Books about SDE, in theory and in practice.
Bryn Purdy, who visited and was invited to work at Summerhill in the ’60s, presents, analyzes, and provides counterpoints on the canon of Neillian beliefs: child empowerment, child democracy, sexual ethics, religion, and the relevance of learning.
This book takes the work of Alice Miller a step further and discusses how her beliefs about parenting techniques can also be projected upon the work of teachers and other professionals working with children and young people.
Among the multiple alternatives presented in this work, specific chapters are dedicated to democratic and free schools such as Summerhill and Sands in the UK, and a basic framework for starting your own small school.
Nina Bascia, Esther Sokolov Fine, Malcolm Levin
This work documents the progress of alternative schooling in Canada’s public school system, with chapters focused specifically on Self-Directed democratic schools.
Francisco Ferrer • Edited by Mark Bray and Robert H. Haworth
Part martyr, part visionary, Francisco Ferrer and the Modern School Movement he created have continued to preoccupy educational reformers and political activists despite or because of Ferrer’s execution by a repressive Spanish government in 1909.
Edited by Robert H. Haworth
Important and challenging issues in the area of anarchism and education are presented in this history of egalitarian and free-school practices.
This book challenges the widely accepted premises that the teacher must be in control of the classroom & that what we need are strategies to get students to comply with the adult’s expectation – and with that, the very idea of classroom management.
Bound to be Free explores the myth that compulsory education is free education, arguing that in fact institutionalized education is detrimental to our freedom and autonomy, whether as children, parents or members of society.
The current trend to medicalize or demonize children who refuse to go to school will only add to society’s problems as well as damaging the individual. Far from leading to disaster, removing children from school can become a life-enhancing decision.
The good, the bad, the ugly and the counter-productive, and why home-based educating families have found one fit for a democracy.
A 1964 precursor to Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society, addressing in separate chapters the problems of primary, secondary, and college-level education, as well as the educational establishment’s detrimental effect on society.
This book demonstrates how compulsory schooling, with its apparatus of imposed discipline and control, is dangerous to the mental health and social development of children, and is in fact the cause of many social problems which it claims to cure.
Creating Learning Communities: Models, Resources, and New Ways of Thinking About Teaching and Learning
Edited by Ron Miller
Bringing together real-world information & innovative theoretical thinking on the present & future state of education, from homeschooling & distance learning to autodidactics & learning clubs, a world of true learning communities is envisioned here.
Schools have failed our individual needs, supporting false and misleading notions of ‘progress’ and development, fostered by the belief that ever-increasing production, consumption and profit are proper yardsticks for measuring.
An overview of the philosophies of autonomous learning, questioning the prevailing mythology of essential, age-related, ‘balanced’ education and the relevance of school models of compulsory, age-related socialization.
John Taylor Gatto
Thirty years in New York City’s public schools led John Taylor Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory schooling does little but teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine.
A pertinent book about Edmond Holmes, who supervised the first National Curriculum over 100 years ago. On his retirement he wrote a damning critique where he criticized his own work for the last 30 years, condemning how the NC had debased teaching.
As the debate continues on how to improve our failed education system, the author delves into what it’s like to live, learn, and parent without it.
Edited by Matt Hern
A collection of deschooling pieces, with contributors Ivan Illich, Emma Goldman, John Taylor Gatto, John Holt, Grace Llewellyn, Leo Tolstoy, Vinoba Bhave, Gustava Esteva, Madhu Prakash, David Guterson, Zoë Readhead, Pat Farenga and many more.
Is institutionalizing our children for six hours a day, five days a week, for twelve years really the best we can do? And how did we get to this point where we assume that’s a defensible idea?
This best-selling description of the school is bursting with the excitement of life at Sudbury Valley. Free at Last is also chock-full of stories that illustrate the many unique features of this highly original model.
Laura Grace Weldon
With data from neurologists, child development specialists, anthropologists, educators, historians and business innovators, this book turns many current assumptions about school-based education upside down.
Developmental psychologist (and ASDE co-founder) Peter Gray argues that in order to foster children who will thrive in today’s constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development.
