Implementing Gatto’s Guerrilla Curriculum in our Homeschool

Ribbet collage

Yesterday I shared with you a quote which had inspired me a little and when I read it out to the family, they were likewise pretty excited.  Here are the main points of Gatto’s guerrilla curriculum.  Gatto believes in every child’s learning experience there should be:

  • Substantial community service
  • Apprenticeships
  • Parent Partnerships on school time
  • Team projects (gardens, cross-age tutoring, talent shows, food co-ops)
  • Independent Study
  • Work/study (including starting a business)
  • Mentorship
  • Solitude (fishing, hiking, contemplation, silence)
  • Adventures/discoveries (mapping, exploration, meandering,challenge)
  • Field curriculum (furnishing an apartment, shadowing an employee at the job site, analysing the characteristics of good and bad swimming pools)
  • Improvisational play in groups without guidance
  • Flexi-time, flexi-space, flexi-sequencing, flexi-text selection

So, at dinner I asked the family for some ideas of how we could achieve some of his selections.  This is what they came up with.

  • Community Service

I remember spending a few weeks during a summer after my A Levels at a residential home for physically disabled adults.  I was feeling appropriately pleased with myself when one of the long-term carers there made the observation that no-body does anything in life that is completely for the benefit of someone else.  Even when volunteering (as I was) we are most likely doing it for some other reason than the benefit of others.  Well, that knocked me off my ‘volunteering’ pedestal!  But as I gave it more thought, I saw the truth of what he was saying.  Because, of course, volunteer work is beneficial to both the giver and the receiver.  And isn’t that its beauty?

As we sat at the table a couple of nights ago, discussing my Gatto plans, Gary shared his experience working with adults with learning difficulties.  You may or may not know, that Gary and I met working on a camp in New York State for adults with learning difficulties.  He said that volunteering brought waaay more blessings for him than for those he was volunteering for.  That summer was one of the most memorable times of my life, and I know Gary feels the same way.  The picture below is one taken of Gary and I at Camp Echo:

America 5

Thomas already serves the community in many capacities.  He helps in a Sunday School group; leads worship for the Sunday school, and his youth group; helps set up sound for the teen youth service on a Sunday as well as helping out at the holiday club each year at our church.  The girls likewise help out at the holiday club each year and also help at our local church school’s assembly on a Tuesday morning.  Charlotte also helps out with the children’s choir.  Our church is set up in a way which encourages older children to help out in whatever capacity they are able, and there are always people willing to teach and pass on their skills.

Our village has a Friday club for adults with learning difficulties and Gary suggested that he, Thomas, L13 and Charlotte offer to help out.  Charlotte and he lead worship there every couple of months and Charlotte has thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the members who go.  Both L and Thomas have agreed that it would be a great way to help out in the community as well as learning heaps of new skills in the process.  So this is our immediate goal.  Gary will be talking to the leadership team and asking if they would like an influx of volunteers 🙂

  • Team Projects

I think these sorts of things happen naturally.  The older children and a few of their friends have already formed a band called Harmonic Convergence; they have even chosen the first few songs, having opted to play at a concert for all the parents.  Already, much good has come out of this band.  For example it was rather nice to see Thomas teaching L to play his bass guitar.  She is aware that she is the only one in their band who does not play an instrument, and Thomas kindly offered to help her learn the bass.  A few of them are practicing in Thomas’ bedroom (where our piano is kept):


Cross-age tutoring has always happened in our home and will almost certainly continue.  In fact I have plans for Thomas taking a more active role in teaching A7 the science for which she seems to have a never-ending appetite for.  And L13, I know, is more than happy to do art alongside her littlest sister.  I love the idea of making this a bit more official, because one thing I would like to change this year is ensuring I spend one-to-one time with each of my teens.  I am thinking that if one teen is with one little sister and another teen is with the other little sister, it leaves one teen free as well as leaving me free.  I’m thinking once a week the free teen and I could pop down to the coffee shop at the end of our lane whilst there is a bit of cross-curricular tutoring going on at home.


