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Free to Be, Free to Grow (Lenore Skenazy)

  • Episode #1

After massive publicity as “America’s worst mom,” Lenore Skenazy transformed the experience into pioneering the “free-range kids movement.” She shares her frank take on the ways parents harm their children’s development and what they can do instead.

Welcome to Teacher Tom’s Podcast, which is all about taking play seriously. In each episode, Teacher Tom inspires early childhood educators, parents, and other listeners with information, techniques, and best practices to provide children an authentic play-filled childhood.

Lenore Skenazy is the accidental pioneer of the “free-range kids movement” and literally wrote the book on the subject. Following that, she co-founded Let Grow, a nonprofit promoting childhood independence and resilience.

“The real problem is that our culture has insisted that adults always be supervising kids.”

— Lenore Skenazy

After her newspaper column “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone” created a media firestorm, Lenore Skenazy got the nickname “America’s Worst Mom.” (Google it!) She went on to write Free-Range Kids, the book-turned-movement that basically says OUR KIDS ARE SMARTER AND SAFER THAN OUR CULTURE GIVES THEM CREDIT FOR!

Lenore has lectured everywhere from DreamWorks to Microsoft to Harvard Med School, Yale Child Study Center — and the Bulgarian Happiness Festival! (For real.) On TV, you may have seen her on The Today ShowThe Daily Show, or her own reality show, World’s Worst Mom. Now Lenore is co-founder and president of Let Grow, the nonprofit promoting childhood independence and resilience. She lives in New York City with her husband and beloved computer. Her children are gainfully employed. (Phew!) And for the record, she used to write for Mad Magazine. Yep. MAD. But now she’s so serious that here is her piece on “Independence as Therapy” in The New York Times.

“Teacher Tom” Hobson is an early childhood educator, international speaker, education consultant, teacher of teachers, parent educator, and author. He is best known, however, for his namesake blog, Teacher Tom’s Blog, where he has posted daily for over a decade, chronicling the life and times of his little preschool in the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest corner of the USA.

For nearly two decades, Teacher Tom was the sole employee of the Woodland Park Cooperative School, a parent-owned and operated school knit together by Teacher Tom’s democratic, progressive play-based pedagogy. Teacher Tom came into teaching through the backdoor, so to speak, having enrolled his own child in a cooperative preschool, where he began working daily in his daughter’s classroom as an assistant teacher under the tutelage of veteran educators — although he’ll be the first to tell you that most of what he learned came from the children themselves. When it was time for his daughter to move on, he “stayed behind.”

Today, Teacher Tom shares his play-based pedagogy through online e-courses for early childhood educators; produces online early childhood conferences; consults with organizations about his “Family Schools” program; and inspires early-years audiences around the world (Greece, UK, Iceland, Australia, China, Vietnam, New Zealand, Canada, and across the US) both virtually and in-person with his engaging views on early childhood education, play, and pedagogy.

He was pressured by his blog readers into authoring his first book, aptly named Teacher Tom’s First Book, and is thrilled about the 2023 release of Teacher Tom’s Second Book.

Resources, people, and websites mentioned in this episode:
Tom’s website:
Lenore’s nonprofit, Let Grow:
Lenore’s email:

The Let Grow Experience (a free independence-building curriculum for teachers/schools):

The Let Grow Play Club (free implementation guide for schools, homeschools, YMCAs, churches, synagogues, etc., to create a “free play” program for kids):

Independence Therapy Manual (free manual for therapists and counselors on how to use independence to combat or prevent childhood anxiety):

Pledge of Independence (pledge parents can take to receive one activity a week for 10 weeks to help them get comfortable giving their kids more independence, free):

Let Grow Kid License (free “license” kids can carry around when out and about on their own that says, “I’m not lost or neglected!” and gives the parents’ phone number):

Free-Range Kids book:

Free-Range Kids book, free chapter for educators:

Jonathan Haidt

Daniel Shuchman

Peter Gray

University of Michigan study on independence:
Sarah Clark, leader of the study

Teacher Tom’s blog post on the study:

Meynell Games:

Host: Tom Hobson
Producer: Michi Lantz
Supervising Producer: Cynthia Lamb
Audio Editor: Marvin del Rosario
Executive Producer: Danny Iny
Music Soundscape: Chad Michael Snavely
Making our hosts sound great: Home Brew Audio

Music credits:
Track Title: Blueberry Jam Jam
Artist: Simen Andreas
Writer: Simen Knudsen

Track Title: Childlike Wonder
Artist: Reveille
Writer: Brendan St. Gelais

Track Title: Tick Tock
Artist: Ivy Bakes
Writer: Erick Pena

Special effects credits:

24990513_birds-chirping_by_promission used with permission of the author and under license by AudioJungle/Envato Market.

To catch the great episodes coming up on Teacher Tom’s Podcast, please follow us on Mirasee FM’s YouTube channel or your favorite podcast player. And if you enjoyed the show, please leave us a comment or a starred review. It’s the best way to help us get these ideas to more people.


Teacher Tom’s Podcast: Taking Play Seriously

If you have ever thought there must be a better way when it comes to educating young children, this is the podcast for you. Teacher Tom’s Podcast is all about taking play seriously. In each episode, Teacher Tom inspires early childhood educators, parents, and other listeners with information, techniques, and best practices to provide children an authentic play-filled childhood.