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Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know about Schools and Rediscover Education

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While most schools continue to resist change, homeschooling families are abandoning the K-12 system and rediscovering what childhood education means. They are identifying new methods and goals that are powerful, born of common sense, and incompatible with today's schools. The author, education expert Clark Aldrich, has explored the cultures and practices of homeschoolers a While most schools continue to resist change, homeschooling families are abandoning the K-12 system and rediscovering what childhood education means. They are identifying new methods and goals that are powerful, born of common sense, and incompatible with today's schools. The author, education expert Clark Aldrich, has explored the cultures and practices of homeschoolers and unschoolers. He has distilled a list of rules that shake the foundations of national education to its core.


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While most schools continue to resist change, homeschooling families are abandoning the K-12 system and rediscovering what childhood education means. They are identifying new methods and goals that are powerful, born of common sense, and incompatible with today's schools. The author, education expert Clark Aldrich, has explored the cultures and practices of homeschoolers a While most schools continue to resist change, homeschooling families are abandoning the K-12 system and rediscovering what childhood education means. They are identifying new methods and goals that are powerful, born of common sense, and incompatible with today's schools. The author, education expert Clark Aldrich, has explored the cultures and practices of homeschoolers and unschoolers. He has distilled a list of rules that shake the foundations of national education to its core.

30 review for Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know about Schools and Rediscover Education

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melody Warnick

    Take-away: When your kid's wild about something, move mountains to feed their passion. Take-away: When your kid's wild about something, move mountains to feed their passion.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Crikkett

    Ugh, this author has an ego the size of Alaska. While he makes some valid (and obvious) points about the need for allowing students time and freedom to explore their own interests and learning styles, he spends so much time talking down his nose at educators that the only result can be to increase the antagonism between parents and schools. Meanwhile, his level of privilege-blindness is staggering. Who, exactly, are these parents who can afford to stay home from work every day to "unschool" thei Ugh, this author has an ego the size of Alaska. While he makes some valid (and obvious) points about the need for allowing students time and freedom to explore their own interests and learning styles, he spends so much time talking down his nose at educators that the only result can be to increase the antagonism between parents and schools. Meanwhile, his level of privilege-blindness is staggering. Who, exactly, are these parents who can afford to stay home from work every day to "unschool" their children? What are the solutions for parents who have to work two or three jobs to meet basic expenses and whose neighborhoods are not safe enough to walk around (never mind whether they have the means or funds to "travel often" - even an hour's drive away)? The best thing I can say about this book is that it was a quick read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    I have actually read this book a few times now. It really lends itself to quick reading. Short chapters that often build on one another with enough writing to encourage thought and discussion but without the overwhelming technical speak of education books. As a teacher who also just went through the graduate phase of my career, Mr. Aldrich gives much food for thought that is current with on-going debates in education on how to make learning meaningful and authentic for learners. Unschooling Rule I have actually read this book a few times now. It really lends itself to quick reading. Short chapters that often build on one another with enough writing to encourage thought and discussion but without the overwhelming technical speak of education books. As a teacher who also just went through the graduate phase of my career, Mr. Aldrich gives much food for thought that is current with on-going debates in education on how to make learning meaningful and authentic for learners. Unschooling Rules provides some subtle and not-so-subtle reminders for teachers, administrators and parents alike.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Herlofsen

    This book is an incendiary bomb aimed at US educational system, but as a teacher in Norway (where home schooling is practically forbidden) most of the descriptions felt painfully relevant. The system IS broken, and its pathology is painfully accurately outlined here. The book is very short and to the point, and this is why some parts seem slightly underdeveloped (special needs and social/class differences are basically ignored). On the other hand there's no reason why anyone concerned with educa This book is an incendiary bomb aimed at US educational system, but as a teacher in Norway (where home schooling is practically forbidden) most of the descriptions felt painfully relevant. The system IS broken, and its pathology is painfully accurately outlined here. The book is very short and to the point, and this is why some parts seem slightly underdeveloped (special needs and social/class differences are basically ignored). On the other hand there's no reason why anyone concerned with education anywhere shouldn't take the time to read this.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gwenn Wright

    Less a book than a glorified pamphlet. If you're more of a "Well-Trained Mind" parent, this is not the book for you. Truthfully he lost me at: a spellchecker frees us up from memorization and thus, spelling tests. Really? He also doesn't seem to believe in the reading of classics and instead encourages Internet reads, material that is more relevant, current. Don't take tests, see how many followers you can get on Twitter because that will gauge your knowledge and skill. His philosophy goes a lit Less a book than a glorified pamphlet. If you're more of a "Well-Trained Mind" parent, this is not the book for you. Truthfully he lost me at: a spellchecker frees us up from memorization and thus, spelling tests. Really? He also doesn't seem to believe in the reading of classics and instead encourages Internet reads, material that is more relevant, current. Don't take tests, see how many followers you can get on Twitter because that will gauge your knowledge and skill. His philosophy goes a little too far down the spectrum for me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ani Lacy