John Holt’s brilliant and evocative 1972 Freedom and Beyond marks a significant turn in thinking about schools, when it began to become clear to many that ‘schools’ and ‘schooling,’ would be unable to hold the great forces of learning.
Elizabeth Byrne Ferm
Elizabeth Byrne Ferm (1857-1944), principal of the Modern School at Stelton NJ, a utopian-anarchist colony, proposes an educative practice distinct from pedagogy, one where the task of the educator is to get out of the way of the self-directed child.
A. S. Neill
The headmaster of Summerhill answers parents’ questions on a variety of topics associated with rearing children.
This book challenges basic assumptions of traditional education and offers suggestions for ways to allow children more freedom, more agency, and more control over their own education.
A book on unschooling, written from a Biblical Christian perspective.
A 1960 runaway bestseller on “the disgrace of the Organized System, of semimonopolies, government, advertisers etc. & the disaffection of the growing generation,” which inspired much of the ’60s youth resistance.
An enduring million-selling classic, including insights into how children investigate the world, into the perennial problems of classroom learning, grading, testing, and into the role of the trust and authority in every learning situation.
“Learning is as natural as breathing.” In this delightful yet profound book, John Holt looks at how we learn to talk, to read, to count, and to reason, and how we can nurture and encourage these natural abilities in our children.
Virtually every arena of kids’ experience is now subject to some form of outside control. Lamenting risk-averse parents, overstructured school days, and a lack of playtime and solitude, this book is a clear and compelling plea to save childhood.
Holt’s most direct and radical challenge to the educational status quo and a call to parents to save their children from schools of all kinds, laying out the foundation for unschooling as the vital path to self-directed learning and a creative life.
Challenging the often held notion that Holt’s work was romantic and impractical within the context of compulsory schooling, enabling readers to appreciate the view that individuals outside the education system can change what is happening within it.
Joy Baker believed that she could do a better job of educating her children than the State could, in spite of its good intentions. Chris Shute tells the story of her bitter encounters with the Authorities and eventual win of freedom for her children.
Lehla Eldridge and Anthony Eldridge Rogers
How one family abandoned traditional education, embraced the freedom of childhood, self directed learning and play to better prepare their children for a rapidly changing future.
The essence of John Holt’s insight into learning and small children is captured here. This delightful book shows how children learn to read, write, & count in their everyday life at home, and how adults can respect & encourage this wonderful process
Fifteen stories — case-files — from the experiences of home-based educating families, collected over the course of thirty years by Roland Meighan.
Learning is Natural, School is Optional: The North Star Approach To Offering Teens a Head Start On Life
In telling the story of North Star’s beginnings, Ken Danford offers inspiration and guidance for how to support young people to leave school and improve their lives through self-directed learning.
Mark W. Novak
This book is an ethnographic study of one of Canada’s publicly funded, Self-Directed learning environments in the 1970’s.
Making It Up as We Go Along is the story of the Albany Free School, a school based on real freedom, real community, real democratic principles, and real affection between teachers and students.
A collection of Youth Liberation writing, originally published online by Stinney Distro.
Luís Gustavo Guadalupe Silveira
Coletânea de artigos em Português sobre o Modelo Sudbury de Educação escritos por pessoas envolvidas com o cotidiano de espaços Sudbury. [Collection of articles in Portuguese on Sudbury Model of Education by groups involved with Sudbury spaces.]
Arguing that ‘education is freedom’, Paulo Freire’s radical international classic contends that traditional teaching styles keep the poor powerless by treating them as passive, silent recipients of knowledge.
A landmark psychological critique of basic motivational strategy, this book attacks the strategy of dangling incentives in front of people to affect their behavior.
Akilah S. Richards
Richards examines the ways that her relationships to blackness, decolonization, and healing work all combine to form relationships and enable community-healing strategies rooted in an unschooling practice.
Through the analysis of parents’ experiences and reflections this book begins work on the construction of alternative representations of what happens when a child learns to read.
This book offers a natural learning path for gentle parents who dream of living fully in joy and connection with their children while giving them all they need to be successful, with eight secrets to living a fulfilling unschooling life.
The result of a conversation with Ivan Illich, a book on the societal problems inherent in having institutional schools, intellectually and emotionally enslaving children and giving them an institutional mindset akin to what criminals get in prison.
