I'm new to this forum, but I'm hoping you folks could help me find resources to share with my wife. Based on some strong recommendations from more than one friend, I bought "The Teenage Liberation Handbook" as a possible gift to my thirteen year old niece who has recently come into our home. My wife was worried about how her dad would feel about it and wanted to read it before I gave it to her. Well, she was incredibly insulted and offended over and over in the first few pages. The beginning all seems to be about how school is just evil and there's even a part where it says that if you like school, then you are probably "dead inside." With those actual words! How is that going to help win anyone over? The idea that every school is unsuitable for everyone may have some support in some circles, but the tone of the writer in that book is so disrespectful of people who have had different experiences, like my wife who came from a neglectful home and found a wonderful, supportive, refuge in school. So my wife just couldn't keep going to even get to the parts of the book that offer actual useful information or even offer support for any ideas about kids guiding their own learning.
SO, I'm wondering if you folks, who have likely read more of the materials in the big resources list, could recommend any books that support unschooling in a positive way but without so much hostility toward other learning methods?
I'm very excited about the possibility of unschooling for my niece and eventually for our own much younger son and daughter. I'm afraid that the terrible experience my wife had with Llewellyn's book has set my case back a long way and it's so demoralizing. I could really use some help.
Thanks in advance and I'm sorry if anything I wrote above comes across as insulting.
There are a few things I don't like about that book too, but I think it's still well worth just ignoring the introductory philosophical opinions that may feel irritating and going on to suggestions about how to go about finding resources and ideas for learning. I'm not quite clear, though, on whether you're looking for resource suggestions or for unschooling philosophy support. There are two other books that are also written by the same author, but they might have less of the kind of thing that's putting your wife off:
Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School
Also go to this page of the HomeSchool Assn. of California - Books about Learning and Homeschooling - and scroll down to the subtitle, Natural Learning and Unschooling - there you'll find links to lots of good books on Amazon, and in Amazon, you can click on the book covers and search or "look inside" the books to see what you like. The Unschooling Handbook is a good start.
Here's a good film made at at big homeschooling conference - you'll find a lot of support for unschooling here: "Homeschooling?!: The Movie"
Online, you can find some encouraging and interesting articles in my noncommercial website's set of annotated links having to do with Teen Homeschooling. Perhaps you could print up some you find helpful.
Also look on the Unschooling Teenagers page of the Holt/Growing Without Schooling website for links to helpful articles.
And you'll find lots of inspiring things in Sandra Dodd's pages on Teens and Unschooling.
A wonderful natural learning magazine is Life Learning Magazine: the magazine for unschooling families. You can read some articles that are archived online, and sub to their magazine for ongoing inspiration.
Don't miss Home Education Magazine's website - you'll find lots of archived articles that will be inspiring, and they have a wonderful magazine you can sub to - you can also buy back copies.
I'm forgetting something, I'm sure - there are lots of great resources to sort through.
Pek suggested that a transition time might be necessary - ABSOLUTELY! And it may take longer than you or your wife expect, but it's crucial and is not a waste of time. Here's a whole thread on that in this forum:
Best of luck - Lillian
Is your niece unhappy in school? If not, I wouldn't push unschooling for her. Finding social outlets for homeschooled teens can be challenging, especially if you are new to the homeschool community. If she's miserable, absolutely look for a way to get her out, but for some kids, school is positive thing. And even for some who don't like school, they like the idea of being different even less, and would therefore prefer school to being homeschooled.
For explaining unschooling in a way that doesn't sound nuts or completely irresponsible to people new to the idea, The Unschooling Handbook is ideal.
I agree with onatightrope, and I'm a dyed-in-the-wool unschooler. Especially at such a time of transition, if school has been a positive or stabilizing factor in your niece's life then I wouldn't mess with that. Sure, if she expresses negative opinions of it, feels stifled, is stressed and unhappy with school, hankers for another educational environment, has unmet learning needs, then gently open the door to unschooling, pointing out that school is a choice and that there are other possibilities.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up
Thank you all for wanting to help! Especially thanks for advice about books.
Basically, I am looking for books that will help my wife form a better picture of what unschooling is like and what its advantages and challenges are. She is the sort of person who is good at getting information like that from books more so than many other ways. I'll get "The Unschooling Handbook" and start from there.
As far as what sort of learning would be best for me niece, there are a million factors going into that. There are a bunch of people who feel like they get to be part of that decision and we haven't worked it out yet. Next to my niece, I would be the one responsible for overseeing or advising her education whether I taught a specific curriculum, supported her unschooling, or chose and interacted with her school. She's been changing school several times per year for the last couple years. She was kicked out of more than one for various reasons some more absurd than others, but none that seemed like expulsion level problems to me. She has had some huge recent life events even before moving halfway across the country away from her father. She took a couple months off school to travel with her mother and then struggled to get back with her class when she returned. Even though she's 13, she enrolled at a magnet high school at the beginning of this school year based on test scores and interviews, but left for social reasons in the first couple weeks. But, she's very motivated by her own interests and takes on, works at, and completes pretty large projects on her own already in her time outside of school. Like right now she's making an animated movie that she's written, filmed, and edited all on her own and for reasons entirely her own.
Anyway, like I said, there are a million factors and I need to talk to her a lot more about what she thinks will work for her and what she wants.
Thanks again for all your help.
A more recent book that might be more appropriate for your niece is College without High School by Blake Boles. It doesn't profess to be unschooling, but it is very much about helping kids figure out how to fill their would-be high school years with things they are passionate about, while still building a portfolio that will allow them to attend college.
I'd like to recommend to your wife the old and true John Holt: How Children Learn; How Children Fail; Learning all the Time; and Teach Your Own. I particularly like the "How Children Fail."
I just recently read a book by David H. Albert and Joyce Reed, "What Really Matters." At one point Joyce Reed mentions that because she came from a disadvantaged background school was everything to her--her teachers, not her parents were her guides and role models. Your wife might relate.
Your seems like a wonderful candidate for unschooling.
I recommend that you look at the situation as objectively as possible, ask trusted friends or relatives if they are not opposed to homeschooling in general, think and pray (if that fits your beliefs), and make the best decision you can. Then, whatever you decide, do your best to make it good.
I just recently read a book by David H. Albert and Joyce Reed, "What Really Matters."
I hadn't thought of that one - but I think it's definitely one of the best books - if not the best - you'll find on the subject! Here's a page of reviews on it:
What Really Matters