Generally, the idea of school seems to be a good one. There are schools all over the world, and most children and teenagers attend school for several hours each day, usually five days each week. Most elementary and secondary schools are "public"--free to local students, funded by taxpayer money. And yet, this structure varies in its effectiveness. For some students, albeit a small number, attending a very small school, or learning at home, is a better idea. Although students seem to navigate the differences, sometimes beginning their career in a home school then finishing in a public or private school, sometimes the other way around, the two cultures seem quite distinct. That's the basis of this episode--and it's centered on the good work of Hunter College Professor Gina Riley. Gina writes books and talks about homeschooling and unschooling, but she trains teachers in a fairly traditional public college. We asked Gina to pull together several other educators to think about these different worlds in a single conversation. We are joined by Dr. Cheryl Fields-Smith is an Associate Professor of Elementary Education at the University of Georgia; Nausheen Akhter began as a traditional school teacher but now works in homeschooling; Samantha Jacob is an educator and researcher with a myriad of experiences; and Dr. Rebecca English currently teaches at Queensland University of Technology.

More about this week's guests:

9051757659?profile=RESIZE_400xDr. Cheryl Fields-Smith is an Associate Professor of Elementary Education at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. She earned her doctorate from Emory University in 2004. Her research interests include family engagement and homeschooling among Black families. Her book titled Exploring Single Black Mothers’ Resistance through Homeschooling won the 2020 AESA Critic’s Choice Award. Dr. Fields-Smith is co-founder of Black Family Home Educators and Scholars, LLC, space where Black home educators and scholars gather to set a research agenda and support one another in the effort of educating Black children with excellence.


9051819080?profile=RESIZE_400xGina Riley, Ph.D. is an educational psychologist, Clinical Professor, and Program Leader of the Adolescent Special Education Program at CUNY – Hunter College. Dr. Riley has over fifteen years of experience working with teens diagnosed with learning disabilities and emotional/behavioral disorders. She is also a seasoned academic, with years of teaching, research, and supervisory experience within the fields of special education, psychology, school psychology, and mental health counseling. In addition, Dr. Riley has extensive experience in online education and distance learning at the college/university level. She is known internationally for her work in the fields of homeschooling, unschooling, and self-directed learning. Her books include “Unschooling: Exploring Learning Beyond The Classroom” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) and new book, “The Homeschooling Starter Guide” (Rockridge Press).


9051828666?profile=RESIZE_400xNausheen Akhter studied English and Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College, Columbia University. She received an M.Ed. from Hunter College, City University of New York in Adolescent Special Education and is a licensed New York State teacher. After teaching English and Math for several years in a wonderful NYC public school, she began to homeschool her son and work as an educational consultant to homeschooling families. She strives to guide all students to responsibly explore their curiosity and find joy in learning. A visual-kinesthetic learner herself, she incorporates art and projects to teach English, Math, and STEM.


9051836260?profile=RESIZE_400xSamantha Jacob is an educator and researcher with a myriad of experiences in diverse educational settings. She is currently working in distance learning as an educational mentor and book club facilitator for adolescent girls in the UK. Her research interests include race, gender, and identity in social and institutional spaces. Last fall, she completed her MA thesis, "Girls and Political Subjectivities", which explores how adolescent girls construct knowledge and opinions of politics. Before attending UCL, she was an elementary special education teacher with five years of experience teaching in Hawaii and the Bronx. Training with the NYC Teaching Fellows (Cohort 25) provided her with a social-justice-oriented lens that placed student voice at the forefront of her pedagogy. In addition, she has extensive training in specially designed instruction and reading intervention strategies. Furthermore, she has experience as a museum educator in many renowned museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History.


9051843663?profile=RESIZE_400xDr. Rebecca English is a researcher, teacher and mother whose work is concerned with parenting and education. She has an interest in the ways parents make choices for their children that align with their beliefs about family and parenting. Her particular interest is in the choice of non-mainstream education, especially home education and democratic schools. Her work explores questions of how parenting practices and beliefs are enacted in families and how these practices and beliefs lead to parents making certain choices for their children. Rebecca asks questions about how families enact power and agency decisions in their lived experiences and choices around education, health, and parenting. Rebecca qualified as a teacher in 1998 and has been teaching for nearly 25 years. She has worked in a number of different schools teaching in the senior-secondary and middle years. She currently teaches at the Queensland University of Technology.


4995562699?profile=RESIZE_400xHoward Blumenthal created and produced the PBS television series, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? He is currently a Senior Scholar at The University of Pennsylvania, studying learning and the lives of 21st-century children and teenagers. He travels the world, visiting K-12 schools, lecturing at universities, and interviewing young people for Kids on Earth, a global platform containing nearly 1,000 interview segments from Kentucky, Brazil, Sweden, India, and many other countries. Previously, he was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist for The New York Times Syndicate, and United Features. He is the author of 24 books and several hundred articles about technology, learning, business, and human progress. As an executive, Howard was the CEO of a public television operation and several television production companies, and a state government official. Previously, he was a Senior Vice President for divisions of two large media companies, Hearst and Bertelsmann, and a consultant or project lead for Energizer, General Electric, American Express, CompuServe, Warner Communications, Merriam-Webster, Atari, and other companies.


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Before the virus, more than a billion children and teenagers relied upon school for learning. After the virus (or, after the current wave of our current virus), basic assumptions about school and education are no longer reliable. School buildings may become unsafe for large numbers of students. The tax base may no longer support our current approach to school. Without the interaction provided by a formal school structure, students may follow their own curiosity. Many students now possess the technology to learn on their own. And many do not. is a new weekly web television series that considers what happens next week, next month, next school year, and the next five years. Hosted by University of Pennsylvania Senior Scholar Howard Blumenthal, features interviews with teachers, principals, school district leadership, state and Federal government officials, ed-tech innovators, students, leading education professors, authors, realists and futurists from the United States and all over the world.

Each episode features 2-4 distinguished guests in conversation about high priority topics including, for example, the teaching of public health, long-term home schooling, technology access and its alternatives, the role of parents, friendship and social interaction, learning outside the curriculum, the future of testing and evaluation, interruption as part of the academic calendar, job security for teachers and support staff, setting (and rethinking) curriculum priorities, special needs, student perspectives on the job of school, the importance of play, the psychology of group dynamics and social interaction, preparing for future rounds of a virus (or cyberattack or impact of climate change, etc.), college readiness, higher education transformed, the higher education promise in an economically challenged world, and more. Clearly, there is much to discuss; nearly all of it ranks high on the list of priorities for raising the world’s children.