The Book


“How does a traditionally educated New York City career woman who once obsessed about getting her kids into the right preschool end up living off the grid in Africa and unschooling her two children ? Find out in this collection of essays based on the author’s personal journey of moving away from the status quo and creating a life of choice and autonomy. Part memoir, part journalistic enquiry, Rowland explores topics ranging from how her children learned to read and write without formal instruction and what it means to trust children to build their own education, to why we should all walk barefoot and what happens when we try to flip an omelet and fail–all from the perspective of challenging societal “shoulds.” As the debate continues on how to improve our failed education system, the author delves into what it’s like to live, learn, and parent without it. Filled with optimism, humor, and candid reflection, this book is ultimately a memoir about questioning everything we think we know and taking the risk to find our own answers.”


This book is a collection of essays about the personal journey of accompanying my two children on their life learning path. It’s also about looking closely at my own formal education through a deschooling lens, confronting doubts, and embracing the joys and challenges of stepping outside the status quo. Woven throughout are threads of peaceful parenting, living with our sacred earth in mind, taking risks, redefining success and failure, and embracing vulnerability.

“Self-directed learning is a personalized and ever-evolving philosophy, a way of life, and an outlook that extends far beyond the notion of “education.” The beauty and, indeed, the essence of such a philosophy, is that all children are unique individuals who have the innate capacity (and I believe with all my heart, the intrinsic right) to learn according to their personal desires, talents, and interests without the imposed structures we typically associate with learning.”

“Everything I Thought I Knew” is dedicated to any parent or care giver who longs to give children the freedom to live and learn outside the constraints of institutionalized instruction and to trust in themselves to be a gentle guide.

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What Readers Have to Say:

“A beacon in a sea of conformity and conditioning”  ~ Amazon customer review

“Our editor Wendy Priesnitz had the privilege of reading the book prior to publication and is sure that you’ll love this memoir-style group of essays by an eloquent and insightful writer and life learning mother.”  ~ Life Learning Magazine

“Some thirty years post my homeschooling years, along comes the book I should have had for inspiration and encouragement to push against the preconceived notions of how children learn.” ~ Debbie, Goodreads member review

“A worthwhile read for newbies and experienced home educators.”
~ Otherways Magazine, Home Education Network

“Ellen Rowland is such a beautiful writer, she catches feelings and emotions like the birds catch the air.” ~ Lehla Eldridge, Unschooling the Kids

“Essential for anyone looking for another way– in education or anything else” ~Amazon customer review

“In this insightful collection of essays, Ellen dives deep into the many dominoes around living, learning, and parenting that toppled when she and her husband chose to move their family from the US to West Africa. We journey with her as she is transformed by the challenges, triumphs, and miracles that transpired as she gave her children the freedom to live their lives with curiosity, autonomy, and purpose. And what a fantastic journey it is!” ~ Pam Laricchia, Living Joyfully with Unschooling

“Ellen’s story . . . was nothing short of incredible: incredible bravery, courage, humor, and humility.”  ~ Amazon customer review

“While the book is about “unschooling” . . . there is a bigger underlying theme: what happens when we let go of everything we thought was true and open our eyes and minds to other experiences and ways of thinking? .”  ~ Amazon customer review

“This is a joy-filled and thought-filled collection of short essays.”  ~ Peter Gray, Ph,D.,


Author Profile:

10461975_10204603683480471_677542185676930738_nEllen Rowland is a writer, translator, and avid supporter of self-directed learning. After spending 15 years in New York City, where she built a career in art and design and met her french-born husband, she and her family moved to Senegal, West Africa when her children were three and four years old. They built an earth house, lived off-the-grid, and began the journey of learning through living. Her writing has appeared in Life Learning Magazine, Natural Child Magazine, The Homeschooler Post, Otherways Magazine, The Washington Post online, More Magazine online, and Natural Life Magazine. She is a member of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education and the founder of She and her family currently make their home on a small island in Greece.