Keynote and Featured Speakers


2017 Keynote Speaker:  Peter Gray

Peter Gray, research professor of psychology at Boston College, has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. He is author of an internationally acclaimed introductory psychology textbook (Psychology, Worth Publishers, now in its 7th edition), which views all of psychology from an evolutionary perspective. His recent research focuses 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 expanded on these ideas in his book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Basic Books). He also authors a regular blog called Freedom to Learn, for Psychology Today magazine. Before joining the faculty at Boston College, he earned his undergraduate degree at Columbia College and Ph.D. in biological sciences at the Rockefeller University, and taught at Hunter College and City College in New York.

Peter Gray is one of the founders of Alternatives to School, and 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.

2017 Featured Speakers

Blake Boles

Blake Boles builds exciting alternatives to traditional school for self-directed young people. He directs the company Unschool Adventures and is the author of The Art of Self-Directed Learning, Better Than College, College Without High School, and How to Live Nowhere.

He and his work have appeared on TEDx, The Huffington Post, USA Today, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, BBC Travel, Psychology Today, Fox Business, NPR affiliate radio, and the blogs of The Wall Street Journal and

You can visit Blake online at Unschool Adventures.

Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold writes books for and about children and teens. Some of her books have been included on the LA Public Library’s Best Books of the Year list, the Bank Street Best Book list, the YALSA “Best Fiction for Young Adults” list, have been ALAN picks, and have been selected for inclusion in the Amelia Bloomer Project.

Her most recent YA novel, INFANDOUS, won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and the Westchester Prize in fiction.  She holds a master's degree in Creative Writing/Fiction from the University of California, Davis and currently lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals.

You can visit Elana online at

Erika Davis-Pitre

Erika Davis-Pitre and her husband Michael have 4 children - one daughter (38) and three sons (34, 32 & 24). They also have a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law and two grandsons(10 & 2).  She has recently moved back to San Francisco full-time after living in Connecticut for more than a decade.  They have been unschooling for many years and love it, so Erika is always looking for opportunities to share their unschooling joy with others.

Erika has spoken at many un/homeschooling conferences, led quite a few funshops/workshops and has hosted and participated in many round table discussions about unschooling all over the US and Canada.   She especially enjoys talking about unschooling teens, sharing the joy of unschooling and celebrating diversity through unschooling.   And she is a Artist Trading Card(ATC) fanatic-if you don't know about ATCs please ask!

Janice Ancheta

Though her medical practice is in the highly specialized field of breast radiology, Dr. Ancheta has a wide range of interests. She is fascinated by human psychology and how humans grow and learn. She enjoys reading nonfiction books and scientific articles, especially when the writers challenge her own beliefs. It was this voracious reading of evidence that led Dr. Ancheta to dramatically change her philosophy on parenting and education. She is excited to share what she has learned with you!

Dr. Ancheta and her husband Dr. Mark Ancheta enjoy unschooling their three children, ages 10, 8, and 6. Though scientific evidence is what brought them to unschooling, they don't need any of that now. Their happy children and a peaceful, joyful family life are evidence enough. And yes, they are all learning every single day.

Lainie Liberti & Miro Siegel

Lainie Liberti, a mom and recovering branding expert (whose 18 year career once focused on creating campaigns for green – eco businesses, non-profits and conscious businesses) and her now 18-year-old son Miro Siegel, set out 8 years ago on what became a life changing journey.  In 2008, California’s economy took a turn causing the closure of many local business. Lainie and then 9-year-old Miro decided to “be the change” instead of victims as the pair began the process of redesigning their lives, with the dream of spending stress-free quality time together.  After closing her business, selling and giving away all of their possessions, Lainie and Miro hit the road for what was to be a one year adventure mid-2009.

Eight years, twenty-four countries (and many personal changes) later, Lainie and Miro continue to slow travel around the globe, living an inspired possession-free-lifestyle, volunteering and learning naturally from the world around them. The pair are following their interests, learning in partnership, as the planet has been transformed into the ultimate classroom. Both Lainie and Miro have been forever changed, inspired by diverse cultures, histories, languages and traditions, often encouraging the pair to examine their own humanity and interconnectedness. Often you will hear Lainie say “we are blessed to be accidental unschoolers." Lainie and Miro have become advocates for life learning at any age, combined with travel. They call it “worldschooling."

In 2011, the mother and son duo co-founded Project World School in hopes of bringing this experience to others. Project World School was born from an inspired idea: co-create temporary learning communities around the world with teens and young adults, in order to collaborate in rich experiential and social learning. During the retreats, both natural and academic learning occurs through immersive cultural experiences while encouraging social learning, teamwork and leadership. Participants create strong connections with other participants, the world around them and community through a rich collaborative environment. Teens who participate are inspired to continue their worldschooling explorations (and most return for other retreats).

Learning from the world since he was 10 years old, Miro has developed a passion for writing and literature. Currently writing a collection of poems and short stories, he spends most of his time tapping away on his keyboard or reading. You can read his writing here.

When not co-facilitating retreats with her son, Lainie can be found hosting conversations about alternative education on her weekly show For the Love of Learning, Voices of the Alternative Education Movement. Currently with almost a hundred shows in the archives, she credits her insatiable curiosity about everything everywhere and is happy to have a forum to ask questions about learning and education.
Lainie and Miro also share stories about worldschooling and travel at the their blog, and see their TEDxAmsterdamED talk here.

Wes Beach

Wes Beach has 55 years' experience in education. He spent 32 years in public and private schools as a teacher in grades K-14 and as the director of alternative education programs. In 1993 he wised up and left the public schools. He is currently Director of Beach High School, a private high school consisting of a home office and an attitude that offers a wide variety of alternatives to traditional schooling. About 1,500 people have graduated from BHS without a traditional high school education and have succeeded in a wide variety of endeavors, including but not limited to reaching the highest levels of formal education.

Wes has served on the board of the HomeSchool Association of California (HSC) and is at present the Teen Adviser for both HSC and the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF). He is the author of Forging Paths: Beyond Traditional Schooling and Self-Directed Learning: Documentation and Life Stories.

Wes lives with his wife and two cats in Soquel, California, two miles from the waters of Monterey Bay.  Visit Wes online at Beach High School.