Category Archives: Reviews

TexUns reviews books, magazines and conferences related to Unschooling

Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids To School?

What do you do if school isn’t a good fit for your child?

The opening of Blake Boles’ new book, Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School? might seem a bit opportunistic given the current state of public education enacted by pandemic policies.  However, not only has this book been in the works long before COVID became common vernacular (I can show you my receipt that I pre-ordered in January) but this is a topic near & dear to Boles for nearly two decades.   Additionally, what the closing of local public schools has brought to light is something that many students and their parents* have been feeling for years, even decades.  Conventional schooling is not the best option for every child or every family, and in some respects can be downright dangerous – mentally, physically, and educationally.

What I like best about this book is that Boles doesn’t spend a lot of time pointing out all the flaws in conventional schooling.  This book’s primary audience is those who are seeking out what options might work best for their particular child and family dynamic.  There are pros & cons to each and I think Boles does a fantastic job of acknowledging limitations and helping parents narrow down what might provide the best fit.  He also addresses many of the misconceptions and concerns parents may have like:

  • That doesn’t look like learning
  • Are they happy
  • Cost
  • What about working parents
  • How they go to college
  • How they get a job

Boles provides anecdotes from current & “graduated” self-directed learners, studies, survey results, and abundant resource material.  Even as a seasoned Unschooling family (our children are currently 15 & 17 and have never been to school), I still found myself gaining a new perspective on topics as well as additional confirmation that our personal observations/experiences hold true for other families.  I’ve added new books to my wishlist and my highlighter is almost empty capturing the wisdom imparted.  I know you’ll be seeing quotes from this book shared regularly.

What continually comes through is immense respect for children and young adults as humans worthy of respect, their identity, and ownership of their own goals.

You can learn more about Blake Boles on his website or you can follow him on Facebook.  Order Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids To School? from Amazon.

*I use the term parents for simplicity – but please know that I acknowledge the myriad of adults that act as guardians & facilitators in young people’s lives. 

-Rachel

Meet Rachel & our other contributors here. 

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Book Review: The Big Book of Unschooling, by Sandra Dodd

The Big Book of Unschooling

Book Review by Michelle Conaway

The Big Book of Unschooling, by Sandra Dodd, is truly a must have for the Unschooler’s library. This book is a collection of essays, mostly coming from her website, that address just about every aspect of unschooling you could imagine. Many people keep this book by their bedside for a quick reference when they are feeling a bit confused or needing reassurance on their unschooling journey.

Her belief and obvious dedication to the unschooling movement shines through the words in this book. Her tireless work and commitment have inspired countless families who are trying to find a better way to educate and “be” with their families.

Each essay is about a page long, give or take, which addresses everything from “What is Unschooling?” to drivers ed and everything in between. These personal stories will inspire you to rethink what you thought you knew about education.

She discusses divorce, stress, mindfulness and control. She touches not only on ways to enrich your family’s learning experiences, but also inspires us to bring more peace and tranquility into our family relationships.

The book is organized well with a Table of Contents neatly displaying titles and page numbers of each article. While this is not a “How To” book, nor should it be, it is filled with wisdom of tried and true experiences of unschoolers in real life situations. For anyone contemplating unschooling and also for those seasoned unschoolers who need the occasional “pick me up”, this is the book for you!

Sandra Dodd PhotoSandra is mom to three grown unschoolers and shares her unschooling wisdom with thousands through her website, Facebook groups and other social media. She has two books, The Big Book of Unschooling as well as Moving a Puddle. Read more about Sandra Dodd and find more rave reviews of her books at her website.

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Video Recap of the 2015 TexUns Conference, by Sue Patterson

Sue Patterson took the time to recap our days at the Texas Unschoolers Conference held in April 2015. Here is what Sue had to say about the conference each day.

For information about the 2016 TexUns Conference, please visit this link.

DAY 1 – CONFERENCE RECAP

  • See Sue’s article about how Unschoolers meet the Texas Homeschool Laws here.
  • Read more about Peter Gray at his Column entitled, Freedom to Learn, at Psychology Today.

 

DAY 2 – CONFERENCE RECAP

  • Find out more about Sue’s book, Homeschooled Teens, here.

 

DAY 3 – CONFERENCE RECAP

  • Find out more about the movie, Class Dismissed, here..
  • Find more from Christina Wester, with Radiant Living and Learning, here.
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A Review of the 2015 TexUns Conference, by Sue Patterson

daisies on a red backgroundLast April, something fabulous happened for the second time. Unschooling families – as well as homeschooling families curious about another way to home educate – gathered in the beautiful Texas Hill Country for yet another wildly successful annual Texas unschooling conference.

Michelle Conaway and her team of dedicated conference planners found the perfect location at the Hill Country Cabin and RV Resort. The cabins were adorable!! Clean, stocked, and comfy. And while I love camping, it was April in Texas. Well, you know what that means! Storms pop up out of nowhere and can wash a campsite away – but not when you’re tucked away in a cute little cabin! The resort has a variety of cabin sizes; some families shared, others turned the weekend into a family vacation.

In addition to the pools, hot tub, jumping pillow, and lodge, Michelle knew just what an unschooling family would want in an action-packed 4 day adventure: an all-day computer room, a nerf gun war, a scavenger hunt, a teen/tween pizza party at the pool, giant bubbles, an arts and crafts room, a massage chair, and a pancake breakfast and wonderfully stocked child care room.

Each morning started with meditation, yoga, and a coffee chat led by different unschooling moms. The evenings held family-fun activities: a group cook-out, potlucks, a fashion show, a sock hop, a talent show, a marketplace for unschoolers to sell their wares and even a private screening of the extraordinary recently released movie, Class Dismissed.

