Podcast Episode #22 – Unschooling- A World of Learning Part 1

Podcast Episode #22 – Unschooling- A World of Learning Part 1
April 2, 2011 Lainie Liberti

Exploring Unschooling-Part 1

Interview with life learner, unschooler

Peter Kowalke

Episode #22 is the 1st in a 3 Part Series on the subject of ‘unchooling’.  Lainie & Miro explore the concept with unschooled documentary film maker, writer & journalist Peter Kowalke. Also in this episode, Lainie & Miro share their experiences in the heart of coffee country, Manizales, Colombia.

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.”
~ John Holt

This is the first in a 3 part series in exploring the ideas surrounding ‘unschooling’. We’ve talked about unschooling in other podcasts (Podcast Episode #16 – Unschooling, Discovering No Differences Between Living & Learning), but we decided to spend this month exploring the concept of child led learning deeper by speaking with a couple of well known ‘unschooling personalities’ and another family who is preparing for their up and coming unschooling world adventure of their own. We set out to present you with a well rounded series to answer your questions about not only Miro’s education, but life learning in the world, as an unschooler.

“There is no difference between living and learning… it is impossible and misleading and harmful to think of them as being separate.” ~ John Holt

Peter Kowalke

How do homeschoolers turn out as adults?

Peter Kokwalke has been writing and speaking about homeschooling for more than 20 years, and this is a question that he is used to. In a recent article, Peter writes: “ The short answer is that homeschoolers turn out fine. They turn out great, even. Researcher Mitchell Stevens wrote a book about the homeschooling movement back in 2001, and in the book’s acknowledgement he captures the overall tenor of the outcome beautifully: “To anyone who has grown cynical about the kindness of strangers,” he wrote, “meet some homeschoolers. They will renew your faith.”

If you ever had any doubts, the conversation we had about  being a life long learner  is candid and revealing, and I suspect a little of what Miro can expect as an adult.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is  stupid.”
~ Albert Einstein

In a recent article called  Confronting a World Where People Don’t Study, Kowalke writes:

“As much as I question college, I love studying. I’m a major academics geek. Randomly put me in a room with 10 people, and most of the time I will be the one who sounds like a college professor; I’m almost always passionately studying some arcane or academic subject on the side, sourcing obscure books, visiting research libraries, conducting experiments or doing field research. When I’m not independently studying something, usually it means I’m overextended.

There’s an obvious reason why I’m studying like an independent scholar while most people are not: Studies and learning have always been integrated into my daily life as an ongoing process, whereas institutionalized education usually encourages education to be the whole thing or nothing, a means to an end. I rarely spent a full day studying when I was school age, but I also never stopped studying; I always blended it with the other things in my life, whether that was bodybuilding, writing to girls, producing my magazine as a teen, attending college or managing magazines professionally.”

(read the rest of the article here)

Our interview covers those topics and much much more!

Manizales, Colombia

Miro and I were volunteering there for 5 weeks, at a hostel called Base Camp Hostel. We did things like painting walls, sanding doors, constructing craft projects, manning the front desk, and being on door duty after hours. I even helped the owners of the hostel with their web site, a skill I continue to travel with. We loved the people who worked in the hostel and they all became a big family to us during our stay. Miro and I worked during the mornings or early afternoon hours and had the opportunity to explore, contribute and participate in the surrounding community later in the day. The city of Manizales was a wonderful town to explore and we got to know this quaint community and quirky community.

Manizales is built on a fairly straight stretch at the foot of one of the Cordillera Central mountains. This typical Colombian city is dominated by the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, is not overrun by tourists (yet) and can be reached easily from Bogota. There are several direct flight daily. One can connect easily with the rest of the world through Bogota.

The Caldas capital, better known as my Manizales ‘of my heart’  is located in Mid-western Colombia, on the Andean cordillera. Along with the Departments of Quindio and Risaralda, it makes up the Colombian coffee exporting area.

Miro on the metro cable in Manizales

The Heart of the Coffee Country


Unlike some of the intact colonial cities throughout Colombia, several fires and a devastating earthquake in 1878 ruined a great part of the old buildings. Nowadays, it bears a rather modern character and it has many universities, attracting students from all over the area.

