Unschooling and parenting books

The foundation of this is Pam Sorooshian's list of books since she reads a lot more unschooling books than I do. I've added a few as they've come up from people whose unschooling and parenting I trust. You can read reviews of many of them at the Unschooling.info boards.

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Moving a Puddle and other essays

by Sandra Dodd
$15 plus shipping
  • What I am finding so cool about this book, is that so many of the articles are new to me. This is despite numerous lengthy perusals of Sandra's website. Also the pictures are delightful. -- Robyn L. Coburn
  • What I especially liked is the balance and common sense that is conveyed. It's a book I can share with others who may be at different points in their experience without scaring them off. -- April M.
  • This is the first, and only, unschooling book my husband has read. I read it in a few hours, really enjoying every bit of it, and then had left it out for anyone to pick up who was interested, and he did! -- Susan McG

Parenting a Free Child

by Rue Kream
$14 plus shipping

  • I really, really love Rue's book for the sweet, gentle view of unschooling. She's got it set up as question/answer style, so it's easy to jump around, flip back and forth, read it in short spurts and take what you need for the moment. -- Ren Allen
  • Totally, totally second Rue's book as a recommendation. It's everything and all that and more! -- Danielle Conger

  • One of the best introductions to unschooling and it isn't even about unschooling. It's about how we learn and why we don't learn. It's a very short, easy read. -- Joyce Fetteroll

  • I loved this book. The author is very honest and describes her struggles and mistakes. Some books make me feel that the parents are super-heroes and their kids are geniuses. This was a refreshing change from that and I found it inspiring to follow their journey. -- Manisha
  • The author does a great job describing her doubts, and how she overcame them. She describes how her kids went about "learning" but at the same time I didn't feel inferior that my kids weren't studying astronomy at the age of 5 or were not prodigies on the piano or something. That both her and her husband were trained teachers makes it even better when she describes how she overcame her doubts. Tina (canuckgal)

  • I love, love, LOVE this book! It inspired me to free myself and for that I will forever be grateful. Not to mention the great books and ideas that are recommended -- I find myself looking through it often. -- bwaybabyy7
  • I've been unschooling for three years, but this book helped me enrich my unschooling life. I'm doing so much cool stuff thanks to it. -- VampyreQueen

  • I read the original edition when it first came out and was so excited by the wonderful things these kids were doing. It's been about 10 years and now that I finally have a teenager I'm looking forward to reading it again and finding out what those kids have been doing for the past 10 years. -- Kristin
  • I will always have a soft spot in my heart for this book and the sense of real possibility (not "these kids are so amazing; I could never so that" but more "man! what could I do if I had that much freedom?") that it engendered in me. -- iftheresaway

  • I'd also whole-heartedly recommend Jan Hunt's The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart for those with young children. I think it's going to be my standard new baby book gift from now on! Much of it is essays that can be found on the natural child website, but it's still great to have them all together in one place. -- Danielle Conger

  • I love Unconditional Parenting and would whole-heartedly recommend it for anyone unschooling or looking to move closer to gentle, respectful parenting. -- Danielle Conger
  • The book is wonderful for anyone interested in a non-punishment based parenting style. -- Andrea

  • This is the first book that I wrote in and made little notes in the margins since I got my masters. I really love the way Kohn writes, he makes this kind of confronting information so accessible, he comforts you through the paradigm shift if you let him -- Cathy

  • [This] is a good one to build a toolkit of useful, win/win tools since if you are going to remove punitive, coercive tools from your parenting toolkit, you'll need to replace them with something otherwise the vacuum will leave space for them to creep back in again. -- Deb (soggyboysmom)

  • This book helped me see that a child's viewpoint is just as valid as an adult's. It's a very easy read: comics, dialogs and several techniques for the same situations. Though in retrospect it isn't as respectful of children as some other books, it can be an easy and first big step in that direction -- Joyce Fetteroll
  • I think this book is SO useful because of the comics format - it feels easy to pick up and read bits of it. Great "bathroom reader." And it has scripts - exact words. I think that makes it very concrete. -- Pam Sorooshian

