With the arrival of the new school year, I wanted to share a list of my favorite books about children's education and homeschooling. These books are not just for homeschoolers, as they would be fantastic resources for parents of children who are not homeschooled as well.
I started studying children's education and schooling methods about 5 years ago, when my eldest was just 3 years old. I knew I wanted to homeschool my children, and wanted to give them the best schooling I could provide. So I read, and read, and read many different books. These are the best of all the books I've read on education and homeschooling.
Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century
Reading A Thomas Jefferson Education led to a paradigm shift in my understanding of education. Before reading this book, I thought that the purpose of education was to learn specific concepts, to check-off-the-boxes of learning specific information. In our home school, this translated to me trying to meet specific grade content in our learning. This type of schooling is also known as the Conveyor Belt model of education.
Through reading A Thomas Jefferson Education, my views of education were broadened and expanded; I realized that I was teaching my daughter WHAT to think instead of HOW to think. To quote from A Thomas Jefferson Education,
In a conveyor belt education, "the goal is to give students the same ideas, and to grade or rank them according to their conformity with these ideas... Only in the last seventy years has [public school] become the predominant system...
"Almost everybody in America today is getting the kind of education that has historically been reserved for those who simply had no other options."
A Thomas Jefferson Education is not a step-by-step guide on how to provide a Leadership Education, but it sets the philosophical ground work for doing so. Instead of focusing on details of what to teach, it looks at the overall big picture of the purpose of education.
Leadership Education has three primary goals: "to train thinkers, leaders, entrepreneurs, and statemen - individuals with the character, competence, and capacity to do the right thing and do it well... The second goal is to perpetuate freedom, to prepare people who know what freedom is, what is required to maintain it, and who exert the will to do what is required. These two goals are accomplished by the third: teaching students how to think...
"...leadership education is based on several powerful traditions: student-driven learning, great teachers, mentors, classics, and hard work.
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
John Taylor Gatto, the author of Dumbing Us Down, was a public schoolteacher for 30 years who was named the NY City and NY State Teacher of the Year. This book made me cringe as I reflected on my own experiences in public school and realized just how true Gatto's criticisms of the school system were. This book made me look at schooling in a whole new light, and helped me realize that there was much from the school environment which I did not want to replicate in our home school.
A quote from the introduction:
"...I've come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us... I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I was hired not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior...
"I began to devise guerrilla exercises to allow as many of the kids I taught as possible the raw material people have always used to educate themselves: privacy, choice, freedom from surveillance, and as broad a range of situations and human associations as my limited power and resources could manage...
"What I do that is right is simple to understand: I get out of kids' way, I give them space and time and respect. What I do that is wrong, however, is strange, complex, and frightening. Let me begin to show you what that is."