Whether you’re brand new to unschooling and don’t know the first thing about it or you’ve been unschooling for years there are some excellent books on the subject that are well worth the read. No matter how much or how little you already know, these books are great for outlining the general philosophies behind unschooling, answering some questions you might have, providing you with ideas you never would have thought of, or offering stories and insight from others who have spent much of their lives dedicated to lifelong learning and open education.
Books on unschooling may discuss different learning styles or talk about the various stages of your child’s education. They will discuss how you can guide and mentor your child while allowing them to forge their own paths. Some of them will also discuss difficulties many parents encounter and the common solutions of families who’ve experienced similar situations. If you want to know more about unschooling or you want to expand your knowledge on the subject you should check out the following books.
How Children Fail
by John Holt
How Children Fail is an invaluable and insightful book written by John Holt. Published in the 1960’s and revised in 1982, this book discusses the problems of classroom learning, grading, and testing. It explains that children love to learn and will naturally seek out knowledge but that the school environment creates the expectation of providing correct answers and looking for a teacher’s approval rather than formulating independent thoughts and developing critical thinking skills.
How Children Learn
by John Holt
How Children Learn is another classic by John Holt that provides parents and educators an insightful look at early learning and education. While not specifically about unschooling, this book is a valuable resource for parents who want to understand the nature of how children absorb information and begin to figure out the world around them. John Holt, considered to be the father of unschooling, explains that “learning is as natural as breathing” for young children and discusses how we can help to nurture their natural learning processes.
Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling
by John Holt and Pat Farenga
Published in 1981, Teach Your Own is another incredible John Holt classic. Possibly one of his most important works, this book became something of a homeschooling bible. This edition, revised by Holt’s colleague Pat Farenga and republished in 2003, has been updated to account for the current laws and lifestyles of today. This book is a classic that every homeschooling and unschooling parent should have. It addresses many issues, obstacles, and ideas that can help to encourage and inspire parents who are educating their children at home.
The Unschooling Unmanual: Nurturing Children’s Natural Love of Learning
by Jan Hunt M.Sc, Nanda Van Gestel, Daniel Quinn, Rue Kream, Earl Stevens, Kim Houssenloge, John Holt, Mary Van Doren
The Unschooling Unmanual: Nurturing Children’s Natural Love of Learning features essays by Nanda Van Gestel, Jan Hunt, Daniel Quinn, Rue Kream, Kim Houssenloge, Earl Stevens, and Mary Van Doren. These writers provide personal stories and examples that can offer much needed inspiration and encouragement to families who are learning through unschooling. This second edition includes Jan Hunt’s Ten Tips for New Unschooling Parents. The Unschooling Unmanual is excellent for both veteran unschoolers as well as those who are brand new to unschooling and looking for an introduction.
Big Book of Unschooling
by Sandra Dodd
Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling provides readers with ideas on how to move from the structured mentality of schooling into the natural learning methods of unschooling. She explains how unschooling works and how families can get the most joy and fulfillment out of their lives along the way. She answers the most common questions new unschoolers usually have and addresses the typical concerns that arise for unschooling parents.
Dumbing Us Down focuses on the negative and counterproductive effects that compulsory schooling has on children’s education. It discusses how the self-knowledge and curiosity that naturally exist in children is stifled in school and reinforces that these traits are essential for genuine learning. John Gatto shows classroom education as a place that teaches children simply to obey orders rather than think critically, creatively, and independently.
Mary Griffith’s The Unschooling Handbook discusses how children will learn most effectively when they are allowed to follow their natural interests and curiosities. She talks about the shift of families moving from homeschooling to unschooling and how the lack of bells, rules, and schedules allow children to absorb knowledge more enthusiastically. Her book will help to guide parents who are learning to guide their unschooling children.
Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don’t Go to School Tell Their Own Stories
by Grace Llewellyn
Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don’t Go to School Tell Their Own Stories is a homeschooling classic that tells the tales of eleven homeschooled teenagers. The amazing experiences these kids have had are shared in delightful and heartwarming detail. This second edition version also includes updates from these individuals, who are now young adults pursuing new dreams and goals. They describe where their lives have taken them and provide advice to those who are considering a journey down the path of unschooling.
Another excellent book by Grace Llewellyn, The Teenage Liberation Handbook is directed at young people who would like to start taking control of their lives and learn how to teach themselves what they need to know. This book provides plenty of inspiration and encouragement to those who are considering leaving the classroom behind and design their own education program tailored specifically to their individual interests, goals, and dreams.
Peter Gray, developmental psychologist and author of Free to Learn, writes about the need to trust children with their own learning and development. He explains that free play will help children to learn how to be in control of their own lives, interact independently with their peers, and learn how to problem solve. As children grow more comfortable in making their own decisions and controlling their own social interactions they will become better equipped to learn and succeed in this constantly changing world.
For the child, unschooling is a natural exploration of the world around them and the absorption of knowledge as they encounter it. For the parent, it’s not always that simple. Sometimes you may worry that you’re parenting incorrectly or might be wondering if unschooling is the right choice. You could just be curious about how unschooling looks to other families and what problems and successes they’ve experienced. The authors of the books mentioned above have plenty of experience in the field and their advice and insights are absolutely invaluable. For a better understanding the unschooling philosophy, and everything that goes with it, you should definitely take a look at these amazing authors and their excellent works.