Information & Media
Recommended books, videos, websites, blogs, podcasts, research, news, and other SDE information sources.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Film & Video
SDE-themed movies, documentaries, videos, and TV/web series.
Year one at the Teddy McArdle Free School in Little Falls, New Jersey, where all classes are voluntary and rules are determined by vote. Approaching the Elephant is a vivid portrait of unfettered childhood and human relationships.
A documentary that explores the theme of trusting children and their development, and invites us to question our learning paradigms and options.
Class Dismissed showcases a growing trend in alternative education strategies that are working for many families across America.
A renowned rap that highlights the fallacy that conventional schooling teaches students valuable life skills needed for the professional world.
An Open Media Platform that amplifies the Self-Directed Education movement through Video Storytelling and a Global Upcoming SDE Events Calendar.
A look at alternative and self-directed education in Spanish-speaking countries. Subtitles available in many languages, including English, via the YouTube interface. (2 hours, 25 minutes)
Schools of Trust is a German film about Self-Directed Education.
A documentary exploring the lives of several adults who chose to follow a self-directed path of learning.
Joel Hammon talks about his decision to quit his job as a high school teacher and how creating self-directed education centers can improve the lives of teachers and their students.
Exposing the many ways the public schools system has failed children and America’s future by robbing students of all freedoms, largely due to irrational fears.
Origionally run by Professor Roland Meighan, EHP has been publishing since 1984 on the general topic of questioning the dogma of the educational establishment. EHP also markets books produced by the Education Now Cooperative (founded in 1980).
Established in 2005, Hilltown Families is a community-based education network which highlights the embedded learning found throughout Western Massachusetts, making the information accessible online to self-directed and life-long learners wanting to g
LEAVE SCHOOL is a mobile app that teaches young people who to thrive without school.
Working with SDE children to start their own business.
Podcasts & Radio Shows
SDE-focused audio content sources.
(Note: Audiobooks are included in "Books".)
Features interviews with graduates of Alpine Valley School, which follows the Sudbury model of education. Also includes discussions of the school’s unique philosophy, and ways to get involved.
Alternative Education Resource Organization founder, Jerry Mintz, talks with people about different facets of learner-centered education.
From a long-time unschooling mom to three now-adult children: Unschooling fascinates me as much today as it did when we got started back in 2002, and each week on the podcast my guests and I dive deep into unschooling and living joyfully with our fam
A weekly podcast that centers black and brown people’s voices and experiences in discussions about unconventional parenting, particularly how we facilitate learning.
Interviews with self-directed learners, innovative educators, and young people blazing their own paths through life. Hosted by Blake Boles; Formerly the Real Education Podcast.
A husband-wife podcast about gentle parenting, family life, and self-directed education.
ASDE member Rachel Rainbolt is the host of this podcast, inviting listeners to gather around a virtual campfire and share meaningful conversations with inspiring and insightful friends around Gentle Parenting, Unschooling, and Simple Living.
All about radical unschooling. (It’s not as scary or as wild as some people make out!) Join me as I share ideas, stories, homeschool record-keeping tips and resources for living an unschooling life of unconditional love.
Episodes cover many frequently asked questions and objections to Self-Directed Education and unschooling.
Exploring the ideas and practices of unschooling and Self-Directed Education
We are three mamas, unschoolers, regular people, and revolutionaries in the many small moments, pulling together threads from our diverse experiences around living authentically with children and rejecting the school model of relationship.
Research & Journals
Scientific and academic research related to SDE.
A discussion of ways to improve research on democratic schools and other informal educational environments.
Michael K. Ponton, Christine T. Schuette, and Gary J. Confessore
This article promotes self-efficacy and agency for children to help them develop into Self-Directed learners.
A brief introduction to legal challenges against Self-Directed Education in schools and home.
In this article, Peter Gray describes seven principles of how individuals learn to read without formal schooling.
Peter Gray & David Chanoff
A follow-up study of the graduates of the Sudbury Valley School, a democratically administered primary and secondary school that supports Self-Directed Education.
This study assesses whether homeschooled young adults’ needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness are better satisfied as compared to young adults who were not homeschooled.
