We pioneered the unschooling conference—no curriculum vendors selling school textbooks and products—just activities, lectures, and talks for adults and children to engage in. We eventually added some vendors to later conferences, but only ones who offered something unusual and useful to the unschooling community. All the conferences, lectures, and events we put on are documented in the pages of GWS; here are some photos from various conferences that were in our files.
1986: Our first event: a picnic in Waltham, MA.
Kids and adults having fun outdoors.
Pat Farenga holding Lauren. Seated (left to right): Mary Maher, Susannah Sheffer, Wendy Baruch, Steve Rupprecht, Shane Baruch.
Pat and Steve jammin'.
1997: GWS 20th Anniversary Conference
We got dressed up to celebrate! The Colfaxes and John Taylor Gatto were our two keynotes.
Mickey and David Colfax Keynote Speech:
Susannah Sheffer moderating as Tad Heuer, Mae Shell, and Amanda Bergson-Shilcock respond to sharp questions about their unschooled lives.
Kyoko Azawa, founder of Otherwise Japan, at the Westin Hotel for our 20th anniversary conference. Surrounding Kyoko are Pat Farenga, Day Farenga, Audrey Farenga, and Susannah Sheffer.
Playing with bubbles in one of the activity rooms at the Westin. We also organized bus tours to local outdoor events for kids during the conference.
1998 and 1999: GWS Conferences at Camp Eisner
We held two of our conferences at a well-run boarding camp in the Berkshire mountains. It was a particularly beautiful setting, with plenty of formal and informal meetings occurring, and lots of physical activities supervised by the camp. I particularly remember how at the first Eisner conference, Day provided each registrant with a flashlight for negotiating the camp at night. That night, once the sun set, the camp was aglow with hundreds of children playing with flashlights in the twilight.
Pat Farenga speaking in the theater at Camp Eisner.