One of our favorite aspects of the city are the whimsical sculptures placed through the city depicting figures, symbolizing different aspects of life in Manizales. The Cathedral de Manizales, located at the central square, is an impressive architectural piece of art and a must see. It struck us, the plaza was a meeting place for close to a hundred senior citizens who all seemed to gather in the square daily, playing dominoes and drinking coffee.
Parque de los Nevados

The nearby Parque de los Nevados (snow-peaks and thermal baths finished off with some astonishing views) can be easily explored from Manizales. Miro and I actually did do a day hike into the Los Nevados mountains.

Manizales has about 400,000 people, but is still blessed with a small town atmosphere. There are wonderful coffee and pastry shops lining the downtown area. However there are  shopping malls, a wide variety of food, movies, theater, live music and a prestegious music school as well.

We loved our stay in Manizales, and if you plan on visiting Colombia, please don’t miss this wonderful little city, tucked in the heart of coffee country.

The Unschooler Experiment


The Unschooler Experiement is the web site: at Unschooler.com

Peter Kowalke

Peter Kowalke is 32-year-old grown homeschooler, journalist and editor of Unschooler.com, a site about unschooling and what it means to be the change you want to see in the world. He’s producer of the documentary about the lasting influence of home education, Grown Without Schooling, and currently is working on a book about his other passion, deep relationships, entitled “The Other Half: How to Love and Be Loved More Deeply Than You Thought Possible.”

He’s a former columnist for Home Education Magazine, Life Learning Magazine and Home Educator’s Family Times, and he’s worked for homeschooling umbrella school, Clonlara, and India homeschooling advocates, Shikshantar Andolan.

Subscribe to the : The Unschooler Experiment Podcasts via iTunes

Grown Without Schooling

Grown Without Schooling was produced specifically for homeschooling families, support groups and conferences. We want as many homeschooling families as possible to watch GWS. At the same time, documentaries are extremely expensive to produce and we’re poor grown homeschoolers who need to repay our loans. Order a copy for your family. If you enjoy the documentary, please encourage friends and family to purchase copies, as well. Click here to read what others have said about GWS.

To purchase Grown Without Schooling, click here.

What others are saying about the documentary:

“Entertaining, vulnerable, unpretentious. Grown Without Schooling offers fascinating insights about the transition from homeschooling to the working world, and it provides both reassurance and thoughtful guidance for the next generation of homeschoolers. Highly recommended!”

-Grace Llewellyn, author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook and director of Not Back to School Camp

“Three thumbs up! Grown Without Schooling presents a profound homeschooling narrative.”

-Linda Dobson, author of the Homeschooling Book of Answers

Grown Without Schooling is an interesting look back at the early days of the homeschooling movement. The video is very well done, and Peter Kowalke has included some fairly diverse voices. I particularly like that he placed contradictory remarks back to back, although I did notice that most of the grown homeschoolers in the video are secular unschoolers by philosophy. Overall, I highly recommend GWS to those interested in the history of homeschooling.”

Mary Hood, Ph.D., author of The Relaxed Home Schooler

“I hope GWS is distributed widely.”

-Ron Miller, author and Executive Director of Paths of Learning magazine

“From true dissatisfaction to complete appreciation, the interviewees expressed the entire spectrum of what it feels like to be a homeschooler. This film should play a significant role in helping parents of homeschooled children learn the value of breaking free of traditional educational practices so that they can provide their children with a more meaningful and satisfactory education.”

-Alison McKee, author of Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves

Volunteering & Raising Funds

As you know,  Miro and I are on an 8 year, around the world journey, volunteering and living as a global citizen. We have hit a new milestone though, Miro has recently turned 12 and we recently entered our 10th country together. Our adventures ARE his classroom and we participate in the world with cultures as a visiting resident, and it’s our pleasure to give back.

We have been on the road with our backpacks as our only possessions, traveling since Miro was 10. Together, we have learned so much about humanity, cultures, language and history.

In the past we have volunteered and have gained so much from our experiences.

Fundacion Arte del Mundo

We have found a wonderful volunteer opportunity in Ecuador, in the city of Baños .  In a small country, in a small town near the middle of the world surrounded by volcanoes and a landscape of spectacular beauty, a small group of people are working to create and grow a center of art, language and literature for the community where they live and work.