Donald A. Berg, Jennifer Henderlong Corpus
Research study using Self-Determination Theory as a framework for understanding motivation in a Self-Directed learning community and a home school resource center.
This article describes the evaluation of a temporary, immersive learning community for Self-Directed teen learners, Project World School (PWS), which was based on a new, pedagogical approach to learning called worldschooling.
Through interviews with twenty eight unschooled adults, the author explores how reading can be learned naturally, without adult intervention; and how this may effect later motivation for reading, writing, and other academic endeavors.
Dr. Sherman utilizes research surrounding multiple theories of motivation to defend the practices of Self-Directed Education in unschooling.
In this essay the roots of Free Alternative Schools (FAS) are depicted and their history in Germany over the last 40 years is sketched.
Leo J. Fahey
Leo J. Fahey identifies five aspects that he argues are fundamental to a democratic education: self-direction, emotional readiness, student choice, learning to learn, and community self-governance.
Peter Gray & Gina Riley
This peer reviewed research article summarizes the unschooling experiences of 75 adults who were unschoolers for at least the years that would have been their last two years of high school.
Gina Riley & Peter Gray
A sample of 75 adults, who had been unschooled for at least the years that would have been their last two years of high school, answered questions about their subsequent pursuits of higher education and careers.
This narrative examines how the author’s young child learns basic skills without being directly taught to do so.
A professor of Early Childhood Education describes how his children learned to read without formal instruction.
E. D. Woodford
Looking at Unschooling through the lens of indigenous living and learning.
The author, speaking on unschooling, seeks to help us redefine and reclaim the concept of curriculum as an internal path toward learning.
This article investigates the question: In what ways and to what extent can alternative models of education support the development of democratic skills in children?
Daniel Greenberg & Mimsy Sadofsky
This book describes a study conducted in 1991 to determine what became of Sudbury students after they left.
This article gathers arguments that support play as not only a pleasure but a necessity for growth, learning, and mental health in children.
This ethnographic work examines democracy in action, at a free school in Canada, and highlights the skills learned that promote good citizenship and self-confidence.
A short exploration of democratic alternative schools around the world.
Rebecca Zellner Grunzke
This dissertation compares the childrearing practices of parents whose children are engaged in unschooling, homeschooling, or traditional schooling.
Hunter-gatherer cultures promoted the playful side of their human nature, which made possible their cooperative, egalitarian ways of living.
Peter Gray & Jay Feldman
A qualitative study of self-directed age mixing between adolescents (ages 12–19) and young children (ages 4–11) at a democratic school.
Donna Harel Kirschner
An ethnographic study of the unschooling movement, through a countercultural lens.
Written for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education, this in-depth article provides a comprehensive overview of SDE, from its evolutionary origins to its modern expressions.
This study examines the experiences of twenty three students, in two different Sudbury model schools, and the correlation between freedom and student attitudes about school.
Lucy Guglielmino, Elizabeth Gray, Kim_Le Arvary, Joe Asen, Donna Goldstein, Fran Kamin, Monica Nicoll, Nancy Patrick, Krista Shellabarger, Deborah Snowberger
A look at notable, Self-Directed individuals, and their contributions to society.
This article discusses five ways in which the concepts of creativity and Self-Directed Education overlap.
Helen E. Lees
This interview address key problems facing the alternative education movement.
Carlo Ricci, Kristin Simpson
This resource is an introductory guide for starting a new school based on the author’s experiences of forming a Sudbury model school in Canada.
Judy L Arnall
This survey details thirty children who unschooled from 3 to 12 years and were all accepted to colleges, universities and tech schools. 12 of the 30 went into STEM careers (4 in Engineering).
Ana Mettler and Mary Korte
This article highlights the successes and challenges of developing Self-Directed learning environments for K-12 students within publicly funded school systems.
Christine R. Traxler
Subtitled “Why the Sudbury Model of Education Should Be Taken Seriously,” this essay by a public high school English teacher challenges the dominant model of education.
Peter Gray & Gina Riley
232 unschooling families answered questions about their reasons for unschooling, the path that led them to unschooling, and the major benefits and challenges of unschooling for their family.
