I didn’t go to school until college. I’m an early pioneer in the unschooling community, the self-directed arm of the homeschooling community. For many years I was an international unschooling speaker and author, which is probably why I have a Wikipedia page about me.
Peter Kowalke (born February 6, 1979) is an American unschooling advocate best known for his work on grown homeschoolers and the lasting influence of homeschooling. He was one of the first authors to explore the lasting influence that homeschooling has on a person in terms of identity, and produced a large body of work on the topic from 1994 until 2013, after which he stepped back from the homeschooling community to focus on contextualizing the Indian Advaita Vedanta philosophy for American culture.
During his years as a homeschooling advocate, Kowalke was a columnist and writer on grown homeschooler issues for Home Education Magazine (1997-2002), Life Learning magazine (2004-2008) and Home Educator’s Family Times (2004-2006). He spoke regularly at homeschooling conferences in the U.S. and abroad, and later started The Unschooler Experiment (2010-2013), a web magazine and podcast for unschoolers, by unschoolers. Kowalke also worked for pioneering homeschooling umbrella school, Clonlara (2003-2004), and Indian homeschooling advocates, Shikshantar Andolan (2004-2005). He himself was homeschooled until college.
His most notable work in the homeschooling community was his 2001 documentary, Grown Without Schooling (2001), the first documentary about grown homeschoolers and only the second documentary ever made about homeschooling. The documentary was roundly praised in the homeschooling community for its accurate but sometimes unvarnished look at what it means to grow up outside of the school system. The documentary drew strong praise from many of the leading home education personalities of the day, including Teenage Libration Handbook author, Grace Llewellyn, prolific education author, Linda Dobson, and former Growing Without Schooling magazine editor, Susannah Sheffer. Former Holt Associates publisher and homeschooling speaker, Pat Farenga, used clips from the documentary in his talks for many years after the film made its debut.
Major media outlets such as The New York Times, BBC, Boston Globe, CNN, and The Times of India have interviewed Kowalke for his work on homeschooling.
Yes, I made a documentary about homeschooling when I was 21. This was before 4K video and when you could make movies from your phone, so the video quality is awful by today’s standards and it took a lot more time and money than a similar film would cost today. The pacing also is a bit artsy. But the message holds up really well, which is why it got praise at the time and still is important for those homeschooling their kids right now.
The film is a thoughtful look at what it means to be a homeschooler from the homeschooler’s perspective, not a puff piece or homeschooling 101.