Five 'Must Read' Books for Home Educators
There are masses and masses of books out there on Home Education. One of my top tips for finding the confidence to take the leap is to read as widely as you can. These are the five that have had the greatest influence on me during our home education journey.
How Children Learn by John Holt
I first read this book back in 1999, when I was in my first year of my BA(Ed) course at University. I was inspired, but little did I know at the time (young and naive that I was) that I would not have the freedom within the mainstream classroom to put into practice everything I had learned about child development. Teaching within the Early Years Foundation Stage seemed to offer the best opportunity for placing the child at the centre of their education, so that is what I opted for. Of course, Early Years provision in practice varies greatly, and it wasn't long before I became disillusioned with teaching in schools in general, but I digress. My copy is dog eared, and highlighted throughout, as I've dipped in and out of it many times over the past 20+ years, but I still find myself nodding in agreement at those highlighted passages. Despite being first published back in 1967, the content is still relevant, as we've known for a long time how children learn best (we just don't have the freedom to put it into practice in mainstream schools).
Reading this book again as a prospective home educating parent, when Bean was maybe 2 or 3 years old, really cemented my confidence in trusting the learning process. I could see first hand how much my daughter was learning, without explicit instruction. I felt confident that if I continued to play an active role in her home education journey, mainly through observation and provision, she would continue to make progress. Home education could offer her the freedom to learn about the things that interest her, in her own unique way, and at her own pace.
Ultimately, this book (and my first hand experience of teaching in mainstream schools, mainly in the Reception year) really opened my eyes to how much we have got wrong with how we educate our children in schools. Frustratingly, we (those in power) do not listen to the research and evidence. We are tied to a system in which our entire capitalist lifestyle is dependent upon, and implementing positive change is thus painfully difficult/impossible.
If you enjoy reading How Children Learn, you may also enjoy John Holt's other books, How Children Fail Learning All the Time and Teach Your Own, which are all excellent.
Free to Learn by Peter Gray
First published in 2013, this book was fresh off the press when Bean was a toddler, and I was beginning to seriously consider home education. This is the book that got me really, really excited about play! Written by a developmental psychologist and research professor, it is evidence based, but what makes this book unique is that suggestions are made on how 'we can ACT - both as parents and as members of society - to improve children's lives and to promote their happiness and learning'.
This book is an easy read, with lots of real life examples to back up the evidence and research, and practical tips on how we can support the children in our homes, schools and wider communities. There's a whole chapter on 'Trustful Parenting in Our Modern World', which I revisit regularly, and is just one example of how the book is not geared solely towards home educating families. This book is for everybody who lives and works with children.
Peter Gray is still actively promoting natural learning/unschooling through his Facebook platform (which I highly recommend following), while writing regular articles for Psychology Today. Just this week he shared an article he had written on A Brief History of Education which was a particularly fascinating read. Our education system is not designed with children's best interests at heart. Our history proves that it is a barely evolved product of the agricultural and industrial revolution.
by Lori Pickert
I discovered this little gem of a book when Bean was around 5 or 6 years old. I had set up a Project Group for home educating families at a local Children's Centre, with the hope that we could continue with the project work that had featured in our early home educating years, but with a social aspect with other home educating families. I was looking for support on mentorship, and this book came highly recommended.
I have to confess that I had to pick it up again last night, in order to write this review, as it isn't one that's content has stuck in my memory, although I remembered that it was good, and that it had had an impact on me at the time. I was up way later than I should have been last night, devouring it, and I am now feeling inspired with a fresh new energy for project-based learning.
It is not a blueprint for how to home educate your child through a project-based approach. It offers guidance on how to identify your child's strongest interests, either through observation or careful questioning. There's a whole chapter on setting up your home or setting to encourage independent research, and then pages and pages of suggestions for things you might like to do. With Bean now attending a consent-based, self-directed learning community three days a week, I want to support this approach at home too, so I plan to read this again, cover to cover, with a highlighter this time!
Better Together by Pam Barnhill
This book came into my life when Bean was around 8 years old, and I was beginning to consider a little more structure to our days. I was inspired by the idea of Morning Time, as a gentle way of coming together each day, and reading this book played a big part in instigating the beginning of our lovely Morning Time tradition.
In my opinion, the special thing about this book is the series of 'Morning Time Snapshots', in which different families are interviewed. I found it so helpful to read examples of how different families had put Morning Time into practice.
A few things worth mentioning...
The author is American, so you can expect to find many American references. Also, there is a heavy emphasis on including elements of the Christian faith, such as scripture and prayer. We are a secular family, so I chose to skim past these parts, but if you practice a different faith, you may wish to consider how to adapt these parts to suit your family.
If you're interested in reading more about Morning Time, you may enjoy these blog posts...
The Perfect Morning Time Space
30+ Activities for Read Aloud Time
Brave Learner by Julie Bogart
Around the same time, Julie Bogart, veteran home educating parent and creator of the award-winning Brave Writer program, published this gem of a book. This book is a really easy read (I read it in a couple of days) and is guaranteed to inspire you to bring magic into your home education provision.
With chapters on creating the context for magic; igniting a passion; promoting an ethos of curiosity, collaboration, contemplation and celebration; practical help in core subjects; living together harmoniously; and troubleshooting when life throws you curveballs. This book packs a punch, as it really does cover it all.
Julie Bogart home educated her five children, who are now all adults, and she includes so many wonderful examples from her journey to bring the book to life. Highly recommended.
So, there you have it! The five books that have had the biggest influence on me, so far. I'm sure there will be more. I hope you find something that interests you here.
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library.