Have you been intrigued by the idea of unschooling, but you’re not sure where to start? Maybe you are a homeschooling parent, or maybe your child is in public school. You may have searched for books to learn about unschooling, but aren’t sure which ones are recommended. I’ve got you covered with an awesome list of unschooling books to fill you up with knowledge!
One of the best ways to fully embrace the unschooling philosophy is to immerse yourself in the world of child-led learning.
However, I know that sometimes the thought of child-led learning and the WHY behind it can leave you feeling confused, even after you’ve done some research.
I was the same way.
When I started homeschooling, I had only heard the word “unschooling”. I was completely unfamiliar with what it was. Honestly, I was ignorant.
As we got further along in our homeschooling journey, I realized that unschooling might be a better fit for us.
I lacked good recommendations on unschooling resources and books and wanted to learn more, but didn’t want to weed through the nonsense.
So, I was still clueless.
As a new unschooling mom, I sought out resources to help me understand the unschooling philosophy better, and through my learning, embraced unschooling to the fullest.
I’ve done the “weeding through” of so-so books and this list is the best of the best when it comes to unschooling books.
These unschooling books are excellent resources to read, whether you have already started unschooling, or if you are just beginning.
So, if you’re looking for the best books to help you in your unschooling journey, you have come to the right place!
This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure for more information.
The Best Unschooling Books
1 | Unschooling Secrets: A Parent’s Guide to Success by Katrina Oldham, M. Ed.
This is an ebook I wrote because I felt like other unschooling books were very, very vague. I won’t review my own book (lol), but I want to explain a little about it and why I wrote it.
I wanted someone to answer my unschooling question of HOW DO I DO THIS? I could never find a good answer, so I wrote my own.
In this book, I dive into the how of unschooling and how you can be successful while unschooling your kids. I give real-life examples and take away the “intimidating” aspect of unschooling.
2 | Learning All the Time by John Holt
HIGHLY RECOMMEND– I couldn’t put this book down.
Pretty much anything by John Holt is going to give you a ton of insight into unschooling and how kids truly learn, and this is another one of his masterpieces. This book really hones in on the learning that young children, 0-6, are capable of.
“Children learn from anything and everything they see. They learn wherever they are, not just in special learning places.” – John Holt
3 | Free to Learn by Peter Gray
This is another unschooling must-read. Dr. Peter Gray, a developmental psychologist, really gets you thinking about the broken education system we have and how important it is for kids to be able to play–unstructured and untamed. Gray really drives the point home that self-directed learning is the healthiest and most superior kind of learning.
4 | Dumbing Us Down:The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
This book takes an intense look at schooling and Gatto doesn’t hold anything back. While some may see his presentation as domineering, I found it refreshing that he expresses his opinions and doesn’t sugar-coat anything. If you are on t he fence about pulling your child from school, read this book!
“…schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders.”
5 | Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education by Clark Aldrich
RECOMMEND– needs more depth
If you’re looking for a public school vs. unschooling type of book, this one would be good to add to your reading list. Though it doesn’t go into great depth about unschooling, it is a quick and easy read for someone just getting into the idea of unschooling.
6 | How Children Fail by John Holt
HIGHLY RECOMMEND– This book gave me my unschooling “backbone”
This is another classic by John Holt and arguably the best book he wrote about how kids learn (he wrote 11 on the subject of schooling and learning).
“How Kids Fail” is a book that you should read, even if you don’t ever plan on homeschooling at all. It’s just that enlightening.
Holt discusses how schools don’t genuinely teach children things they need. The drills and tests and basic punishment for not knowing things “on time” are useless.
7 | Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better by John Holt
“Instead of Education” is another Holt book that looks at educational institutions with a magnifying glass. However, it isn’t all complaining. Holt looks at how we can create learning opportunities for kids, without stifling their creativity, as most public education institutions tend to do. R
eading this book will change the way you look at how your kids spend their time. Is it fruitful? Is it worthwhile? Are they learning to LOVE learning? Put this at the top of your reading list. It’s worth it.
8 | How Children Learn by John Holt
HIGHLY RECOMMEND– I reference this book continuously when I feel unsure of our unschooling journey.
John Holt is the pioneer of unschooling and his books are absolutely thought-provoking and wonderful to read. Though it is, at times, very dry to read, this unschooling book is one that will change the way you see your children, and all children. John Holt will open your eyes to the capacity of a child to learn naturally and without bounds.
9 | The Unschooling Unmanual by Jan Hunt
HIGHLY RECOMMEND– quick and easy read
The “Unschooling Unmanual” is a short and sweet book that will reinforce your decision to unschool. It’s not necessarily a book for those who are on the fence about unschooling, but it is reassurance for those who are already down the path and want more inspiration.
