When I embark on anything new, what I do is to make sure I conduct a thorough research. For me, that means to read everything about and around the subject. It is the same with homeschooling. The decision to homeschool my son was made when he was still in my womb. As a result, I read everything I could get my hands on about child development, education theories, parenting, child psychology, special needs, and homeschooling approaches. My view is that, to educate my child effectively, I need to understand not only about teaching/learning but also about the child as a whole being, which extends beyond his academic training.
Homeschool parents may start their journeys at different stages of their children's lives, so the books that are relevant to new homeschoolers vary depending on how old their children are when they embark upon this journey. I still continue to read widely about homeschooling and its related topics but I will limit my booklist to the books that I think will be most useful to parents who are starting this journey at different stages of their children's lives.
If your child is 3 years old or younger
Secret of Childhood was the eye-opener for me in terms of understanding the natural needs of a very young child in relation to how he learns, and about the importance of an environment that supports his development. I read it shortly after Tiger was born. After this book, I continued to read all of Maria Montessori's writings and, with the support from my husband, turned our lounge into a full-blown Montessori nursery and preschool environment to facilitate Tiger's learning from ages one to four-and-a-half.
If your child is 4 - 6 years old
Tiger started to read independently when he was five years old, and had completed the entire Montessori preschool curriculum by then. I was looking into the Montessori elementary school curriculum when I noticed that Tiger's needs were changing. For a start, Tiger has always been a fast learner so he never liked the repetition-to-mastery notion purported by the Montessori method. At the same time, I was starting to feel that the rigidity in the Montessori scope and sequence was getting in the way of Tiger's developmental needs at the time.
Therefore I started to investigate into other methods of homeschooling and came across the Charlotte Mason method via A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning, and the Classical Method from reading The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. Both methods attracted me in different ways. I liked the rigour of the Classical curriculum as well as the gentle approach of the Charlotte Mason method. Somehow I managed to incorporate both methods for two years, taking what I felt was the best of both for us.
The books listed above are part of my research that had started before my son was born, so what I had implemented based on those books is probably most applicable to those families with very young children who have not attended school yet, since there are various degrees of structured learning in the above methods. I arrived at the conclusion, based on my research, that a prepared environment would be the most suitable one to support my son's early development. However, there are many parents whom I know to hold the exact opposite view, in that they believe that there should not be any form of structure for the very young child. Once again, I urge you to do your own research to draw your own conclusions as to what suits your family most.
If your child is 7 years old or older
For families with older children who have been through the school system, I recommend the following books:
1. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling - I find all of John Taylor Gatto's books to be exceedingly reassuring that homeschooling is the right thing to do for my family.
2. Creative Homeschooling - This book gave me a broad overview of the different ways I can support Tiger's changing needs.
3. Legendary Learning: The Famous Homeschoolers' Guide to Self-Directed Excellence - I read this when I needed some advice on autonomous learning that sounds reasonable and not radical.
4. A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century - This is a variation on the Classical Method, based on the education of the American Founding Fathers, specifically Thomas Jefferson. It also makes a strong case for parents to continue to educate themselves to be effective role models for their children.
5. The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education - I have not read this yet but it is on my to-read list.
6. School is Not Compulsory: An Introduction to Home Education - Written by a homeschooling charity in the UK, this book covers the legal aspects of homeschooling in England and Wales, gives advice on how to work with the authorities to successfully deregister your child from mainstream school, and gives several examples of autonomous learning practised by a selection of families in the UK.
7. John Holt's books - John Holt has been callled 'the Father of Unschooling' and his books are very popular and reader-friendly. His primary thesis is that children will learn what they need to know in their own time, in their individual ways. I have read Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling but I don't relate to most of it. Nonetheless, I am recommending his books based on the fact that many homeschooling parents who apply the autonomous-learning approach have told me that they absolutely love his books and feel inspired after reading them.
For more booklists and other insights, please visit the other four contributors of this series:
- When Julie was considering homeschooling she read many books, but only one convinced her to do it. Find out which book that is in her post, Considering Homeschooling.
- Chareen feels that over the years there have been many how-to-homeschool books but only a few have stood the test of time. She invites you to see her favourite four support books for homeschool mums in her post, Books to Support New Homeschool Moms.
- Bernadette shares her books recommendations to help you along your homeschool journey in her post, Many Books, Many People.
- Savannah talks about her holy trinity of home education books in her post, Three Great Homeschool Books.
If you would like to read more of this series, you might like to go back a few entries to read:
This post is linked up to:
1) Hearts for Home Blog Hop #10
2) Homeschool Mother's Journal: March 29, 2013
3) Collage Friday - Books LEGOs, and Endings/Beginnings
4) TGIF Linky Party #69
5) Creative Learning #8
6) Weekly Wrap-Up: The One with More Birds
7) Share it Saturday
8) Sunday Showcase
9) Hip Homeschool Hop - 4/2/13
It is featured on Share it Saturday.