Which 'unschooling' book should I get? - Mothering Forums
Unschooling > Which 'unschooling' book should I get?
Sienna-forever's Avatar Sienna-forever 01:23 PM 06-25-2011




I am homeschooling my 4 year old DS. Until recently, he has mainly been playing,playing and more playing (great) and I've been reading to him A Lot! .


We also go to the library for story time once a week, he has at least one playdate per week and swims once per week - this is working out great and seems to be a good balance for him.


Just recently, he has become much more interested in things like learning to write, doing some pre-school workbooks (his choice) and doing more arts/crafts - especially watercolour painting.


I'm at the stage where i'm trying to decide whether to continue with the workbooks and follow some sort of curriculum (DS does seem to enjoy the workbooks) or whether to let him come to me with questions and take our learning day to day ( he does a lot of this too, asks lots of spontaneous questions which leads to us learning together)


I realise DS is only 4, so still a baby really blush.gif so i'm not trying to rush into anything, just trying to get a game plan in place and learn as much as I can so that I can make the best choices for him (hopefully!)


I have read several homeschooling books and guides, but I'd like some recommendations for unschooling books too pleaseshy.gif

I have looked on amazon, and there are sooo many - I didn't know where to begin. I am happy with how our homeschooling is going, but I'd like to read a bit more about unschooling,  


Any recommendations?

Thank you x




railyuh's Avatar railyuh 06:14 AM 06-26-2011

My DS played with preschool workbooks when he was 3-4 too  (he probably still would we just don't happen to have any anymore, the others were gifts from gparents). It was actually really interesting to watch him figure out how to solve the puzzles and games in the book without anyone telling him what he was supposed to do (sometimes he really did them the way they were supposed to be done, sometimes he made up his own game with them), and a lot of it was just coloring/copying/scribbling on every page. He also plays at a lot of writing/reading type games apart from workbooks. He'll do things like write random strings of letters and then ask me to read them, and I really try to pronounce them and we get some good laughs out of it. He likes to copy words down, write letters, have me write him notes and send him mail by sliding it under his bedroom door, etc. All of that to say, just because your DS enjoys workbooks doesn't mean he needs or wants curriculum (it doesn't mean he doesn't either--how's that for confusing :P).  You can encourage this interest with lots of other word/writing games and I be he will come up with his own if he isn't already.


I know that for my DS, one of these workbooks is great fun so long as it is fun and games. If someone sits down and tries to make it a lesson then he loses interest. I've seen it happen when gparents visit and they try to get him to copy specific letters or pronounce sounds, etc. Anyway, that's my kid and yours may be different, but I know for mine that a formal curriculum with a daily schedule would turn him off the whole thing, and he appears to be learning so much through games and play that it doesn't seem necessary to me. I think you could also use curriculum in a way that wouldn't so formal, but then I think there are so many other (free!) resources out there that I would rather check out some books from the library to get ideas instead of spending money on a curriculum. Peggy Kaye has a series of books that are games for math/reading/writing/etc.--so something like that might be fun.


As far as unschooling books, these are some of my favorites:

Homeschooling our children, Unschooling Ourselves by Alison McKee

Parenting a Free Child: An Unschooled Life by Rue Kream

The Big Book of Unschooling by Sandra Dodd


I remember when I first started reading about unschooling, The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith was really helpful as well.

Sienna-forever's Avatar Sienna-forever 12:32 PM 06-26-2011


Thank you so much for the suggestions, I've noted them down and will be adding them to my amazon wishlist!



greenthumb3's Avatar greenthumb3 05:51 PM 06-26-2011

Hi! I highly recommend Mary Griffith's "The Unschooling Handbook" and

David H. Albert's "And the Skylark Sings With Me" and "Have fun. Learn stuff. Grow. Homeschooling and the Curriculum of Love".

Sienna-forever's Avatar Sienna-forever 01:05 AM 06-27-2011



thank you for the suggestions - looks like i'll be asking for books for my birthday in august!

aussiemumma's Avatar aussiemumma 02:25 AM 06-27-2011

I have a four y.o as well. The unschooling handbook is a great start and then anything by John Holt or John Taylor-Gatto has been fantastic for me. 


Keeta's Avatar Keeta 08:40 AM 06-27-2011

The first "unschooling" book I read was Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves by Alison McKee, and it was really good at showing how unschooling could work over the whole course of a child's school life (from preschool on to college).  I liked that overview - so often books are appropriate for one particular age, or is written by a parent with a kid who is under 10, but this one is good for the whole spectrum.


I also really like Laura Grace Weldon's Free Range Learning.  It's not explicitly unschooling, but in essence that's what it is.  It's chock full of great resources and ideas.  It's also fairly new (within the last year or two) so unlike The Unschooler's Handbook (which I like, but has a dated feel to it), FRL is really up-to-date.

homeschoolingmama's Avatar homeschoolingmama 09:57 AM 06-27-2011

The unprocessed child.  I forget who it is by though.