This article explores the question of what gives parents the courage to reject conventional schooling and choose the educational path of unschooling for their children.
This article explores Self-Determination Theory, Cognitive Evaluation Theory, and intrinsic motivation as they apply to home education.
This paper outlines the theoretical, pedagogical, and philosophical framework for critical unschooling.
Lorena Sanchez Tyson
The purpose of this article is to explore the concept of autonomy in the context of education and analyze the complex features of unschooling, a particular movement within the home-based education paradigm.
A parent demonstrates how allowing her children to deeply immerse themselves in their passions, especially controversial ones like video games and fandom, can lead to a diverse set of learning outcomes and experiences.
This article is a brief, personal narrative of how the author found his way to unschooling through The Teenage Liberation Handbook.
Kristan A. Morrison
Research on Unschooling families and whether or how they experience a social justice curriculum.
This study describes the experiences of an unschooling family in Hong Kong, where alternative forms of education are discouraged.
Kellie Rolstad & Kathleen Kesson
Authors compare their experiences of unschooling in the 1980s with what it is like to unschool now, in an era when our society has come to distrust children more than ever.
If children are to grow up to be responsible adults who contribute to the development of an ideal society, they need to feel able to ask questions of their own rather than simply learning the answers to other people’s questions.
A review and analysis of five retreats organized by Project World School in 2016, based on pre- and post-experience questionnaires filled out by the participants.
Emma Emily DeWit, Daniel Eagles, Barbara Regeer
This article illustrates how issues such as parental experiences, culture, and concerns over mental health caused three Indian families to unschool their children and looks at their experiences with the practice of unschooling.
Websites, Blogs & News
Online sources of SDE-related information and support.
We are creating autistic spaces that make it possible for the genius, integrity, concern for details, and specialized focus that are the trademarks of the autistic mind to be expressed to and to create value.
An Open Media Platform that amplifies the Self-Directed Education movement through Video Storytelling and a Global Upcoming SDE Events Calendar.
generationOn inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action that is changing the world. They envision a world in which everyone has discovered their power to make a difference, creating healthy communities in vibrant, participatory societies.
A site for students who are stuck in school.
A free website that shares long-form profiles of grown unschoolers, ages 20-99, in their own words.
A blog by a grown unschooler exploring the intersections between self-directed lifelong learning, youth rights, respectful parenting, and social justice.
A Facebook group for Florida parents seeking alternatives to independent homeschooling and unschooling; a resource for parents interested in finding or creating SDE communities (co-ops, learning centers, schools, etc.) in Florida.
A digital community for teen unschoolers to make friends, discuss projects, question the meaning of life, and support those interested in self-directed learning to take the leap.
This website offers guidance on how to mentor self-directed learners using the approach of Project-Based Homeschooling – a way to combines a child’s genuine interests with long-term, deep, complex learning.
Roots & Shoots is a service program that empowers and encourages youth of all ages to pursue their passion, mobilize their peers, and become the leaders our world needs in order to ensure a better future for people, animals, and the environment.
Support site for kids who hate school. Encourages them to consider SDE if possible.
A collection of resources for Texas homeschoolers: Homeschooling laws, TX unschooling groups, videos, other websites & blogs, unschooling conferences, colleges & transcripts, and discussion forums.
Connections Are Everthing – Whole Life Evolution – Partnership Paradigm – Childhood Without School: Margaret Bennett, MFA artist & single parent blogs about the process of life living in authenticity & unschooling through divorce and trauma
Educational technology website for students to learn history while learning computer technology and Internet coding.
A website that provides home-educating families with summative information about more than 3,500 educational resource providers, enabling parents and children to find material best-suited to meet each child’s interests and needs.
Tons of SDE resources including: transcript walkthrough, breakdown by subject, PA homeschooling guide, their “curriculum” by “grade”, and “homeschooling for working moms”
Facebook group in Swedish discussing the topic of self-direction and unschooling. The group is open for active unschoolers, those interested in starting, and others curious about the topic.
Information, support and advocacy for self-directed learning in the home.
See something missing?
Add a Resource