I am also thinking about handing the responsibility for designing and furnishing the Teen Nook, along with helping to take electricity to it, and insulate and paint it to all five children.  They all liked the idea of that!  I have a feeling it will probably be much harder than they are anticipating, which in turn will teach them a huge variety of lessons in humility, patience and compromise as well as budgeting and the pros and cons of buying versus making.  I can see this being an excellent project for all five children to have a hand in.

  • Starting a Business

Last night I brought up the idea of starting a business.  L13’s first thought was jewellery.  Thomas said gardening and Charlotte suggested babysitting.  Gary felt pet-sitting could be quite lucrative.  I thought they were all excellent ideas.  Thomas was unsure about working with his sisters, but both Gary and I felt this would build certain characteristics in all three children which would be to their benefit going into the adult world of work and, sheepishly, they agreed 🙂

Pet sitting seemed an obvious first business.  During their life time we have had rabbits, guinea-pigs, cold water fish, exotic warm water fish, cats and a dog, oh and three chickens.  Seriously we are up for anything!

C10 herding her chickens in

I have just sent off for a How to Start your own Pet Sitting Business book, because we all think starting one business together is a great ‘uniting learning experience’.  Gary or I may very well offer our services as a relationship councilor mentor, to ease the children into the whole listening to other people’s opinions/compromising skill base.  I have three very different, very confident and highly opinionated teenagers (I can’t think where they might have got that from 😉  )

This experiment may very well end up looking like a day in kindergarten, but I’m hopeful they have a sufficient level of maturity to prevent that.  Thomas has already voiced his concerns, as has L13.  L’s were mainly about her abhorrence at pet sitting anything with more than four legs and Thomas refuses point-blank to have anything to do with any type of snake, whilst Charlotte is excited about everything, although she draws the line at pet sitting dinosaurs.  But she will walk your unicorn for free.  So we have something for everyone here at Angelicscalliwags.  Four legged creatures to L, anything bar snakes to Thomas and Charlotte, whilst not sure about looking after your garden variety dinosaur, will happily walk any odd unicorn you might have wandering about.  Yes, we will be talking about the importance of first impressions and will be suggesting Charlotte stays at the back out of view….or better yet, just not come to meet any future clients.  She can maybe do the back ground work.  In between turning down dinosaurs and walking unicorns, that is…..

Ribbet collageww3

The girls will also be looking into the possibilities of babysitting as a duo, whilst Thomas will do the same with gardening.  Thomas already gardens for a couple of people so it is not much of a stretch for him to develop it into a business and the girls have also had a few offers of babysitting jobs.  I will be discussing L13’s jewellery making business sometime later in the week, because this is an obvious choice for her.

Tomorrow I will be talking about the children’s views on a few more of Gatto’s suggestions in his Guerrilla Curriculum.  We are all really excited as to where this is taking us.  Home school really is just one big adventure, isn’t it?


  1. I love the idea of starting a business as a young person. You are inspiring me to dig deeper into the children’s education this year. I am so excited for next year even though we aren’t finished this year. I hope this summer to watch and see what they gravitate towards, i find summer is when I learn more about them and unschooling takes over 🙂 Keep us posted on the business!

  2. I love John Gatto’s teachings. What a great plan you are putting in place. Anne has started a little ballet class for preschoolers in our basement. She has three students. I don’t know if it will last past the summer, but she is learning so much in the mean time.
    Blessings, Dawn

  3. Best of luck on all the businesses! I operated both a lawn mowing business and a muffin-making business as a kid – neither were very lucrative, but they were awesome experiences!

    I really look forward to hearing the other ideas your family comes up with!

    Also, if Charlotte ever finds a unicorn to walk, my daughter Blair wishes to know if you would be willing to pick her up from the airport because she would find a way to fly across the Atlantic to participate in that walk =)

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