Many thanks to Melanie Brauner for compiling this list. Out of all the books in the world on the unschool phenomenon, these are the best ones to get you started thinking about alternatives to the traditional school system. Although we may not have all of these in stock right now, clicking on the links (titles) will pull up a list of booksellers who are offering these books for sale.
The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to quit school and get a real life and education, by Grace Llewellyn.
Written for teenagers who want to take control of their own lives. Includes a how to leave school tutorial, general advice on unschooling, and a chapter for almost every school subject, the unschooling way. One of the best books on unschooling out there. It makes teens and their parents and their younger siblings alike want to race out and experience the joys life has to offer.
Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don’t Go to School, by Grace Llewellyn.
Short biographies about unschooled teenagers. Some terrifically inspiring, some with much to be desired. This book and the one below are like appetizer samplers; some delicious, and some boring.
Freedom Challenge: African American Homeschoolers, by Grace Llewellyn
Another set of biographies by Llewellyn, this time including some much younger kids in with the teenagers. The good biographies are worth buying the book for.
A Sense of Self: Listening to Homeschooled Adolescent Girls, by Susannah Sheffer
Inspiring! Susannah makes all the weaknesses and strengths of homeschooled girls shine. A very honest book.
Homeschooling: The Teen Years, by Cafi Cohen
A very useful reference guide to have around. Good resource lists, and short introductions to different aspects of homeschooling teenagers, though not very thorough on any one point.
The Question is College, by Herbert Kohl
This book is invaluable for anyone considering college, not just homeschoolers. Kohl offers many options outside of college for finding your calling in life.
Homeschoolers’ College Admissions Handbook: Preparing Your 12- to 18-Year-Old for a Smooth Transition, by Cafi Cohen
An excellent resource guide for non-schooled people to work their way into a schooled life. Get this book at the beginning of the high school years to get the most use out of it.
The Teenagers’ Guide to School Outside the Box, by Rebecca Greene
Getting out in the community is a huge part of unschooling and homeschooling, and this book offers some great advice on how to do that. Internships, apprenticeships, volunteering, studying abroad, community service, etc. It’s geared towards kids in high school, but it’s useful for homeschoolers as well.
The Dan Riley School for a Girl: An Adventure in Homeschooling, by Dan Riley
This poor girl and her slave driver father. If you are just starting down the homeschooling road, please do not read this book. Teenage girls should never be forced into such academic atrocities, and parents should not have to feel this inadequate. An excellent what-not-to-do book.
Homeschooling Young Children
Better Than School: One Family’s Declaration of Independence, by Nancy Wallace
The best way to learn about unschooling and homeschooling is to see it done and read about it, and the Wallace family is just wonderful. A great example of what can happen when children are left to their own devices with supportive parents.
How Children Learn
How Children Fail
Freedom and Beyond
The Underachieving School
Learning All the Time
Teach Your Own
[All by John Holt.] John Holt was the recognized founder of the unschooling and homeschooling movement. And his writing is still relevant. The Underachieving School and Freedom and Beyond give you excellent reasons to leave school, while Teach Your Own and Learning All the Time give you some hints about what to do afterwards. These books are especially wonderful for parents of young children, but still useful for homeschooling families of all ages.
The Unschooling Handbook, by Mary Griffith
If you are homeschooling younger children, this book is a must. Griffith helps parents relax into letting children learn in their own way, with guidance from their parents. A fantastic resource, it comes highly recommended.
The Well Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
This book is great treated as a reference every now and then, and terrible treated like a guide for the homeschooling life. If you want a classically trained child, this is the way to go. But don’t expect your kid to be able to do anything practical or useful after being educated this way.
Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School , by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver
Another inspiring piece of work from Grace Llewellyn.
And the Skylark Sings with Me: Adventures in Homeschooling and Community Based Education, by David H. Albert
Another biography of a homeschooling family. A little too much bragging at times, but still interesting and worth the read.
Freedom Not License, by A. S. Neill
Direct and honest parenting advice. Great for homeschooling parents who are involved in their children’s lives. Neill has some profound insights to offer.
Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich
Some of the information is outdated now, but the core concept of the book is still relevant. Sort of an utopia of education.
Dumbing us Down, by John Taylor Gatto
Gatto has an thorough understanding of the school system and what doesn’t work. His ability to work with the system to create his own vision is astounding. However, this book is bit too ranting and repetitive at times.
The Saber-Tooth Curriculum, by J. Abner Peddiwell
This is a great story as well as being a great spoof on modern education. A made-up professor tells the story of a made-up society that ruins itself through its teaching methods. A short but very satisfying book.
Deschooling our Lives, by Matt Hern
A collection of writers on the constraints of public school, and the joys of home and community learning. An excellent collection, though hard to find.
Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, by A. S. Neill
A radical book even now. This is half parenting book, half biography of a free school. Neill had a talent with children that homeschooling parents can benefit from learning about. He advocated complete choice and freedom for children in all aspects of their lives.
Free Schools, by Jonathan Kozol
A great handbook for change. This book is a bit dated now, but there’s still a lot to learn from all those free schools that either made it or didn’t. This is also a how-to book for people who want to start their own free school.
Free at Last: The Sudbury Valley School
The Sudbury Valley School Experience
[Both by Daniel Greenberg.] These two books will make you want to live your childhood over again so you can go to school at this amazing place. They respect the child, they offer as many opportunities and resources as they can, and they run a completely democratic school. Even the smallest child gets a say in the workings of the school.