Recommended reading

As soon as I started thinking about homeschooling, back when it was just going to be one day a week, I started reading books and blogs. These have been the most useful / entertaining / helpful.

Penelope Trunk – she’s rather brusque and to the point, but she’s totally honest about homeschooling her two sons.

Skipping School – this blog was written by Kate Fridkis, an adult who was unschooled, and is just the most reassuring, sensible, joyful thing. So much of the stuff I want to say or learn about unschooling, Kate has already covered, beautifully. Sadly, she no longer updates it (I was bereft once I’d finished reading the archives), but I would recommend you read her current blog, Eat the Damn Cake.

Leo Barbuta, creator of zenhabits (one of the Top 50 websites in the world, apparently), has written a great introduction to unschooling: The Beginner’s Guide to Unschooling.

Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin

This book blew me away. I read it in a frenzy, muttering to myself and making notes. He communicates and clarifies a lot of stuff I’ve been thinking (and muttering to myself about) for years. It’s about a revolution in schooling rather than homeschooling, but I still found it inspirational.

The Year of Learning Dangerously by Quinn Cummings

I loved Quinn Cummings’ first memoir, so when I heard she’d written a new book about homeschooling, I couldn’t buy it fast enough. The Cummings Family choose to go down a much more structured and curriculum-based route than we have, but it was interesting to read the reasoning behind that and I also identified with Quinn’s angst about whether they were doing the right thing. Quinn researches a lot of more, shall we say, extreme homeschooling ideas, which weren’t really relevant to me, but she’s always entertaining, so that wasn’t a problem. Plus I’d say this book was worth buying just for the bit about how much her daughter talks. The image of Quinn having to ice her ears has stayed with me. Can’t think why :)

How Children Learn at Home by Alan Thomas & Harriet Pattison

This book was recommended to me and it was just what I needed. It’s quite academic – not many laughs – but that’s really the point. Here’s the blurb:

Based on interviews and extended examples of learning at home the authors explore: the scope for informal learning within children’s everyday lives; the informal acquisition of literacy and numeracy; the role of parents and others in informal learning; and, how children proactively develop their own learning agendas. Their investigation provides not only an insight into the powerful and effective nature of informal learning but also presents some fundamental challenges to many of the assumptions underpinning educational theory. 

I found it very reassuring, not only because it’s crammed with examples of families who are successfully unschooling, but also because the majority of the families are in the UK. So many homeschooling books still have a US focus. A really great introduction.

Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education by Clark Aldrich

This is quick read much in the same vein as the Seth Godin book above. Also like the Godin book, I inhaled it, nodding and highlighting all the while. Slightly more aimed at educators and policy-makers, I’d say, but I really enjoyed it. It also has some practical, where to begin, advice.

Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder by Marina Bruehl (the Playful Learning website is fantastic). This book is a fabulous resource for at-home creative and educational activities. It includes a chapter about setting up a perfect ‘playful space’ and a quarter of the book is given over to printables (that you can photocopy). I know it’s a book I’ll be coming back to for years to come.

Free to Learn: Five ideas for a joyful unschooling life by Pam Laricchia. This was a quick and interesting read with a fair amount of focus on parenting in general rather than just unschooling (but it makes perfect sense in context, since unschooling is whole life learning as a family).

The Unschooling Unmanual by Nanda Van Gestel, Daniel Quinn and Rue Kream. A collection of essays and snippets from unschooling experts and families. Really enjoyed this one.

Teach Your Own by John Holt. Teach Your Own is, I think, the definitive guide to home education, particularly unschooling, so it’s no surprise that I’ve seen it recommended in practically every single thing I’ve read so far. And now that I’ve finally read it, I’m not at all surprised. It’s very readable, with many real life examples, and there was actually a page of questions asked by a mother considering homeschooling that were the exact same questions I asked. I did skip some of it because it’s a US book and features quite a lot of information and advice about the American legal situation, but don’t let that put you off because there’s plenty in here that’s relevant, valuable and inspiring.

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