Homer Lane

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Homer Lane (1875–1925) was an American-born educator who believed that the behaviour and character of children improved when they were given more control over their lives.

He was born in Connecticut and started his teaching career at Peters High School in Southborough, Massachusetts. He later went to Detroit, where he worked with youths who had run afoul of the law. In 1912 he was invited to go to England where he founded the Little Commonwealth school in Dorset and greatly influenced A. S. Neill, the founder of Summerhill School.

Homer Lane had two children by his first wife, Cora Barney, and three by his second wife. They also adopted a daughter. He died in Paris after having been deported from England for failing to maintain his alien registration. His family remained in England.

Lane's foremost disciple was his patient, Alexander S. Neill. Neill began Summerhill, a school which became exceptionally well known after American publisher Harold Hart published Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing in 1960. The book sold 200,000 copies. Hart had never before published a trade book, being a publisher of children's books and having been advised strongly against publishing Neill's. He was given moral support by a number of alternative educators in the United States, but took on the project on his own.

The American school, Summerlane, in North Branch, New York, was explicitly named for Summerhill and Homer Lane. It began in 1963 in North Carolina but was burned by racists and moved to Mileses, New York, then settled near North Branch, in farmland near the hamlet of Roscoe, New York, off Highway 17.


More information can be found from the following sources:

  • von Hilsheimer, G. Is There A Science of Behavior, Humanitas, Maitland, Fl 1967; How To Live With Your Special Child, Acropolis Books, 1970 (also published as Understanding Young People in Trouble, Acropolis Books, 1970, soft cover); Summerhill: A radical approach to education, IN Values for a changing America, Hellen Huus, ed., University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975 pp 59–75; Children, Schools and Utopias. This Magazine is about Schools, 1966, 23-37
  • W.David Wills, Homer Lane: A biography, Allen & Unwin, 1964
  • Aichorn, August, Wayward Youth, New York, Viking Press, 1935
  • Aiken, W.M. Adventure in American education, 5 vol., New York, Harper & Brothers, 1942
  • Allen, Lady of Hurtwood; Hurd H. et al. Adventure playgrounds, The National Playing Fields Association, London, 1960
  • Binns, H.B., A Century of Education: 1808-1908, London, J.M. Dent & Co., 1908
  • Brehony, K. J. The genesis and disappearance of Homer Lane's Little Commonwealth: A Weberian analysis. Persistenz und Verschwinden. / Persistence and Disappearance: Pädagogische Organisationen im historischen Kontext. / Educational Organizations in their historical Contexts in M. Göhlich, C. Hopf and D. Tröhler (Eds.). Wiesbaden, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften: 237-53, 2008.
  • Burns, M., Mr. Lyward’s Answer, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1956
  • Holms, G., The Idiot Teacher, Longon, Faber & Faber, 1952
  • Makarenko, A.S., A Book for Parents, Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1954; Learning to Live, Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1953; The Road to Life, 3 vol., Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1951
  • National Playing Fields Association, Adventure Playgrounds, 71 Escleston Square,London SW1, 1960, pamphlets; Planning an imaginative children’s playground without leadership, mimeograph, 1964
  • Neill, A. S., Summerhill: A radical approach to child rearing. New York, Harold Hart, 1960
  • Pearse, J.H. & Crocker, L.H., The Peckham Experiment: a study in the living structure of society. London, Allen & Unwin for the Sir Halley Steart Trust, 1943
  • Powers, E. & Witmer, H., An experiment in the preention of delinquency: The Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study, New York: Columbia U. Press, 1951
  • Spiel, Oskar., Discipline Without Punishment. London, Faber & Faber, 1962
  • Wills, W. David. Homer Lane: A Biography, London, Allen & Unwin, 1964; The Hawkspur Experiment, London, Allen & Unwin, date unknown

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