Top Ten Must Read Books For Homeschooling or Unschooling Families

When I started homeschooling, I read every book I could find on the subject. I also devoured books on teaching theories, family and child development, and, well, anything I could find that would give me a little more insight on how to create an experience for my kids that would be worth it. I learned a TON from all of my readings. My continued, focused reading created a base of knowledge that gave me tools to do and be the teacher mom I wanted and needed to be. It also showed my kids by example that continued learning and loving to read contributed to our amazing daily life. Reading awesome books continues to be the way I get into the zone and provide what my kids really need.

These are the 10 books that over the years I have found add the juice and excitement into our homeschooling/unschooling process. The list includes the 10 books I would recommend any homeschooling mother to read. As my children grow, I find that rereading a favorite can provide me with new, needed answers. As you may know, after homeschooling for 15 year,s we have tried it all and eclectic unschooling became our primary method. These books contain the best info on why we choose, what we choose, and when we choose it.

1- Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families

Wow. This book is what confirmed everything I had been thinking about and set me on this homeschooling path. It is not actually a homeschooling book, but it specifically describes everything you need to be an awesome homeschooling family. To me, these 7 habits allowed everything else to fall into place.

2- John Holt, How Children Fail, Learning All the Time, Growing Without Schooling, etc.

John Holt is one of the grandfathers of homeschooling and unschooling. Though he passed in 1985, his books created the foundation for the homeschooling movement and are a great place to get a firm understanding of why we really need to be doing what we are doing.

3- John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us DownThe Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher's Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern Schooling

I had the honor of seeing John Taylor Gatto speak at a homeschooling conference years ago. What he had to say really got me thinking. He was an award winning, New York City public school teacher who now supports homeschooling/unschooling. His books describe the purpose behind the public schools, why they were created, and what their big picture goals are in our society. It is not what you think! Worth the read for sure.

4- Peter Grey, Free to Learn

Unlike many on my list, this book was written recently. It discusses the psychology about why we should allow children to educate themselves. It is interestingly written and gives a lot to think about. He also has an excellent blog.

5- Raymond and Dorothy Moore, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook

Dr. Raymond Moore and his wife Dorothy are also founding contributors to the homeschooling movement. His methods have a little more structure than many I have put on this list, but I do believe it is worth the read to include into your ideas about how to run things in your home. His percentages of focus have stuck with me as a bench mark. If you have kids that need structure (I had one) and you are trying unschooling, elements of this book will help meld those together.

6- Grace Llewellyn, The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life Education

This book is focused toward teens and how to unschool the high school years. Not only is it great for you as a parent, but your teen will find it interesting too. It was influenced by John Holt's ideas. Grace Llewellyn includes stories from real teens who opted to take this path. She also discusses lots of ideas on how teens can have a rich, full education without high school and still have an awesome college career. This is a classic must read for the unschooled high schooler.

7- David Colfax, Homeschooling for Excellence

Here is another of those classic homeschool books that shows the roots of the homeschooling movement and what we can achieve when we are connected to why we are doing this. In the 80's, this family received a lot of media attention by having their group of kids attend Ivy League schools after homeschooling. This family put homeschooling as an excellent option on the map. I couldn't put it down.

8- Rebecca Rupp, Home Learning Year by Year

I love this book! For the part of me that needs a structured base to build from, this book provided a guideline from which I could see where we stood and what might be missing. This book gives a breakdown year by year of what kids should be learning and reading. We didn't follow it, but I used it to make sure we weren't missing anything big in the big picture.

9- Jay Niblick, What's Your Genius?

This is another not-your–typical-homeschooling-book, but I think that is part of its value! Jay Niblick starts from the beginning talking about how we are trying to stuff our kids into learning the same things as a base line for everyone. Instead, we should do what we have done for thousands of years, take a person's strengths, and have them focus in that direction and stop forcing knowledge that doesn't fit. This book gets me excited every time I go into it!

10- Maria Chelsey Fisk, Teach Your Kids to Think!

This book is written for parents of kids in public school, showing them how to teach thinking skills. Many of these skills come naturally to unschoolers, but there is always something to learn! If you are just starting on this homeschooling journey or if you are worried that your own schooling experience could get in the way, this could be an excellent read for you. It is always a benefit to have more information and this book provides that!

Unschooling College - What’s next?

Part 2

As you may have read, we have been exploring college potentials for my newly “graduated” 18 year old son.

Was college an answer? In what ways?

Were there other, cheaper ways to gain that knowledge?

His sister’s college was $52k a year. She had a huge scholarship, but we still had loans and a huge out of pocket investment. AND. . . . she graduated a year ago, with excellent grades, from a prestigious school, with a great degree, AND is nannying to pay her bills. She has job leads and has built up a great resume with non-paid internships, but. . . .

