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Let's Create a Booklist of 'Must Read' or 'Essential' Homeschooling Books

After reading a post on the Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email support group I began wondering: what 'how to homeschool' books do we all consider essential reading - books that have enlightened, encouraged and reassured us, that have given us invaluable tips that saved time and worry, or books that changed the way we think about education and made the task of explaining our choices to others much easier.

When April was four years of age (in the mid 80s) I read John Holt's How Children Learn and How Children Fail and that set the tone and direction of my thinking on the education process. Before that I dogeared a copy of Your Baby and Child, a classic parenting book by Penelope Leach, so perhaps my thoughts were already on that path and I was primed to accept his ideas. Holt's writing style is anecdotal - he reflects on his observations so that gives his books authenticity - he talks about what he experiences first hand. Letters from homeschooling parents and friends about their experiences help to illustrate his ideas. Although the basic ideas were fairly challenging back then because of the way I'd been schooled to believe in schools and teaching, I found echoes in my own experience, both as a child, teenager, adult and parent. I think John Holt helped me to look at my experiences in a different way and to draw different conclusions. It is this widening of my awareness that I'm still grateful for two decades later.

After a couple of years of homeschooling I read a book by Mario Pagnini, a homeschooling dad. He had a list of 'qualifications' to home educate in the early chapters, one which read "You must like your child." Everyone loves their child, but homeschooling requires that you like your child, that you want to be with them all day, every day. That made me realise that it's perfectly normal to not like our own children. Later I read a uni text book on child development and found out about temperamental mismatch and the havoc it can cause in family relationships. Mario's book curbed my enthusiasm to convert everyone I came across to the cause of homeschooling!

Better Late Than Early, a classic by Raymond and Dorothy Moore, early homeschooling pioneers, is a book that has given much reassurance to many families, particular those whose children seem to be reluctant to start intellectual study by age five...

There were so few books about home education when we began and now there are thousands! Many, like my own Getting Started with Homeschool book focus on the practical aspects. Of this kind I think Ann Lahrson Fisher's The Fundamentals of Homeschooling is the most thorough and could sit on the shelf alongside books that promote any method of homeschooling such as Classical, Montessori, Charlotte Mason or Steiner. Then there are books that combine the basics with an approach such as unschooling or eclectic and using unit studies and learning centres by authors such as Anna Kealoha, Gareth Lewis as well as the books produced by Linda Dobson's Prima Publishing's Homeschooling series. I've only read a handful of Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooling books and love the emphasis on developing habits and routines, and the way in which they honour the nature of childhood, placing children at the centre of the learning process but without the focus on individualism that can occur with other approaches. Then there are books that focus solely on a particular homeschooling approach such as Steiner or Classical education.

Wouldn't it be great to have a list of 'classics' or must read books - half a dozen gems - that we could recommend to families interested in homeschooling?

I'd want to include at least one book that considers the political nature of homeschooling and schooling: John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down is a classic, and it's less US focussed than his epic The Underground History of American Schooling, but I personally prefer Canadian homeschooling pioneer and advocate Wendy Preisnitz's compact and succinct Challenging Assumptions in Education. Wendy was the leader of the Green Party in Canada for a couple of years and has published Natural Life, an alternative lifestyles magazine for more than two decades, as well as Life Learning. She gets to the point quickly and has much to say that is very thought provoking. Unsettling, but essential reading for anyone! It's not a book about homeschooling, it's a book about the way society uses schools to promote particular attitudes and values that aren't meant to serve the whole of humanity.

Many homeschooling families pick up a copy of Grace Llewellyn's The Teenage Liberation Handbook at some stage. It's a book that I think we should all read when our children are tiny, rather than leave it until their in their teens. Her book, written in her twenties, speaks to the teenager in all of us, but more than that she shows us that we don't have to stay stock in whatever dogma was written for us educationally in the past. It's a book which, through anecdotes of real first hand experiences, demonstrates that their are many pathways to the adult world of work. Grace's book was both reassuring and challenging: it helped me to treat my children as unique individuals and to learn about their learning styles, needs and interests. The Teenage Liberation Handbook reinforced John Holt's message of trust the children.

It looks like my list would include a general, but comprehensive nuts and bolts 'how to homeschool' book; a book that provided reassurance that our kids will graduate homeschooling and become valued and useful citizens; a book that covers the basic underlying philosophy of home education - that of life learning and personal responsibility for the educational process and our reasons for the rejection of the principles behind compulsory mass schooling. We also seem to need a book that lays out a basic curriculum - a guide to follow in that first year or so: what to do when, but without needing to spend hundreds of dollars on a particular curriculum as most of us soon change our ideas!

Let's create that list! If you email me your choices I'll compile them into a list on my website, and post the file in the Files section of the Homeschool Australia FAQ group's yahoo website.

PS: Read the completed booklist .

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine


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