As a former public school teacher, gold-star sticker student, and general rule-follower…I never really considered unschooling. I don’t like the word. And quite frankly–I thought it sounded like a bunch of crazy talk. Who are these wild moms? I can only be so countercultural! Homeschooling is my max-limit—thank-you-very-much. To me unschooling sounded too much like uneducating–not a look I’m going for. BUT over the last several years…I’ve noticed some things–learned some things… Some things about my own habits, my own love of learning, and my own children…And it’s thrown a lot of my notions about education and parenting for a loop.
Thank goodness–we are always learning new things! Today I’m sharing 4 books that will have you rethinking–homeschooling, unschooling, and parenting. I think you’ll find them super encouraging–giving you more reasons to start homeschooling OR giving you more clarity on your WHY & HOW to homeschool!
**Just to be clear–I am still not an official unschooler. I do embrace and highly-value child-led learning and play. But you will have to pry the math curriculum out of my cold, dead hands…We are not doing interest-led Algebra over here at the Merckling house. But that is just us.
And that’s the beauty of homeschooling–you have the freedom to do it your way. Mix up some Classical Education with a dash of Charlotte Mason and a side of Unschooling…Or go completely purist–Unschool, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Classical, Waldorf…You do you! There is not a right or wrong way to do this!
I pretty much love everything Julie Bogart has to say about parenting or homeschooling (or life in general)…When I read her book, The Brave Learner, I felt so validated and understood and encouraged!! Julie is a kindred spirit. After homeschooling 5 kids through high school, Julie has been there, done that, and totally gets it! (She even has an unconventional oldest child–who loved heavy metal, video games, and wearing his hair long…Pretty much my oldest son.) I wish this book had been around when I first started homeschooling…
However–it is certainly not just for newbies!
I read the book after 15 years of homeschooling and it was exactly what I needed to hear…Julie gives so many practical tips, resources, and “how-to’s” throughout the book. (And I’ve reread it several times since!)
And perhaps most importantly, the scope of the book is far beyond homeschooling–it’s about how we do life with our kids.
You need this book–go get it. You will not be sorry. This is one you will want to chew on. And dogear. And write all over in the margins! Get your pen ready!
Parenting and homeschooling teens is a bit of a different ballgame (to put it mildly)…It’s stretched me far beyond what I ever imagined–and in this season of stretching, I discovered Blake Boles.
Blake is a popular advocate for unschooling and shifting our educational paradigms.
And even though he has no children, I cannot tell you how much encouragement, reassurance, and wisdom Blake has breathed into my 40-something, homeschooling mom of 6 (including 3 teens/young adults) soul.
I’m not sure if it’s the fact that he’s thriving in his own unconventional life, or all the research-based evidence he provides, or his extensive experience with teens and young adults…there is something about his viewpoint that feels pure and comforting.
He’s obviously not speaking to me as a mom who has is all figured out (maybe that’s what’s so refreshing??)–but as someone looking in from the outside and coming along beside me. Like an impartial voice of reason–pushing me to trust the process and my kids. Telling me it’s going to be okay–and I believe him.
His brand new book (just released May 15), Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School, is EXCELLENT. A few months ago, as one of his email subscribers, I offered to review and read through the final-almost-published-draft. So he graciously sent me a digital copy…I could not stop reading. (And I hate reading digital books, so that’s saying a lot.)
This book was so timely for me. My own teens had me wondering all the things…
What are they doing? When are they going to figure this out? Will they be okay? Were they raised in a barn? Did I do something wrong? Did I do enough? What do I need to do next?
Blake’s book was exactly the message I needed to hear…
If you are parenting teens–this is a must read. Not only does it make the case for unconventional schooling…It makes the case for releasing yourself from the enormous pressures we put upon ourselves as parents.
If nothing else–go get signed up for his monthly newsletter–you will learn so much!
Over the winter I picked up this gem…finally!
Once upon a time, when I was a bright-eyed-18-year-old education major, I know the name John Gatto was introduced.
I can’t really remember what I was taught about his philosophy…It was just a blip. I don’t recall if he was hailed as a reformer or quietly mentioned so that none of us paid any attention to his radical ideas…I probably had to match his name with a theory on a test. And after 13+ years of public education, I was really good at taking tests. As long as I could do that–I really didn’t care or think much of it or him.
But fast forward, 20+ years…Someone in my local homeschool group recommended to a new homeschool mom that she read, Dumbing Us Down…And for some reason, I felt compelled to reacquaint myself with Mr. Gatto…I’m so glad I did.
His book, Dumbing Us Down, really brings so much of my own personal experience as a student, teacher, and parent into uncomfortable clarity…The book is short–a collection of essays and speeches that John Taylor Gatto shared after 30 years of teaching school and being named New York State Teacher of the Year. **He then became an advocate for homeschooling (specifically unschooling).
But so deep. It will stick with you and disturb you and push you to think about things that are ugly and uncomfortable. I loved every page. It was the shot in the arm I needed in January–reaffirming why I do this wild and wonderful homeschool thing. And it made me want to do it better.
A couple years ago, I became aware of a new movement within the homeschool community called Wild + Free, lead by Ainsley Arment.
And as I’m just starting my second round of homeschooling (**in addition to my teens, I have a whole other wave of babies: an 8 year old son & 5 year old twin girls)–this movement really appeals to my style of homeschooling.
I cherish that God has given me a second chance to parent and homeschool…So thankful. Hoping to do it with more grace and wisdom this time around…
Anyhoo…You can learn more about the Wild + Free lifestyle and homeschool community here. I’m so blessed that I have a local group to connect with–they push me to be a better mom and educator.
Over the COVID-19 quarantine, I decided to listen Ainsley’s audiobook, The Call of the Wild and Free: Reclaiming Wonder in Your Child’s Education. So good! I especially loved the emphasis on play and interest-led learning. And also the encouragement to simplify your life and homeschool!
The hardcover version looks BEAUTIFUL…and I’m trying to decide if I need to add it to my personal collection. If I was new to homeschooling, I would purchase it in a heartbeat! This book is truly a gift to moms considering homeschooling or new to the homeschool adventure.
And as a mom wrapping up my 16th year of homeschooling–I was definitely encouraged (there is something so validating in finding other moms who understand & “get it”). However–I’m not sure that there were a lot of new concepts that I need to keep going back to…So if you’re a homeschool veteran like me–you might also enjoy listening to it like I did (or put it on your library list.) But it is a gorgeous book–so I may just have to treat myself…
Keep Learning and Leaning In…
If I’ve learned anything in all these years of homeschooling–it’s that I love learning. Homeschool moms are truly lifelong learners! Keep leaning in to where God is calling your homeschool journey–and trusting Him on the trail.
I’m yearning to be better…and yet also embracing where I am and where I’ve been. And letting go of the guilt and pressure! These 4 homeschool books helped me with that–and I know they’ll help you too!
Keep growing and learning, Sweet Momma! Your kids see you blooming!