  • The book that I would recommend ... is Win and Bill Sweet's Living Joyfully With Children, that's a really good introduction to principle-based parenting. -- Danielle Conger
  • THAT'S the one!! My sister raves about this book, says it was the most helpful book in making that shift she needed. Recommends it to everyone. -- Ren Allen

  • This book, the sequel to Better Than School, was the book that really made me think about how I respond to my children's interests and hobbies and passions, and caused me to change the way I regarded them. Whereas before I might dismiss their interests as being childish or unimportant, now I recognize that their interests are what their lives are being formed by. Not just "serious" interests like literature, art, music, or science, but ALL their interests, including anime, video games, cooking, role-playing, dinosaurs, monsters, etc. -- Susan McG

  • I don't remember who was talking about this book a few weeks ago but I want to THANK YOU. I only got through 1/2 of the very first chapter and I said (out loud ) OH MY GOD. ... I thought I was seeing the world through their eyes, I mean the way they are being raised compared to how I was raised ... but since I started to read this book I can truly say that now, now I am seeing the world through their eyes. Gosh how can I have forgotten so much of what I felt at their ages? I just wanted to thank who ever mentioned this book. I think it's a must read for anyone with teens. -- Heidi (wyndchime)

  • This one book changed my life forever. It was one of the first books I ever read about homeschooling, and each year I re-read it to remind myself. It was the first time I had ever heard of a real family living a mutually respectful life with their children, facilitating and encouraging their interests. -- Susan McG
  • This was the book that introduced me to homeschooling, way back about 11 years ago, when I discovered it at my library. I've read it several times too and get a lot out of it. I bought my own hardcover copy a number of years ago. I think it's not particularly unschooly, but it made a real difference back then. Now I suppose that unschoolers have a lot more to choose from. -- Kristin

  • The subtitle is "A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic." I wish I'd saved some of the responses to this book over the years, there have been so many! A good summary might be "Now I understand." -- Joyce Fetteroll

  • Like Raising Your Spirited Child, this book gets great praise from parents of children whose tempers go from 0 to 60 in a moment. -- Joyce Fetteroll


  • I've had this book for years and have thought about giving it away to someone with younger children, but it's a good resource for ideas of things to do in general, and I horde such things. <g> It's not a curriculum (though someone trying to design a home curriculum could certainly use it!) but it's a collection of ideas of various sorts, and quotes, and ideas, and philosophical jumping-off places. Unschoolers could ignore what seems too schooly and gather great ideas from other parts. -- Sandra Dodd

  • Captures the Essence of Nurturing Children. The essays in Have Fun. Learn Stuff. Grow. communicate the essence of how parents can lovingly nurture their children in life and in learning, and that is to recognize them for whom they are and to take them seriously. Feel able to do that, and you and your children are well equipped to embark on the adventure of education without school. -- Wendy Priesnitz "Editor of Life Learning magazine"


John Holt

I love all of John Holts books, which focus more on respect and learning, than the nitty, gritty details of parenting...but extremely helpful. - Ren Allen


The following books are by John Holt. I'd start with the most recent ones - he changed his mind through the years as he gave up on school reform and began to increasingly understand what children living in freedom were truly capable of. -- Pam Sorooshian

How Children Fail, 1964

How Children Learn, 1967

The Underachieving School, 1969

What Do I Do Monday? 1970

Freedom and Beyond, 1972

Escape from Childhood: The Needs and Rights of Children, 1975

Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better, 1976

Never Too late: My Musical Life Story, 1978

Teach Your Own: A Hopeful Path for Education, 1981

Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling, 2003 (This is John Holt's 1981 book as revised and updated by Patrick Farenga.)

  • These are NOT primarily unschooling books. Years ago, when homeschooling discussions online were rare and hard to find, everyone read everyone else's ideas in shared areas, but now it's possible for a family to be isolated with just unschooling information, or just mainstream, curriculum-using school-at-home. If anyone is feeling uninformed about how the other half lives, these books can be useful for that, and people are selling them inexpensively -- Sandra Dodd




Last updated: April 2009