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The Story of My New Book

The Kickstarter campaign for my new book, Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?, has launched! This is your chance to pre-order the book at a discount while also helping me pay for the editing, design, and other professional services necessary to turn my 60,000-word manuscript into a high-quality paperback, e-book, and audiobook.

I spent all of 2019 writing this book, and I’m excited to finally see it come to life. But the book really began in early 2017, when I sat down in my favorite cafe in Buenos Aires (while leading an Unschool Adventures program in Argentina) to write something for the newly formed Alliance for Self-Directed Education. The resulting article, What Does it Mean to Be Educated?, soon became the most visited page (beyond the homepage) on the entire ASDE website.

Writing that article reawakened my inner researcher, I began voraciously consuming new books, which in turn inspired me to develop new public talks to share what I was learning. In 2018 I delivered 24 presentations at alternative schools and self-directed learning centers across the USA.

Visiting so many small, scrappy, and powerful learning communities was a pleasure and privilege—and it left me thinking that the self-directed education world needed another book, one that spoke on behalf of all of its members: homeschoolers and unschoolers, Agile Learning Centers and Liberated Learners centers, Sudbury schools and democratic free schools (as well as the many other similar communities and methodologies that don’t fly one of these flags).

I also found myself noticing how economic anxieties underpinned so many parent’s fears about letting their kid take an unconventional educational path. If my kid doesn’t go to school (the reasoning goes), then they’ll ruin their chances of going to a good college… or any college at all. Then they won’t get a good job, they’ll be destitute forever, and I will have failed as a parent. I began to see how our deeply-held cultural beliefs about parenting, college, and work are directly connected to the viability of alternative educational paths.

Finally, I felt like some radical honesty was in order. After cheerleading for unschooling, radical free schools, and other self-directed paths for 15 years—and working with a bunch of teenagers who take these paths—I had noticed some areas in which we oversell our cherished philosophies. Self-direction is powerful, but it’s also not a magic bullet. There are trade-offs to be considered, and the data we’ve accumulated to show that such paths “work” is shockingly thin. I felt the need to write something that described the realities of self-directed education, warts and all, for parents who want the straight truth.

It took me a long time to realize that the audience for my writing is—and always has been—parents. Ever since I found Grace Llewellyn’s Teenage Liberation Handbook, I felt inspired to write directly for young people. But after the 861st teenager told me “My mom found your book, loved it, handed it to me, and now I love it,” I accepted the fact that I should just sit down and write a book for parents.

And so I did: sitting down every morning in the little town of Wanaka, on the South Island of New Zealand, for four months straight, until I had a first draft. In the following months I worked closely with my super-smart friend Ethan (a fellow Not Back to School Camp staff member) to edit and refine the manuscript. Finally, in December 2019, I shared the document with more than 30 of my colleagues in the world of self-directed education, who gave me a bucketload of helpful critique and feedback.

Now here we are, at the end of this multi-year journey. The manuscript is complete. All it needs is the help of a few professionals to become a beautiful, high-quality final product that people will take seriously. (We do, indeed, judge books by their covers.) That’s what the Kickstarter is all about: a way for me to pre-sell copies of the final book in order to raise the money needed to pay these professionals. It’s a win-win: you get an awesome book, I get the funds necessary to make it awesome. (And if I don’t meet my $10,000 goal, the project fails, and you don’t spend a dime.)

The campaign is just 3 weeks long, ending February 20th. I encourage you to to contribute now, and if you have any friends who might find value in this book, encourage you to encourage them.

Thank you for helping me bring this book to life—and thank you for following my journey.

Published January 30, 2020

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