Exploring Unschooling with Pat Farenga
Pat Farenga has built his career around education. As an author and activist, he shares his knowledge and experience of the incredible value that unschooling and homeschooling holds.
In his personal capacity, Pat has experienced this first hand.
Pat and his wife have three children of their own, which has allowed them to experience the unschooling journey for themselves.
Pat reflects on both his personal and professional experiences that shaped his unschooling path, as well as where he sees the future of unschooling heading.
Exploring Unschooling: Starting a Journey in Homeschooling
As an English Master’s student in the 80’s, Pat wasn’t overrun with job opportunities.
At the time, teaching jobs were hard to come by. So, Pat started working as a cashier in a bookstore in Boston. It was around this time that, through a colleague, he found out about the John Holt Center.
John Holt was a prolific educator and author. He was a thought leader in the practice of unschooling and created a center to support families and parents who were interested in exploring unschooling.
Pat started volunteering at the John Holt Center doing word processing and bookkeeping.
At the time, Pat recalls thinking that John's approach to education was crazy. In the 80’s, the idea of breaking away from traditional schooling systems was almost unheard of.
During his time at the center, John encouraged Pat to read one of his books, ‘How Children Fail’. This moment was life-changing for Pat.
For the first time, he saw himself and his own relationship with learning reflected in the book.
In school, Pat has always struggled with maths. However, once we started working as a volunteer bookkeeper he realized that all he needed was practical application in order to understand the concepts.
This was a turning point for Pat.
He realized that when it came to education, there was more to it than just school.
After John Holt’s unfortunate passing in 1985, Pat was given the opportunity to continue his legacy through publishing Growing Without School (GWS), the US’s first periodical publication focusing on unschooling.
Pat Farenga shares his family’s experiences with homeschooling
In his personal capacity, Pat had his own journey with unschooling.
Making the decision to unschool and homeschool is daunting, to say the least. At first, Pat’s wife was incredibly skeptical about homeschooling. But thanks to the community created through the John Holt Center, they were able to connect with other families on the same journey.
Pat and his wife decided to let their children direct their own learning experience.
Witnessing their daughter, Laura, interact with the world around her was remarkable. They watched how she learned to walk, talk and socialize with joy and ease.
As Laura grew up, they worked to nurture her self-directed learning journey. Pat and his wife supported Laura’s natural curiosity and discovery of the world around her.
However, Pat learned firsthand that homeschooling isn’t always smooth sailing. When they realized that Laura was struggling with maths, Pat and his wife tried a number of options.
They tried personal tutoring, SAT maths prep courses and nothing seemed to work.
After pursuing some courses at the local community college, Laura became interested in psychology. However, in order to pursue the course, she was required to have a maths foundation. With the motivation of getting into the psychology course that she was passionate about, Laura ended up flying through her college’s math course.
Pat describes their relationship with schools as a ‘swinging door’. Their kids always had the choice to attend school if they wanted to. With all three of their children, they had the opportunity to explore the ‘traditional’ school environment.
Overall, all three chose homeschooling over attending school.
Pat shares that for his kids, the years they spent being homeschooled were the happiest and most productive of their schooling years.
According to Pat, the crux is simple. The process of unschooling is about empowering your children to go from dependence to independence.
The future trends we can expect in the homeschooling and unschooling movement
There’s no doubt that the homeschooling movement is spreading globally.
According to Pat, we’re at an inflection point.
Traditional schooling no longer has to be the default option. Overall, we’re more aware of the different avenues for our children to explore.
Technology offers so many incredible, alternative unschooling resources. However, there is not enough support in accessing these resources.
However, Pat tells us there is an increasing connection between schools and homeschooling families. More and more, schools are reaching out to offer support and resources to facilitate extra-mural activities.
With the variety of resources at our disposal, the options and opportunities are truly endless.
"It's not that I feel that school is a good idea gone wrong, but a wrong idea from the word go. It's a nutty notion that we can have a place where nothing but learning happens, cut off from the rest of life."
— John Holt
Is it time to kickstart your own unschooling journey?
At Galileo, we’re committed to nurturing happy, curious, and passionate children. We believe that every child is a natural-born leader with the potential to achieve anything they set their mind to.
Through this, we have created a community of like-minded families who want to join us on this mission.
Simply put, we help future-looking families to empower their children beyond the classroom. Galileo allows learners to curate their own learning journeys while supporting them every step of the way.