Think about it. What would your out of pocket investment in college be for a year or for 4 years? Even if your kid got a part time job through college and was earning $500 a month and took two months off a year,that’s still a $20k investment. Then there is tuition, books, food, WOW! How can we take all of that and end up better prepared? I just want to mention that the dollar amount here is to help open your mind to bigger possibilities and options. Why are we willing to invest so much in a college education that won’t necessarily provide a great career, let alone a rewarding income, and not be open to using that money in other ways that would be more likely to get them closer to the same goal? I can tell you that when we brainstormed with a $20k budget a year, we came up with much better ideas!

We sat down and asked this question: For $20k a year, what could our son do that would get him to his goals? This question changed everything for us! The brainstorming began full force!

Some of our ideas included:

  • Traveling around and attending entrepreneurship conferences for a year
  • Internships (Do them during the school year when the college kids are busy!)
  • Get a pilot’s license
  • Start a business
  • Get a business mentor
  • Get a life coach
  • Watch amazing college courses online (Some are free!)
  • Take online courses pertinent to his career choice
  • Train to become an F-1 Driver and or Stuntman (Not my favorite, but it is not my life!)
  • Travel the world, help build schools, teach English, etc. (You can live at a higher standard of living in some countries for pennies on a dollar and pick up the language through immersion. Way cheaper than a college BA in French or other language!)

And the list could go on and on!

I heard of one guy who decided to do an internship a month for a year and kick-started a book on it to cover the expenses. He did this instead of an MBA and now has all of those business connections, a great book in process and so much practical knowledge. I can’t wait to see how far he goes!

The world is their oyster. Maybe it is time for your teen to sit down and make a brainstorm list! They can do anything and now there are so many amazing options that don’t have to mean 4 years in college and a bunch of debt.

I would love to hear about your unschooling college ideas!

Unschooling College - Figuring Out What’s Next

Part 1

This question was floating around my home for several months earlier this year. It was the topic of many conversations.

At first, my son got caught up in the typical dilemma: college or not college. He even pulled me into exploring variations of those two options.

Finally, one day he mentioned in an unrelated conversation, that he was saddened by the ending of a job contract for a high profile person and then discussed how that would be his dream job/career.

That got me thinking─ finally! We were missing that magic that made it all work!  Hopefully you know exactly what I mean. We were caught in the traditional “other people’s” options. That isn’t how we thrive!

Time for quality questions! If this is his dream career, how does he get there? What was it about this that made it his dream career? Specifically, and yes, how did it make him feel when hereached this decision? It is those feelings that we are all striving for anyway. Might as well acknowledge them in the beginning of the process!

Now we had a goal, an outcome. Now we can talk about options! And, wow! There are so many more options than choosing college or not!

Maybe it is not about choosing a job path and a college. Maybe it is about seizing a dream, a passion, and figuring out if college would even help. Most importantly, find what is best for your teen and stop doing something because it is the “next step” and because everyone says that is the “best way.”

Unschooling Graduation: What does it really mean?

Wow!  It has been a flurry of graduation parties!  My son just turned 18.  He has been homeschooled his whole life and most of that was unschooled.  Many of his friends went to school and parties are what you do, right?  It is a celebration of completing this huge part of your life.  They have been caught up in this flurry of test taking, college choosing, prom going, saying goodbyes, and celebrating a “freedom” of a sort. 

We totally got caught up in the momentum of the lives of his senior friends.  We spent a good several months going back and forth about colleges, second guessing our choice not to do the ACT/SAT route, and should he finish “xyz” like the other kids his age.  It was frustrating and confusing!  And you know what?  We lost track of our purpose! What we needed was a nudge back to what our big picture was all about.

My son graduated this year and not because of his amazing ability in Calculus or because he adequately completed 3.5 years of P.E. 

For us, it is a celebration of maturity and responsibility, of how he has lived and learned during his own extraordinary life.  He has had some amazing experiences that have all helped to create this well-rounded new adult.  I could go on with (and almost did) with a list of his academic accomplishments, but that isn’t what is most important to us. We worked hard to foster a life where he is open, curious and has a love of learning.  If we missed something on this journey, I am confident he will figure it out and quickly.  He is ready to do just that.

It is his readiness to go out into the world that we are celebrating.  We are more excited about things like his comfort level when communicating with adults and his ability to contribute as a leader and a follower.  He has common sense and he knows how to care for his body in a life long kind of way.  He knows if he can dream he can do it and there is no failure ─ only learning along the way.  He knows how to dream and he is working on what to do with those dreams.  That is just the beginning.

These are the things we find truly important. 

Yes my son, you are ready to graduate and I am so proud of you.