Two School Visits, in Paris and NJ
Albany Free School Graduate Wins Sundance Award!
Yong Zhao, Keynote Speaker for the 2016 AERO Conference.
Zhao TEDx Talk
 Conference info here. Portland AERO Registration is only $225, but will rise soon. Workshop proposals now accepted here

Registration Rate Goes Up Soon!
At last year's AERO conference we had people from 27 states, 4 Canadian Provinces and 5 countries. Already we have  registrations from 17 states, 5 provinces and 3 countries for the next AERO conference August 3-7 in Portland, OR! So far they are from CA, HI, ID. IL, MD, MI, MN, MT, NC, NE, NY, OH, OR, TN, TX, WA, WY, MAN, ALB, BC, ONT, Ecuador and Australia. 

We'll still give you a free AERO Membership if you Register This Week!

Registration rate will rise soon. 
Get more info or register here!

We Need Your Help With This:
We think it is very important that we get the message out about AERO and the AERO conference as far and wide as possible. It really bothers me that people finally find us and say "I wish I had known about AERO and your network ten years ago when my children were suffering with their education." Please send suggestions to us about networks we should know about and also, please forward our e newsletters to any networks that you are part of. Send us e mail addresses that you think we should add to our e newsletter. This could include staff and parents at your schools. Thanks for helping us  with this!

Hotel and Food
We have negotiated something with the Holiday Inn Portland Airport which saves you even more money. There is no food package. So you can eat at the hotel restaurant, go out, or bring your own food. 

This hotel has a little less capacity than the previous one, so it makes sense to reserve your room soon. You can cancel up to 48 hours before the conference. We already have three groups that are planning training programs that include the AERO conference, so we may start filling up fast. Let us know if you have a group you plan to bring so we can give you a group rate. You can call the hotel at 503 256 5000. Mention the AERO conference to get the $119 rate. Otherwise it is over $200!
Workshops List and Application
We're quite blown away by the quality of the workshops that have been submitted for the AERO conference that will be in Portland, OR, from August 3-7. We have now approved 25 of them. You can see them summarized here. You can apply to present a workshop here.

On the 3rd of August we plan to have school visits and trips. The main conference starts on the 4th. 
We will accept only another 15 workshops because the format for the first day will be an exciting array of TED-like mini-talks. 

First Day Mini-Talk Form
We now have a form to submit a proposal for a 15 minute TED-like presentation on the first day of the AERO conference. These will be presented to all the conference participants. Some may be stand alone, but may also be introductions for people doing other workshops. Some will be eventually available on Youtube. To apply to do a mini-talk just click here. You can also still submit regular workshop presentations here. We're particularly interested in workshops that are experiential and interactive, and workshops for younger participants.
New Patron Registration
As you know, AERO has always had a policy of working hard to find a way for low income people to participate in the conference. Sometimes we arrange volunteer slots, give fundraising advice, etc. Now, in addition, we are featuring a new patron registration, which allows people to register at a higher rate, half of which is tax deductible. Register as a patron  here. 

You can now reserve a vendor table  here. 
Where Do Presidential Candidates Send Their Own Children to School?
The presidential candidates  may not be talking much about K-12 education these days-but they've all had experience with it. After all, every single one of the candidates, at one time or another attended some kind of school. And so have their own children.

So what was that experience like? Did the candidates go to public schools, religious schools, or private schools? Where did they decide to send their own kids? And how much does it any of it matter, when it comes to both politics and actual policymaking?

Read the rest here.
Joy: A Subject Schools Lack

When Jonathan Swift proposed, in 1729, that the people of Ireland eat their children, he insisted it would solve three problems at once: feed the hungry masses, reduce the population during a severe depression, and stimulate restaurant business. Even as a satire, it seems repulsive and shocking in America with its child-centered culture. But actually, the country is closer to his proposal than you might think.

If you spend much time with educators and policy makers (even if you just read editorials about education), you'll hear a lot of the following words: "standards," "results," "skills," "self-control," "accountability," and so on. I have visited some of the newer supposedly "effective" schools, where children chant slogans in order to learn self-control, are given a jelly bean when they do their worksheet, or must stand behind their desk when they can't sit still. When I go to these schools, all I can think of is Charles Dickens' Hard Times, in which Wackford Squeers, the headmaster of a school, says with great certainty, "Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them ..."

