Free to Learn by Peter Gray

That blurb makes the book sound far, far more "anti-school" than it actually feels. Even though Free to Learn presents very unconventional ideas about education, it reads in a balanced way, without alienating people, and even admitting this approach might not be a right fit for everyone. If you're familiar with Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen or Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy, you'll recognize a lot of the same fundamental ideas in Free to Learn: How children learn through play, how well they learn when given the freedom to explore and discover without intervention, the benefits of mixed-age groups. I enjoyed this book on a personal level. It's very similar to the way my own family approaches homeschooling. Gray mixes anthropological evidence and psychological studies with…

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Kidlit & Minecraft: Tikki Tikki Tembo

  Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel is the second book we read for SKrafty's Young Literature Classics 1 self-paced class. This 1968 classic claims to be a retelling of an ancient Chinese folktale about why Chinese names are so short. (SKrafty does point out that this is based on a fictional tradition). I'll be honest: I wasn't a huge fan of this book, and I don't think it's one we'd read it again. The problems I had lie mostly in the illustrations (although the text isn't perfect) and ranged from Chinese culture being confused with Japanese culture to outright errors (Chang bowing backwards probably being the most glaring). These issues left me with a very subtle feeling of cultural insensitivity that…

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KidLit & Minecraft Review: Billy and Blaze

  Last Sunday I mentioned that Minecraft is very popular in our house lately. SKrafty is the kid-friendly/homeschool server we joined. After we explored a bit and got the hang of things, I signed up C for a science class and a literature class, both geared toward younger kids (C is 5½). We started the Young Literature Classics 1 self-paced class, which will cover six children's classics, one per week if we stay on schedule. I thought it would be fun to highlight them here on the blog as we finish each one, especially since five (!!) of the six books are new to me. This week's book was Billy and Blaze, originally published in 1936, written and carefully illustrated by C.W. Anderson. Young Billy receives a pony,…

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How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig

Thank you, Ken Ludwig, for writing How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. Confession: I am a very reluctant Shakespeare reader. I don't remember being exposed to his works before high school, and I don't remember my teachers showing much spirit when Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar came along on the syllabus. We're a homeschooling family, and I know there will be time I'll have to teach things I'm not terribly interested in. But I want my daughter to appreciate Shakespeare's works in the same way I want her to appreciate great pieces of art or music: because these works are "part of our cultural DNA and cannot be missed," as Ken Ludwig says. Although I have concerns that it is…

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The Year of Learning Dangerously by Quinn Cummings

In The Year of Learning Dangerously, Quinn Cummings chronicles her family's decision to take her daughter out of public school and homeschool for a year. It starts off great. Cummings addresses her reasons for choosing to homeschool, as well as some of the concerns parents (and other people) have. I especially appreciated her comebacks to the tired "what about socialization?" questions and comments. And there are plenty of witty moments like that, moments all of us who homeschool can relate to. But shortly after the opening few chapters, I started to have mixed feelings about the book. What bothered me is this: While exploring some of the different homeschooling styles, she seemed to purposefully seek out minority fringe groups rather…

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Born to Learn by Kytka Hilmar-Jezek

Since we are probably going to be an eclectic homeschooling family, I love reading about unschooling and thinking about how I can incorporate as much of it as possible. I have thoroughly enjoyed titles such as Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith, and Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon. So, when I received an email to let me know the Kindle edition of Born To Learn: Unschooling in the New Paradigm by Kytka Hilmar-Jezek was available free for one day only, I was excited and replied enthusiastically. I immediately downloaded it and read the entire book the same day (it's very short). I was disappointed. The book is not a galley proof; it was published about 7 months ago. Yet…

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Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon

This week I finished up Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything by Laura Grace Weldon. Since I read the majority of the book in the last few days, I'm counting it as my first completed read in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge! We haven't "officially" started homeschooling yet; my daughter is just entering the preschool years. Everything is laid-back and fun right now, with only a little guidance from me as I notice interest and wonder. And lots of reading, of course! She's our first (and only), and I am utterly fascinated by how natural it is for her to learn things like numbers, the alphabet, putting sounds together - often without any input from me. I would…

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