinating our efforts to create a better world