Read the rest here.
Albany Free School Graduate Wins Sundance Film Festival Award! 
Miles at Albany Free School 10 years ago
 Miles Joris-Peyrafitte was a student at Albany Free School about 10 years ago. Even then he liked to make videos and movies. That's the field he went into. He is now 23. Astonishingly,  a  movie that he co-wrote with fellow Freeschooler Madison Harrison was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. This was big news in his native Albany. But now, even bigger,  his film received a special jury award at the Festival. The film is called "As You Are," "an intense and intimate drama of three wounded, loving teens in the early 90's."
According to the article in the Albany Times-Union, "They rushed to put the film together. Rushed to submit it to Sundance. Rushed again when Sundance officials came back and gave them a six day extension for another cut. When it was accepted into competition they rushed to finish post-production in time for its world premier at the festival on January 25th,  Then, five days later, a prize, a special jury award presented by "Girls" creator Lena, Dunham, one of the U.S.Dramatic judges alongside "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm and casting director Avy Kaufman. "
"The award acknowledged a film that "embodies the spirit of independence that Sundance represents," said Dunham from the podium. "It's also a film that harkens the arrival of a bold first-time director with a command of their craft... We will eagerly await the next vision from its creator."
Read more information here.
AERO Visit to South Mountain Co-op
On February 10th a group from AERO visited The South Mountain Co-op in New Jersey. Now in its third year, the school has 20 students, technically all homeschooling, and operates from a Jewish temple.
The founders include several people who have been part of the AERO network for a long time. Some had been at the Teddy McArdle Free School.
Some very articulate young students took us on a tour of the school which included classrooms, a meeting room, an art room, etc. We were told that at the democratic meeting that day there had been a decision to designate a small space where students could go if they chose if they were angry or upset. We were told that decisions at the meeting are made by concensus and there had been some concerns at first that were eventually resolved.
We mat an older student who was studying Latin and another who was using composing software to write a complex orchestral composition.
Right now the school shares space with the Temple, but they hope to acquire additional space next year that be specifically theirs to use. In order to do that they will need to do some fundraising to renovate it, and we suggested some approaches they could take. 
Some of them are hoping to make it to the AERO conference in Portland next August. 

Wylie Visits SchülerInnenschule in Vienna, Austria!
A student dressed as a sumo wrestler dances at the costume party

Greeting from Austria! 

On Feb 8th I visited SchülerInnenschule in Vienna! It was a great experience. I was brought there by my local contact and friend Peter Foti, who's son goes to the school. 

SchülerInnenschule is 35 years old, and was started as a sort of homeschooling co-op before becoming a full fledged school.

There are three alternative schools in Vienna and SchülerInnenschule is actually the smallest, but is still has seventy students! This means that there are at least 210 students in alternative schools in just Vienna.  

One of the things that sets the school part from the other two schools is that while the other schools are forced to make their students take a state mandated test every year, students at SchülerInnenschule only have to take one at the end of their time at the school, for their graduation, in order to move on to higher education institutions. The state also requires the students to take certain subjects so while the students can't opt out of lessons completely, they can decide in what order they take them. They can map out their educational schedule for their time at the school.

Democratic Meeting
I observed a school meeting while I was there, and the school uses democratic process. They have a daily meetings and the students make rules and make decisions.

The school and its students have accepted four refugee students into the school as well. I met one while I was there and talked with him about his experience. He was very smart and is looking forward to getting an education.

Chemistry Class
While I was there I sat in on a chemistry lesson that Peter Foti gave where they used chemical reactions to melt aluminum foil, very cool! I also watched a costume party the students were having for the first part of the day. There were students dressed as everything from the Joker to a sumo wrestler!

Students families are also required to volunteer ten hours a week at the school This helps build a sense of community between the staff, students, and parents. It works. The sense of community at  SchülerInnenschule is amazing.

Overall the school is excellent and I had a blast while I was there. If you're in Austria and you want to go to a learner centered school I would absolutely recommend SchülerInnenschule.

You can visit the school's website  here

Deepak Chopra Talk in NY
On February 7th I had the pleasure of seeing famed writer, speaker and researcher Deepak Chopra speak at Queens College and to meet him after his talk. His presentation was electrifying. He talked about the whole process of the creation of human life, from conception through birth and through human life. Obviously much of his work in alternative medicine is closely related to the work we do in alternative education. He signed a copy of his new book,  Super Genes, and I gave him a copy of AERO's latest release, Fearless Teaching, by Stuart Grauer. I asked him if he might be interested in keynoting an AERO conference some time, and gave him my card.
I'll be following up with his representative whom I also met and who works at his wellness center in California. 

Click here for a talk by Chopra called Physical Healing Emotional Wellbeing. 
School Starters Consultation Program Now Open
This year's online school starter course is now over and the School Starter Consultation Program is now open. People can join any time until it is full. Is gives school starters complete access to the resources and posts in the course on the course website. It is unguided and there is no direct peer group for reactions. This is why is is only half price, $500. Access will last until be make preparation for the next live online course in September. Participants in the School Starter Consultation program can ask question and have online consultations with course staff members. They will also be subscribe to AERO's School Starter Listserve and can post question there. If you have specific questions you can go here, reply to this newsletter or write to

To sign up for this program or find more information go here
Links and Calendar
Thank you for your ongoing support. With  your help, we will make learner-centered alternatives available to everyone!

In Service,

Jerry Mintz
Executive Director
Alternative Education Resource Organization

Please consider making a donation to AERO to help support our work. Thanks!