RECOMMEND– Not as good as other Holt books.
Most of John Holt’s books are no-brainers for me to read. This one is just so-so, but it does have some good information, as all his books do. “Teach Your Own” makes great connections between parenting styles and homeschooling, which I appreciate and agree with. Pat Farenga, a writer and the president of Holt Associates, co-authored this updated version, making it much more applicable to today’s homeschooling culture.
11 | The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child’s Classroom by Mary Griffith
“The Unschooling Handbook” is not necessarily a handbook at its core, but rather an encouraging and “been there” book for parents who are getting started with unschooling. The book is outdated (it was published in 1998), so it doesn’t include up-to-date information on how technology can enhance unschooling, but it has a lot of good suggestions and really shows its readers how unschooling can work.
12| Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves by Alison McKee
HIGHLY RECOMMEND– Great for building unschooling confidence.
This book is a great read for anyone wanting the raw and real truth about unschooling and its trials and tribulations. The author is an ex-teacher and she discusses the downfalls of the public school system, as well as no-nonsense advice on how to make unschooling work.
Living Joyfully With Unschooling Box Set by Pam Laricchia includes book reviews below:
HIGHLY RECOMMEND– Love the box set
Pam Laricchia is a fellow unschooling parent and author of this box set of books, including:
- “Free to Learn: Five Ideas for a Joyful Unschooling Life”
- “Free to Live: How to Create a Thriving Unschooling Home”
- “Life through the Lens of Unschooling: A Living Joyfully Companion”
Each of Laricchia’s books are well-thought out and driven with details about how to master unschooling.
These books will not only give you an idea of HOW to unschool, but will also inspire you if you are on the fence and haven’t yet made the decision to unschool. Individual book reviews continue below.
If you’re frustrated with your child’s current education source and looking for a way to free yourself from the rat race, this book is a good one to put on the top of your reading list. Laricchia walks through the basics of unschooling and delves into the parenting side of things as well. This book is best for someone just getting started with unschooling. It is clearly written, but doesn’t go into the depth of the unschooling philosophy like other unschooling books out there.
“Free to Live” is a great follow up to “Free to Learn”, as it answers the burning questions that the first book inspires. Though this book is a little hard to follow at times, you get the point that trusting your child to learn at his/her own pace is at the forefront of unschooling.
For seasoned and beginning unschoolers, this book is a must-read. It takes you through the principles and process of unschooling and really helps you navigate through the frustrating times— deschooling, handling curriculum questions from others and so on. This is Laricchia’s most in depth book on unschooling, as it dives more into subjects and how unschooling lends itself to each one. If you’re looking for a “day in the life of unschoolers” type book, check this one out.
16 | Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom by Kerry McDonald
HIGHLY RECOMMEND– LOVE THIS BOOK!
“Education vs. schooling are not synonyms”. That is the basis of “Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom.” Kerry McDonald lays out a research-driven case for unschooling, while including real-life examples from unschooling families. Her examples of natural learning are not only inspiring, but really help unschooling parents grasp the basic principles of how unschooled children follow their own interests.
17| Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling 2nd ed. Edition by Sandra Dodd
If you are looking for a more radical approach to unschooling, this might be one you want to read. Personally, I wouldn’t suggest this book to new unschooling parents. This book can comes off as intimidating when it comes to unschooling. Sandra Dodd shares radical unschooling ideas in her book, and though you can still glean some good perspective, her ideas may be off-putting to some, especially if you’re just starting out.
18 | Unschooling to University by Judy Arnall
HIGHLY RECOMMEND– INSPIRING!
Judy Arnall is a certified child development expert and it shows in her book “Unschooling to University”. The first half of her book is the why to unschool, and the second half is practical advice on how to unschool, in real life. As the title suggests, the book looks at 30 kids who are unschooled and go to a university or college. This book walks you through the developmental stages of children, including the teen years and high school, plus a section for post-secondary.
HIGHLY RECOMMEND- Enjoyed the format of this book.
After the Atlanta school system let her down tremendously, Marta Obiols Llistar, the author of “18: An Unschooling Experience”, pulled her kids from public school and eventually found herself unschooling.
This is a memoir of sorts, and a real and raw look at unschooling– how it’s beautiful and how it’s challenging.
Still not sure which unschooling book to read first?
Sometimes it’s overwhelming to have a ton of options and not know where to start. I get it.
If you’re still unsure about what unschooling book to read first, my suggestion is to start with anything that John Holt has written. Since he was the pioneer of unschooling, you get the very basic principles down and then you can move on to the more inspirational type of books.
You can glean information from each book that’s listed above, but building your knowledge base will be key in sustaining a successful unschooling journey.