The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom by Mary Griffith


I picked up The Unschooling Handbook at the library in the next town over when we made it into a day trip.  What can I say?  The most important feature to us in any community is the library.  We’re geeks.

They had a decent homeschooling section, and the topic of unschooling is mighty appealing to me.  I’d say we’re already half-way there with our relaxed way of doing school.  We keep holding onto a bit of guiding the kids’ learning though, because the idea of unschooling makes my husband panic.  Daddy is not a pretty sight when he panics about the kids’ schooling.  Usually lectures ensue.

So back to the book I’m reviewing.  The Unschooling Handbook is an excellent resource for anybody who wants to learn about unschooling, or who is already doing it themselves.  Not only is this a how-to of unschooling, but it includes a wealth of information from respondents, to questions which the author disseminated.

Here is an outline of what you can find in the book:

  • Information on how to incorporate reading, writing, math, science, history, and the arts into unschooling
  • Discussion on practical matters–legal requirements, monetary and time limits, working with multiple children, support group info., how to cope with doubts & challenges, etc.
  • Lots of discussion on learning styles, educational philosophies, the parent’s role in unschooling, etc.
  • A ton of additional resource suggestions
  • Sample schedules or activity lists
  • Many anecdotes & observations from unschooling parents & children

My thoughts:

I loved this book!  It is highly readable.  The author combines facts with anecdotes and, I believe, hits on a good balance between the two.  If you’re not a person who enjoys anecdotes and testimony, you will probably be frustrated with the book.

I highly recommend this book to anybody who engages in unschooling, is considering the method, or just wants to know more about it.  I think the book would also be beneficial for parents who want to stick with a more conventional homeschooling method.  If nothing else-–it may help them gain a bit more confidence in their child’s ability to learn and grow if allowed to blossom on their own timetable.

Favorite quotes:

“Unschooling would be helpful to all children.  It’s not one particular way of learning; it’s learning at your own level, in your own interest, and at your own pace.  What child wouldn’t benefit from a learning experience like that?”

(Laura, California, p.207)

“I feel that unschooling families often know a lot more about the nature of learning and education than just about anybody.  It’s unfortunate that professional educators are generally not able to grasp that.  We have a lot we could teach them, and I’m still always surprised when I realize that they think it’s the other way around.

As time goes by, I’m more and more stunned by the questions people ask: ‘What gave you the idea you were capable of teaching your child in the first place?’  The question seems strange enough, but they picture me sitting and ‘teaching’ him as if he’s an empty vessel who can’t learn on his own.  What an obnoxious image that brings to my mind, and yet it’s a perfectly natural thing for people to think.  ‘How do you know what he’s supposed to be learning?’  Huh?  In a world as vast and complex as this one, how did we ever come to this mutual understanding that there is just one neat package of stuff one needs to get into one’s head to be ‘educated.’  Who is the official authority on what he’s ‘supposed to be learning’? ”

(Lillian, California, p.204)

“I’ve always said that homeschooling in any form is really a lifestyle choice and not just an educational choice.  Unschooling just makes it more so.  It is a decision to put children first, to respect their needs and opinions, to treat them as fully human beings and not as property.  I find that unschooling has allowed me to live more the way that I want to live, in a slower, more deliberate, more thought-out way, and not in the rat race of constant busyness and rushing from one thing to another.”

(Carol, Florida, p.200)

“Unschooling has deeply affected our lives in general.  My attitudes toward society have changed–or, I should say, have become more clear.  When we took that first anxiety-filled step away from public school, I realized that we were leaving behind our place in society as well–casting off a whole life.  I knew that people would view us differently, maybe antagonistically; I knew that I was now standing up for my beliefs by living them where people could see and pass judgment.  It has led to being more forthright in all aspects of my life, and to having more courage in confrontations of all sorts.  It’s easier to see the charades of society, and how so much importance is connected to being part of a herd.”

(Liane, California, p.202)

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…



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