“To be human is to be imaginative and creative. The members of Fundacion Arte del Mundo recognize the importance of art and literature in the lives of people, especially the lives of children. Art and art-related activities are often the only part of a person’s life where there are no right or wrong answers, where all are equal to create and imagine, where you are encouraged to experiment.”

We are currently raising money for our living expenses while we volunteer here in Ecuador. For 2 months we need only the small sum of $750. If you can contribute even $10 it will help us so much reach our goal. Please donate at gofundme.com, We are so grateful to our supporters for your help.

Base Camp Hostel Manizales

Base Camp Colombia is the only hostel located in the heart of Manizales (Colombia’s best kept secret) where all the action takes place.   From the bus terminal, the cable car delivers you to our front door(30 meters) and into the cultural and historical district of this surprisingly beautiful city.

Manizales is poised to be the next adventure capital of Colombia due to its proximity to the beautiful snow capped mountains of the Los Nevados.  Backpackers delight in the genuine kindness of the Paisa people in this region of the coffee triangle.  Base Camp Hostel is designed and run by travelers! We promise you will immediately recognize that you are in a very nice place, that will not break your backpacker travel budget.

Base Camp Hostel
Carrera #23  32-20
Manizales, Colombia
basecampcolombia [at] gmail.com


Podcast #22 Sponsor

The Raising Miro Podcast has  new sponsor!

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Seeking Intentional Community

Miro and Lainie are in South America. They have been reaching out to all of our contacts and asking for references for conscious communities, eco- villages, sustainable farms and volunteer opportunities. Lainie loves working with children, Miro loves working with animals and neither of them have ever worked on a farm, but they’re open to whatever opportunities come their way. Their desire for the first few months of the new year is to participate , volunteer their time and energies. Lainie would really like to be part of an intentional community, one that practices mediation, lives consciously and gives back to the surrounding community, helping to make locals lives a little easier. They are putting it out into the universe and making it known. If you have any suggestions or contacts for us in South America, please don’t hesitate to send off an introduction. They plan on be posting all the organizations they are considering after the beginning of the year so you can participate with their decision making process.

Thank you!

We want to take a moment to thank a few peoplewho have contributed to our travels. Your donations have helped cover our travel expenses and for that, we are so grateful! The people who have contributed to Raising Miro are: Ashley Hansen, Grandpa, Scott Van Pelt, Sashya Amee, Ivan Amador,Heather on Her Travels, Bradford Akerman, Tuan Vutran, Terrance O’Dowd, Eric Hammond, Chip Jacobs, Billy Horn and Sonia Kim. Thank you so much! Your support is heart-felt and much appreciated!

Support Raising Miro!

If you are interested in learning more about ways to support Raising Miro, including donating money or sponsoring our travels please click on this link. If you are interested in finding out about advertising opportunities for our podcasts or website, please on the site, please send a note here or use the donation form in the sidebar.


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Special Thanks

To those of you who have supported us so far on this journey, the donations we’ve received and the wonderful words of encouragement. Thank you all for your comments and feedback, and please keep them coming. Thank you Hanna for giving us a wonderful professional boost with the intro & outro, engineered by Hanna Jakobson, music “Multilayered Timbres” by Dr. Pimp courtesy of CC (creative commons) license.


  1. Amy 13 years ago

    Lainie and Peter, this interview was fantastic! What a pleasure it was to hear from a grown unschooler. So many things Peter said really resonated with me, especially the part where he talked about how the unschooling lifestyle causes you to really question everything in your life. This is something that has been happening to me in our first year of unschooling my boys. I am finding that my view of education has changed so drastically and I am looking at all aspects in my life and questioning my views.

    • Author
      ilainie 13 years ago

      Thanks Amy! Peter too, put into words many of the ideas I was exploring. I really enjoyed speaking with a grown up unschooler, and I could see Miro developing into a wonderful and insightful man too, some day. I am so glad you enjoyed this interview!

  2. Bluegreen Kirk 13 years ago

    Great post I was a little confused in the beginning since I didnt know what unschooling actually meant. I must say that being able to immerse yourself and be the change instead of expecting change is great.

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