Episode 049: Lisa Nalbone, Unschooling Innovator and Mom to Dale Stephens

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In this episode of MEP, Lisa Nalbone joins us to share some of her successes and failures in unschooling her son Dale since he was 12., and the lasting impact of that on her and on Dale.

Guest Bio

Lisa NalboneLisa Nalbone graduated from Duke University as a first generation scholarship student with a degree in Botany and a desire to make the world a better place.

Lisa was prepared for graduate school, but didn’t really know what she wanted to do in life so she moved across the country to figure it out.

Degree in hand, she found that her education had only just begun.

She discovered a passion for community organizing, social justice, and learning by doing. Amazed at how much she was learning outside of a typical classroom setting, she decided to focus her passion to change the world in the field of education.

Over the years Lisa has taught 7/8 grade science, grades 3, 4, 5 all subjects, grade 4-5 music appreciation and critical thinking skills, K-6 environmental education, and K-6 music, folk dance and drama. She has also tutored children and adults in all subject areas.

After her son Dale completed 5th grade in public school, they began homeschooling which quickly turned into unschooling. The years of facilitating his learning journey required time, research, community building and new learning for the whole family.

At present, Lisa teaches, speaks, writes and consults. She helps parents and students take control of their learning and thrive.

Show Notes:

(02:08) Lisa’s background

(07:20) In Dale’s Uncollege bio it said that he came to you to want to be home-schooled. Was it more of you just being more open-minded to that saying, “You know, let’s try it out,”  or did you want to use that approach? Which was it?

(09:43) The whole point of this program is to hopefully open people’s minds. We have people in the audience who are traditional educators, work in public school systems, we have charter school administrators and teachers, we have edtech entrepreneurs, we have people who are interested in alternative methods to learning. So, to me it’s about providing this holistic perspective. Everybody learns differently and everybody has a different approach to this stuff.

(10:30) We have to be open, that we look individually at our children and say, “Ok, well, what are the options here?” and how do we approach them in the most intelligent manner.

(11:18) In my experience, the best teachers inside and outside the classroom, mentors, guides, are that way anyway. You’re not directing their learning, you’re supporting the learning.

(12:22) What are the day to day, week to week look like and that sort of scenario for you?

(20:05) So time was really your friend and not your enemy because of the approach. It wasn’t like you were trying to fit it around the public school schedule or any sort of schedule. You could just really focus on the experiences and the outcomes rather than the specific components.

(22:50) I’d like to talk about your opinions on the future of unschooling. Do you believe that it will continue to be kind of a niche approach? People kind of thinking that there’s a huge commitment involved for the parents and all that sort of stuff, or can it be moved forward in a way that it would be more of a mainstream tactic for families? What do you think?

(27:39) I think that’s the key piece for me is like, How can we change that dynamic, or can it be changed?

(28:35) So if you were talking to a parent who’s interested in piloting the approach but is kind of tentative, how would you advise them, their first steps towards doing so?

(32:25) If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?






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