Friday, August 24, 2007

Books for Homeschooling Skeptics

As I promised Monday, here's a short list of my favorite books to give to homeschooling skeptics like your parents or in-laws or neighbors or anyone else who's important enough to you that you want them to understand at least a little bit of what you're doing. Even though they are not all explicitly about homeschooling, they all in some fashion answer the question, "Why Homeschooling?"

• David Guterson's Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense is still probably the best book for conventionally minded skeptics, even though it's fifteen years old now, because it assumes that the reader thinks positively of schools and does not assume that homeschooling would be a panacea for every educational problem.

• John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling covers more of the arguments against school than in favor of homeschooling, but there's lots of good, angry reasoning there. I'm not a huge fan of Gatto's Underground History of American Education, but there's a great little riff on the differences between schools and libraries in the third chapter, "Eyeless in Gaza."

For teens—and anybody worried about a teen or anybody of any age who's interested in learning, Grace Llewellyn's Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education is indispensable. It's the only homeschooling book I know written for teens rather than their parents, but it can get anyone excited about the possibilities of learning.

• That personal autonomy and authority are crucial to learning (or working or anything else we do) is the central point of Edward L. Deci's Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation. It's not a terribly friendly read, written in a relatively formal academic style, but it's a short little book and well worth the trouble.

• I suppose it's possible one of my own books might be useful. If so, The Homeschooling Handbook is more general, while The Unschooling Handbook focuses specifically on—surprise!—unschooling.

• Finally, the perfect explanation of my approach to education and learning can be found throughout my favorite volumes of philosophy, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. If I had to pick just a couple of strips, those of July 16, 1995 (Book Three, page 408, and December 31, 1995 (Watterson's final strip, Book Three, pages 480-481), capture the spirit.

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