Who We Are

We are the founders of Alternatives to School. If you are looking for a dynamic speaker to discuss the ideas reflected on this site, please contact one of the following individuals:

Peter GrayBio Photo, research professor of psychology at Boston College, has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. He is the author of a highly acclaimed introductory psychology textbook (Psychology, Worth Publishers, now in its 6th edition). His recent research has focused on the role of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves, through play and exploration, when they are free to do so. He has conducted follow-up studies of people who educated themselves outside of traditional schooling. His most recent book is Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Basic books, 2013), and he authors a blog for Psychology Today magazine entitled Freedom to Learn. Professor Gray is a frequent invited speaker on topics related to democratic schooling, home-based self-directed learning, the nature of childhood, and the developmental value of free play. A list of some of his upcoming speaking engagements can be found here. He can be reached at .

Patrick FarengaPatrick Farenga is a writer and education activist who worked closely with the late author and teacher John Holt and continues his work today as the president of HoltGWS LLC. After Holt died, Pat published Growing Without Schooling magazine (GWS) from 1985 until 2001. (GWS was the nation’s first periodical about learning without going to school, started by Holt in 1977.) The Farengas unschooled their daughters, now ages 27, 24 and 21. Pat speaks as a homeschooling expert at education conferences around the world, as well as on commercial radio and television talk shows. His media appearances include The Today Show, Good Morning America, Voice of America, Geraldo, NPR’s Learning Matters, CNN’s Parenting Today, The Dr. Drew Pinsky Show, and Fox and Friends.

Pat co-authored Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling (Perseus), The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling (Holt Associates), articles about homeschooling and democratic education, as well as many essays about unschooling for a number of trade and academic publications. Pat also wrote the entries about homeschooling for the International Encyclopedia of Education, 3rd Edition (Elsevier, 2010) and the online edition of Encyclopedia Britannica (2012). His most recent work includes reprinting Holt’s Escape From Children: The Needs and Rights of Children (HoltGWS, 2013) and a new biography of Holt, The Legacy of John Holt: A Man Who Genuinely Understood, Trusted, and Respected Children (HoltGWS, 2013). Pat operates the John Holt/Growing Without Schooling website, johnholtgws.com. He can be reached at .

Peter BergsonBio Photo is the father of four grown unschoolers, grandfather of five (at last count) unschoolers, and co-founder of Open Connections in suburban Philadelphia, Penn. He and his late wife, Susan Shilcock, incorporated in 1975 and opened their preschool/kindergarten and family center in 1978. They met and became friends with John Holt in 1983 and morphed Open Connections into a new kind of resource center/hybrid that serves homeschoolers/unschoolers ages two through 19. (See www.openconnections.org for details and a video.) Peter’s background includes four years as director of training for Synectics, Inc., a pioneering firm that specializes in creativity and creative group problem solving. This process lies at the heart of the Open Connections approach to self-directed learning. Much of the philosophy is described in Peter and Susan’s book, Open Connections: The OTHER Basics. In 2016, Peter co-founded The Natural Creativity Center, a self-directed learning community that actively embraces racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural diversity, located in inner-city Philadelphia. Peter can be reached at or .

0feba20b-b314-4ae9-b1f0-5d1dff4c5c9eKerry McDonald has been deeply involved in education policy and practice for two decades. She has a B.A. in Economics from Bowdoin College and an M.Ed. from Harvard University, where she studied education administration, planning, and social policy. She is a writer for Natural Mother Magazine and blog editor for AlternativesToSchool.com. Kerry lives and learns together with her husband and four, never-been-schooled children in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she blogs at Whole Family Learning. She can be reached at kmcdonald@post.harvard.edu.

Brooke Newman Bio Photowas stuck in the compulsory school system for way too long. She was lucky enough to have parents who were open to an alternative and who also found the money to send her to a school that was radically different. She is a proud graduate of the Sudbury Valley School (SVS) in Framingham, Mass.Without any grades or documentation of knowledge acquired during her time at SVS, Brooke went on to study political science at Northeastern University and graduated with a B.A. from the Eugene Lang College at the New School University in Manhattan. She also completed her Masters in Public Administration at the Baruch School of Public Affairs in New York City. After 20 years working as a writer, researcher and nonprofit administrator, Brooke is self-employed as a consultant and grant writer. She resides in Santa Cruz, California and can be reached at.

Cevin SolingBio Photo, president of Spectacle Films and Xemu Records, is a writer, director, producer, artist and academic. Among other things, he directed and produced “The War On Kids,” winner of the best educational documentary award at the New York Independent Film and Video Festival. The film, which demonstrates how American public schools have been modeled after prisons in response to fear and a burgeoning intolerance of youth, has received accolades from The New York Times, Variety and The Huffington Post. Soling has been interviewed on numerous radio shows, including The Lionel Show on Air America, The Joey Reynolds Show on WOR, and The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC. The film was also featured on national television along with an interview on The Dr. Nancy Show on MSNBC, as well as on RT Television, and Soling was the featured guest on The Colbert Report. The film has been broadcast internationally on The Sundance Channel and aired domestically on The Documentary Channel.Soling received a Master’s in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is currently completing a second graduate degree at Harvard University and gives lectures on his films at various colleges and universities. He can be reached at .


pink_bear_smallestJens Peter de Pedro
is a Creative Director at Toca Boca, the Swedish digital toy power house. Jens Peter has a Masters in Interactive Telecommunications from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, 1999. He also received a Bachelors degree from Stockholm University in Psychology, Education and Children’s Culture, 1997. He is a contributor to the Alternatives to School blog here and here, and speaks publicly on issues such as gender and play and adultism. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two unschooled daughters. His website is littlefrogs.com and on twitter he is @jp_de_pedro

Scott NoelleBio Photo is a parenting coach, blogger, and author of The Daily Groove: How To Enjoy Parenting… Unconditionally! In 1997, Scott collaborated with Jean Liedloff, author of The Continuum Concept, to bring her continuum parenting principles to the internet. Jean’s insights into human nature — based on living in the Amazon jungle with indigenous hunter-gatherers for two years — transformed Scott’s early parenting experience and inspired his work as a parent educator and advocate of self-directed education. Since 2006, he has been sharing practical parenting wisdom through his Daily Groove newsletter and blog. Scott speaks regularly at homeschooling and unschooling conferences on the benefits of a partnership style of parenting and education: eschewing control tactics and instead supporting children’s natural instincts for self-education. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and their two adolescent, self-educated children. Scott can be reached via the contact page on dailygroove.com.