Meet-ups and Fun Shops were planned all weekend long so everyone could find their own new best friends. If you wanted to find people who shared your interests, you had a few options:

Outdoor Games
Little TexUns
My Little Pony/Barbie
Face painting
Baking
Learning about (and testing) delicious chocolate
Tween/teen cosplay
CPR training
The Hunger Games
Knitting/Crochet
Hula Hooping
Sand Volleyball
Cartwheeling
Bristlebots
Geocaching
Tween/Teen Service Project
Teen Nights
Fashion Show
Talent Show
Sock Hop and More!

In addition to all this family fun, a variety of speakers helped parents get more comfortable with the ideas of unschooling, children learning naturally, and community possibilities. All of these talks were recorded and are available for you to hear. And for some wacky reason, I decided to give a little Keepin’ You In the Loop report each evening on video. If you’re interested in seeing those, click here. It’s my first attempts at videoing myself, I clearly have a long way to go before I reach Diane Sawyer level! Ha!

Here’s a brief overview how the speaker line up went:
Thursday night

  • Sue Patterson hosted a casual discussion in The Lodge about overcoming the fears that might hold you back form unschooling.

Friday

  • Sue Patterson opened with a discussion about the legalities of unschooling in Texas.
  • Michelle Conaway gave a talk about unschooling in the present moment and meeting our children where they are.
  • Michelle Holt hosted a round table about how radical unschooling really works in people’s homes. Questions came up about cussing, chores, food choices, and resistance.
  • Peter Gray spoke about his research on how children learn best, the importance of play and the problems that children today face. His talk, The Biology of Education, is available by video here.

Saturday

  • Rachel Miller spoke about introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts, and how to be sensitive to your child and their needs when you find that they react differently to the world than you do.
  • Christina Wester hosted a talk unschooling and special needs children.
  • Sue Patterson shared information from her book, Homeschooled Teens, reassuring parents that unschooling through the teen years is a great idea!
  • Christina Wester led a group interested in exploring the connection with The Desire Map.
  • Unschooling Dads met to discuss their own obstacles and how they resolve various issues.

Sunday

  • Amy Smith  hosted a round table discussion about sexuality and how we discuss body issues with our children.
  • Christina Wester, of Radiant Living, shared information about starting a Co-op similar to the Sudbury Valley school as she is embarking on this project in the Dallas area.
  • Jackson Pritchett, grown unschooler and UT graduate, discussed what his life was like as an unschooler growing up in Austin and shared about his college experience.

As you can see, a lot of love was poured into this weekend. It was fabulous seeing people return from the first year at Jellystone and I’m sure even more will want to join us next year. I will be there again and hope to see you too!

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Book Review: Free to Learn, by Peter Gray

Book Review by Michelle Conaway

Free to learn Gray

Free to Learn is definitely a book that you’ll want to add to your unschooling reading list – and the sooner the better! Peter Gray’s courageous attempt to explain and document many studies on the advantages of play and learning will make even the most sceptic of people rethink education and the way it is currently implemented in our society.

Gray attempts to portray the defects in the current education system and enlighten us to the reality that play is  the vehicle in which children learn best. With scientific research to back it up, the author shows us how play can foster true learning and how trust in our children is key to the learning process.

Gray looks at the big picture and examines the fact that all children love to learn but most children dislike school. He delves into why this is so and offers solutions – such as democratic schools and unschooling – as alternatives. His writing is clear and concise and will keep you intrigued through to the last page.

His book has been endorsed by magazines and authors around the world. Here are just a few from his Amazon page that I liked:

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Mothering.com
“[Free to Learn is] a powerful agent of transformation. I’d like to put a copy in the hands of every parent, teacher, and policy maker.”

Publishers Weekly
“[E]nergetic…Gray powerfully argues that schools inhibit learning…. [Gray’s] vivid illustrations of the ‘power of play’ to shape an individual are bound to provoke a renewed conversation about turning the tide in an educational system that fosters conformity and inhibits creative thinking.”

Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids
“All kids love learning. Most don’t love school. That’s a disconnect we’ve avoided discussing—until this lightning bolt of a book. If you’ve ever wondered why your curious kid is turning into a sullen slug at school, Peter Gray’s Free to Learn has the answer. He also has the antidote.”

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, author of Einstein Never Used Flash Cards and A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool
“A compelling and most enjoyable read. Gray illustrates how removing play from childhood, in combination with increasing the pressures of modern-day schooling, paradoxically reduces the very skills we want our children to learn. The decline of play is serious business.”

Stuart Brown, M.D., Founder and President, The National Institute for Play, and author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
“Peter Gray’s Free to Learn is profoundly necessary as a fundamental illumination of the continuing tragedy and entrapment of both kids and their teachers in a generally failing and failed educational system. Gray demonstrates through science and evolutionary biology that the human species is designed to play, is built through play, and that for kids, play equals learning. Free to Learn is timely, paradigm shifting, and essential for our long term survival as adaptive humans.”

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If you have any doubts about the power of play, this book is for you. If you’ve been living the joyous path of unschooling for years, this book is a great validation of what you already know – scientific research that backs up what some of us have known instinctively for years.

If you’d like to hear the talk by Peter Gray from the TexUns conference, please click here.

peter_gray_2Peter Gray has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. He is author of an internationally acclaimed introductory psychology textbook (Psychology, Worth Publishers, now in its 7th edition, with David Bjorklund as co-author), which views all of psychology from an evolutionary perspective. His recent research focuses on the role of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves, through play and exploration, when they are free to do so. He has expanded on these ideas in his book, “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life” (Basic Books, 2013). He also authors a regular blog, called “Freedom to Learn,” for Psychology Today magazine. His own current play life includes not only his research and writing, but also long-distance bicycling, backwoods skiing, kayaking, and backyard vegetable gardening.

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