Every homeschooling method has its champions. Writers who have lauded Classical learning, Charlotte Mason herself, and those who write about preparing kids for standardized tests and textbooks.  When you are deciding on an educational philosophy, you find affirmation of what you believe to be true in a wide variety of genres.

When I first heard about unschooling, I went exploring this concept with an open mind.  Not only did I find unschoolers writing about the joys of learning in freedom, I also found many non-education specific authors who brought forth the same ideas about learning and life.

After I learned to think in terms without formal schooling, I was able to see the principles of unschooling everywhere.  Here are ten authors that influenced my choice to unschool:

1. John Taylor Gatto

…‘How will they learn to read?’ you ask, and my answer is ‘Remember the lessons of Massachusetts.’ When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cell blocks, they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease, if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them.

John Gatto doesn’t reference unschooling specifically in his books, but the philosophy is there.  He was a teacher for many years in the New York public school system.  He identifies schooling as conditioning meant to conform and demoralize the population, and he has historical proof to back up his sometimes radical statements.

2. Grace Llewellyn

Grace puts dangerous notions in the brains of teens that school is not like the real world, that they have the fundamental right to be free (insofar as living cooperatively in a family and free nation), and that they are ultimately responsible for their education.

Your teacher cannot bridge the gap between what you know and what you want to know. For his words to ‘educate’ you, you must welcome them, think about them, find somewhere for your mind to organize them, and remember them. Your learning is your job, not your teacher’s job. And all you need to start with is desire. You don’t need a schoolteacher to get knowledge – you can get it from looking at the world, from watching films, from conversations, from reading, from asking questions, from experience.

The book is not anti-authority.  It is pro-respect and pro-family.  It doesn’t say, “go off and do whatever you want.”  It says, “Ask your parents, show them that you want to be free in order to become productive citizens in a liberated country.”

3. Alfie Kohn

Schooling is typically about doing things to children, not working withthem. An array of punishments and rewards is used to enforce compliance with an agenda that students rarely have any opportunity to influence.

One is repeatedly struck by the absurd spectacle of adults insisting that children need to become self-disciplined, or lamenting that “kids just don’t take responsibility for their own behavior” – while spending their days ordering children around. The truth is that, if we want children to take responsibility for their own behavior, we must first give them responsibility, and plenty of it. The way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.

Alfie Kohn is an educator who wishes to reform public schooling.  He is about as close as you can get to believing in unschooling without actually supporting unschoolers.  I understand his bent- he is all about helping the general community, not just individual families.

His books are backed up with the latest research, and his ideas fit so well within the unschooling philosophy.

4. Blaise Pascal

An oldie but goodie!

Pascal was a mathematical genius.  He was educated at home by his father, and by 16 he was starting to get noticed by such people as Descartes.

I have read his philosophical work, Pensees, many times through.  It is a masterpiece of logical argument.  It also talks about how men learn.

People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come in to the mind of others.

One must know oneself. If this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better.

5. Madeline L’Engle

The book A Wrinkle In Time inspired me.  It was such a beautiful read.  And although Madeline had no intention of creating an alternative education stance, she provides the framework in her characters.

 Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. – Mrs. Whatsit

When I have something to say that I think will be too difficult for adults, I write it in a book for children. Children are excited by new ideas; they have not yet closed the doors and windows of their imaginations. Provided the story is good… nothing is too difficult for children.

6. John Holt

Of course the man who coined the term unschooling has to be on my list!  I have read 3 of his books so far, and hope to read them all some day.

Children do not need to be made to learn to be better, told what to do or shown how. If they are given access to enough of the world, they will see clearly enough what things are truly important to themselves and to others, and they will make for themselves a better path into that world than anyone else could make for them

Since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.

7. Adam Robinson

 Forget passively accepting what the education system has to offer: being a smart student means taking charge and teaching yourself.  Becoming a smart student means taking responsibility for your education.  The central message of this entire book can be summer up in a sentence: No school can teach you the way you learn best, so how much you learn and how well you do is up to you.

What Smart Students Know is a manifesto in autodidact-ism.  Adam compares students that think smarter vs. harder and shows you how to get better grades while at the same time love learning and propelling yourself into discovering how to be successful.

8. Dr. Tim Kimmel

Dr. Kimmel’s “Delivery System for Grace” in his book Grace Based Parenting lays the foundation for creating a family dynamic that is democratic in nature, peaceful in application, and very unschooling friendly.  Grace Based Parenting is based in giving children the:

  • freedom to be different
  • freedom to be vulnerable
  • freedom to be candid
  • freedom to make mistakes

9. Marion Foster Washburne

An almost unknown author, Marion wrote Study of Child Life in 1907.  I stumbled upon it while searching Gutenberg.org for child development books.

Suppose the child to be brought to such a stage that he is willing to do anything his father or mother says; suppose, even, that they never tell him to do anything that he does not afterwards discover to be reasonable and just; still, what has he gained? For twenty years he has not had the responsibility for a single action, for a single decision, right or wrong. What is permitted is right to him; what is forbidden is wrong. When he goes out into the world without his parents, what will happen?

Her (mother) presence, her interest in what he is doing, doubles his delight in it and doubles its value to him. Moreover, it offers her opportunity for that touch and direction now and then, which may transform a rambling play, without much sequence or meaning, into a consciously useful performance, a dramatization, perhaps, of some of the child’s observations, or an investigation into the nature of things.

10. Barbara Shelton

While contemplating how in the world I was going to “qualify” to homeschool in the state of Washington when my daughter became compulsory age (funny how that didn’t matter in preschool), I came across Barbara Shelton’s Season of Re-Education.

I ended up not needing the course, since we moved to Kansas before Raven turned 8, but I did order her book Senior High: A Home Designed Form+U+La.  The book gave me the confidence I needed to look forward to a relaxed, unique journey with Raven’s education all the way to adulthood.

Barbara shares personal stories, forms, and instructions on how to create a specialized high school experience for your child AND record it all into awesome transcripts!

Do you have a top ten list for the week?  Link it up over at Many Little Blessings!

And be sure to check out all the other iHN participants over at the 10 in 10 blog hop!

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6 Responses to Ten Authors That Influenced My Decision To Unschool

  1. Susann says:

    I love your list of authors! I love the concept of unschooling and feeling that I can bring it in when life gets crazy! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Lois60 says:

    I’m new to your blog, so I found this article interesting. I’ve read many of these authors and books. I use the glean method of schooling….I glean from this source, that source, take what I can use and leave the rest. The term unschooling still leaves a sour taste in my mouth, even after 13 years of homeschooling. To me it conjures up those families on field trips who were unruly, let their kids do whatever they wanted, and generally gave homeschoolers a bad name. Too bad, because I know MANY families who identify themselves as unschoolers who are polite and disciplined! C’est la vie.

    • Lois60 says:

      I should clarify, that I embrace the philosophy of unschooling for the most part, but believe the parents are still in charge, not the child, and that’s the point of contention. I really think the term is what throws me!

      I will enjoy purusing the rest of your blog. Thank you!

    • Aadel says:

      Thank you for the kind comment. Yes- parenting technique does have a lot to do with unschooling being successful, I agree. You have to have a good relationship and example respect for others.

  3. Sharla says:

    Great list! I have only read a few of these, but will have to add some to my summer reading.

  4. daysinmybarefeet.blogspot.com says:

    I love John Holt! He is a great author with wonderful thoughts and advice!

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