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Essays by annie dillard seeing



When I began work at Growing Without Schooling magazine in 1981 it was clear from the materials John Holt sold that he intended GWS to be a practical resource for parents and learners, as well as provide the intellectual, legal, and social groundwork for a new option to conventional education. Holt provided resources, research, support, and personal stories to give ordinary people the courage, ways, and means to teach their own children. When I first browsed through the Holt bookstore I was shocked by titles like How to Raise a Healthy Child In Spite of Your Doctor. How to Play Piano Despite Years of Lessons. Teach Your Own. Anything School Can Do You Can Do Better. Equal Rights for Children. Escape From Childhood. Caring For Your Own Dead. Giving Up the Gun. Deschooling Society. but I soon appreciated their appeal to people who sought ways to live well in an increasingly standardized, technological world that treats education as a mass-produced product that requires force-feeding in school.

In 1981 it was nearly impossible to purchase school materials or textbooks for homeschooling use, so we had to rely on conventional bookstores and used bookstores (there were many of both then), third-party sources, public libraries, college libraries, textbook depositories, mail-order catalogs, and word of mouth to locate them. John Holt saw this need and addressed it by creating John Holt’s Book and Music Store, a mail-order catalog, built around books and materials parents could use with their children, as well as many items that can be used by children on their own.

This reading list contains the majority of materials we sold during our 31 years of business (I’ll add more as I discover what I missed), and some of them are undoubtedly dated. For instance, there is but one computer program in the whole catalog, but this isn’t surprising since the catalog ended in 2001, just as educational software via Internet began to establish itself. However, just seeing the titles and reading their blurbs can give you ideas of more recent, similar things you and your children would enjoy reading or using. When you click on the item and go to its description you may discover that the book or product has been updated for the 21st century, or that it is perfectly useful in its original edition, which I think is more often the case than not.

This question comes up when I speak with new homeschoolers, who often marvel at all the curricula, testing services, and resources available online for homeschoolers and wonder how we could unschool our children without Minecraft, Kahn Academy, and so on. This list provides part of the answer, and reading the personal stories from parents and children that fill the back issues of Growing Without Schooling magazine provides another part of the answer. Of course, this isn’t the whole story for homeschooling; the “turn your home into a miniature school” wing of the movement is much larger and religiously conservative than the unschooling, self-directed learning wing. But for people who want to help their children develop in their own ways, by creating an education that fits each child and gets individually adjusted as growth and development occur, this reading list can give you many ideas.

The thing to remember is the Internet, like this list, is simply a tool for you to use, a means to an end. I hope you will use this reading list not just to locate particular items, but also to spur your thoughts about what is possible with your children. For instance, have you considered teaching yourself and/or your children a musical instrument or how to sing in harmony? How about learning a foreign language by reading well-known comic books like Tintin or classic fairy tales in Spanish or German? What about giving children lots of time to learn about teamwork, math, and construction by building their own large-scale climbing structures? These are just some ideas you can glean from this list.

I hope that by consulting this list you can unschool your mind about what you and your children can do at home and in your community, and see many more possibilities for learning than simply enrolling in another class.

I hope you enjoy these unschooling resources, many originally recommended and reviewed by John Holt in the pages of Growing Without Schooling magazine, and that you’ll share updates and ideas for new additions to this list with me.

An asterisk (*) next to an entry means that title was imported or independently published and can be especially difficult to find today. I provide hyperlinks to online sites as a convenience to you to learn more about the book or product. Some links go directly to a seller and I do not receive any compensation for linking to them. However, many links will take you to Amazon.com, where your purchase helps keep the Holt site paying its bills. Thanks for your support!

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