Sienna-forever's Avatar Sienna-forever 12:17 PM 06-27-2011



thank you so much - I can see me wanting all of the above!


I'm going through a stage at the moment where one minute i'm confident, the next all traces of confidence are gone!


I know reading some of the titles above will help .......


I think all those years that I spent in school are still deep rooted within me - and even though I've changed and grown soooo much since becoming a parent, I still get that little voice in my head that criticizes me .... I don't think I realised before having my DS just how much becoming a parent would make me evaluate my own childhood!

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 09:40 PM 06-27-2011

I have no new unschooling book to add, but I was just thinking about "Farmer Boy" today.  Yes, Almanzo goes to school, but I read that book and I think about how skilled children can be!  Father Wilder gave his children so many opportunities to learn by doing, making mistakes and coming up with their own solutions.  This book always sticks in my head when I imagine the unschooling life of a young child.

     My daughters also love workbooks as long as they are presented like "puzzle books".  The reward stickers usually get divided up as a bonus toy and they've never asked about the completion certificates at the back.  They adore secret codes and treat equations like a puzzle, too.  When the day is dreary and for some reason playtime becomes dull (a rare occurrence in our house) and I've already been on the couch reading to them or listening to them read for 2 hours or more, I like to whip out the puzzle books.  That usually keeps them happy for a while.  My girls are 6 and 4.

msaraann's Avatar msaraann 11:46 PM 06-27-2011

John Holt's "How Children Learn" gave me a lot of ideas when my children were younger.

rumi's Avatar rumi 07:14 AM 06-28-2011


I'm at the stage where i'm trying to decide whether to continue with the workbooks and follow some sort of curriculum (DS does seem to enjoy the workbooks) or whether to let him come to me with questions and take our learning day to day ( he does a lot of this too, asks lots of spontaneous questions which leads to us learning together)

why not both?

i mean, the workbooks can be there just like any number of other books / activities are there, the "some sort of curriculum" can also be there like a "rainy day activity book" that you pull out when you need it.  meanwhile the stories, art, play, questions ... sounds like a classic picture of the unschooler.


in our case, we have a mix of both in that dd likes to play school (which is a game like any other game) and wants to be assigned work, exams, the whole thing - but then it is not every day, never more than an hour, and sometimes weeks can go by without it.  at the same time i also need to document our work to show the county - so whatever written work / workbook pages she ends up doing in the process are useful for that. 


re: books, I found Continuum Concept (by Jean Liedloff) useful.  It is not a guidebook or how-to but it offers insight into how we learn to be human and part of a community, what we think learning is, what is work, play, etc.

Sienna-forever's Avatar Sienna-forever 10:15 AM 06-28-2011


I did think 'why not both?' myself when I re-read my post - a classic example of needing to deschool myself if ever I saw one!! Its the confidence thing I guess, but I'm getting there slowly I think!



Thank you for the book suggestions :)

SweetSilver's Avatar SweetSilver 08:36 PM 06-28-2011

Originally Posted by rumi View Post

why not both?

I think you'll find in books on unschooling that it is not defined as "no curriculum", just not parent-as-teacher imposed curriculum.  Curriculums and classes and lessons can all be wonderful additions to your homeschooling toolbox, even for unschoolers.  

     I think the often-used description of unschooling as "child-led" can give parents the notion that to introduce anything would mean they weren't unschoolers, and I think that is unfortunate.  Yes, much of what an unschooling parent does is support the interests, ideas and drives that children have and help make them reality.  But in other ways, the unschooling model can be even more adult-led if you consider that adults will also be doing what adults do in the world--cleaning house, paying bills, cooking, gardening, farming, building, repairing, restoring, foraging, hunting and fishing and everything else.  What unschooling does is abandon the traditional relationship of all-knowing-teacher filling the empty-student-vessel.  The children are simply allowed to join in as fully as they desire, and trusted to take on the responsibility that they are asking for.

Stacey B's Avatar Stacey B 08:38 PM 06-29-2011

So I'm just going to give you book titles, since it's late and I'm tired. "The Unschooling Unmanual" is a series of essays that is my favorite one so far. Anything by Dave Albert is really inspiring. Teach Your Own by John Holt (the title is somewhat miss leading). While not completely related  "The Geography of Childhood" by Nabhan and Trimble was one of the first books I read that started me towards unschooling.

Sienna-forever's Avatar Sienna-forever 11:30 AM 06-30-2011


I really appreciate all these suggestions - and look forward to reading and learning more about unschooling and how children learn. joy.gif

orangefoot's Avatar orangefoot 11:33 AM 07-02-2011

I haven't read much at all but I read How Children Learn and it totally explained my dd's reading journey which was fascinating.


I don't think anyone's mentioned Moving a Puddle by Sandra Dodd. A friend heard her speak here in London last month and I've been dipping into the copy she bought when I'm at her house. It is a collection of essays and articles which can be dipped into lightly which might be a welcome contrast to the Gatto.