In this collection of provocative articles and blog posts, Alfie Kohn challenges the conventional wisdom about topics ranging from how low-income children are taught to whether American schools have really fallen behind those in other countries.
Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis
Two economists argue that education is used by the bourgeoisie to control the workforce. They reject the notion that there are equal opportunities for all, because schools reproduce existing social inequalities.
SelfDesign is a philosophy and practice based in the belief that children are natural learners.
Daniel Greenberg and Mimsy Sadofsky
This is a basic introduction to the complex process of starting a school. It analyzes various steps that fifteen founding groups have taken to get their schools off the ground and allow them to thrive in the early years.
The Purple Thistle Centre, Matt Hern
Stay Solid! provides essential support for radically inclined teens who believe that it’s possible for all of us to hang on to our values and build a life we believe in.
Alexander Sutherland Neill
Originally published in 1960, Summerhill became an instant bestseller and a classic volume of education for an entire generation.
John Holt and Pat Farenga
A classic text on teaching children at home, updated in 2003 to reflect new laws, new lifestyles, and the growing new generation of homeschooling parents.
Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner
A no-holds-barred assault on outdated teaching methods — with dramatic and practical proposals on how education can be made relevant to today’s world.
Teaching the Restless: One School’s Remarkable No-Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed
In Teaching the Restless, Mercogliano issues an urgent call for a shift in how our society perceives hyperactive children—away from theories of faulty brain chemistry and toward an understanding of children’s lives.
A collection of 23 stories and insights, offering practical advice and inspiration to become a more motivated and self-guided learner.
This explosive, well-researched book argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students’ skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity―in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee.
A look at the short life of First Street School; a New York City free school in the mid-1960’s.
Based on extensive interviews with former pupils and teachers, this Pulitzer Prize-nominated work is a seminal and important investigation into the potential of educational alternatives.
Daniel Greenberg, Mimsy Sadofsky, and Jason Lempka
What becomes of students who attended Sudbury Valley as they pursue their lives as adults? This book explores the lives of students who spent their formative years at the school, examining in depth their values, their character, and their careers.
Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner
Inspiring many students in the ’70s to stop complaining about the state of education and do something about it.
The Student Resistance Handbook provides children with information on how they can effectively fight back against their school and work towards abolishing this abusive and oppressive institution.
The Teacher Liberation Handbook: How to Leave School and Create a Place Where You and Young People Can Thrive
A guide about how to leave school and create a place where you and young people can thrive.
This book tells teens how to take control of their lives and get a “real life.” Young people can reclaim their natural ability to teach themselves and design a personalized education program.
A work of nonfiction about a child raised with no coercion and no curriculum.
The Willed Curriculum, Unschooling, and Self-Direction: What Do Love, Trust, Respect, Care, and Compassion Have To Do With Learning?
A deep, thoughtful, intellectual look into unschooling. Dives into aspects of unschooling that are not often discussed, provides detailed real-life examples of the ideas, and ties the points together with intelligent conclusions.
Trusting Children is an anthology that shares the perspectives from different Sudbury model schools on issues of trusting children and trusting the model.
This book presents a provocative challenge to the conventional wisdom of raising children.
A primer on Unschooling and the origins of the self-directed education movement, with answers to many frequently asked questions and tons of references for further research and reading.
This book explores the path of 30 unschooled kids who went to college and university and outlines how unschooling fits with brain and child development learning stages. It is full of evidence-based material.
Academic text exploring Unschooling.
When teachers listened to Holt’s talks, or wrote him letters as hundreds did, invariably they would say something like: “I understand what you’re saying, but what can I do about this in my own classroom? What do I do on Monday?”
How do children learn without school? Will it work for us? How do I get started?
The first comprehensive guide to democratic schooling, where kids practice life in a self-governed society—empowered as voters, bound by laws, challenged by choice, supported by community, and driven by nature.
Layla AbdelRahim, an anthropologist, writes about people’s attitudes towards humans and nonhumans, expressed through dominance and violence, and the large role schools play in this.
In his pioneering treatise on education, the great French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) presents concepts that had a significant influence on the development of pedagogy in the eighteenth century.
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