    Meh The arguments all stem from the belief that education is just a tool for getting a job or earning money. Doesn’t touch on the more philosophical aspects of unschooling.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Challice

    It was an ok book. I didn't dislike it. I didn't really like it. It was nothing new for me and the information was valid and stuff I already knew. It was a good reminder as to what I am striving for, education vs knowledge. I think this would be very beneficial for someone beginning the homeschool journey rather. It was an ok book. I didn't dislike it. I didn't really like it. It was nothing new for me and the information was valid and stuff I already knew. It was a good reminder as to what I am striving for, education vs knowledge. I think this would be very beneficial for someone beginning the homeschool journey rather.

  8. 5 out of 5

    April Winder

    This was an easy and quick reference style book. I enjoyed how short the chapters were and although the author has an obviously big ego, there were plenty of things that he wrote which made me think differently about the subjects. I never would have pondered many of the items his opinion brought up and some of them I still not agree with. However, I did enjoy looking at things from a different perspective and several of the chapters have made me begun my own research. I recommend it to anyone, n This was an easy and quick reference style book. I enjoyed how short the chapters were and although the author has an obviously big ego, there were plenty of things that he wrote which made me think differently about the subjects. I never would have pondered many of the items his opinion brought up and some of them I still not agree with. However, I did enjoy looking at things from a different perspective and several of the chapters have made me begun my own research. I recommend it to anyone, not just home schoolers and un schoolers, but public school families as well.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Aphoristic, sometimes cliché. Many great theories, but the real work is in the implementation. As a teacher about to join a school with this unschooling philosophy at heart, I wish there were fewer platitudes and more real-world examples.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Wadd

    Having been a teacher and then losing the love, I get this book. It scratches the surface of many challenges within education in the 21st century, but i found it very light on with actual evidence that these rules work. I would need much more evidence to follow his path fully, but I admire the intent. Thank you for expressing your views clearly.

  11. 5 out of 5

    George

    A very easy read offering ideas on how to best educate children. You may not agree with everything contained within. It doesn't offer much in terms of academic research to back most of its claims. That said from my perspective the ideas offered are intriguing alternatives to the industrialized approach to public (and most private) school education. A very easy read offering ideas on how to best educate children. You may not agree with everything contained within. It doesn't offer much in terms of academic research to back most of its claims. That said from my perspective the ideas offered are intriguing alternatives to the industrialized approach to public (and most private) school education.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    This is a very short read. I wanted to like it more than I did. Some of the ideas in it I heartily agreed with, but others I just didn't. Mostly this seems like a book of ideas designed to stir the pot to get people thinking about education and what it should be. Most of these ideas would need a fair amount of fleshing out to figure out how you would incorporate it into a real education (or school). It is worth reading for the sake of pondering education and how it might be better or different t This is a very short read. I wanted to like it more than I did. Some of the ideas in it I heartily agreed with, but others I just didn't. Mostly this seems like a book of ideas designed to stir the pot to get people thinking about education and what it should be. Most of these ideas would need a fair amount of fleshing out to figure out how you would incorporate it into a real education (or school). It is worth reading for the sake of pondering education and how it might be better or different than it is. I admit I am a bit skeptical about some of the claims about how fabulous technology is and how it totally changes everything we should be about in education. I'm still thinking that people need to learn to think and understand things deeply and not so superficially which I'm not sure tech is always the answer to. Anyway, it was okay, but not something that has revolutionized my own thinking.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    I literally read this book (more of a pamphlet, really) in 20 minutes. I have no idea why he invested the time, money, and effort publishing it as a book; he should have put it out on the web as an e-book. It's fine for as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far. He's writing as an expert who has studied these issued deeply, yet all he's published here are his bottom-line conclusions with no supporting evidence or research, no depth, very little explanation. As a long-time homeschooling father and fer I literally read this book (more of a pamphlet, really) in 20 minutes. I have no idea why he invested the time, money, and effort publishing it as a book; he should have put it out on the web as an e-book. It's fine for as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far. He's writing as an expert who has studied these issued deeply, yet all he's published here are his bottom-line conclusions with no supporting evidence or research, no depth, very little explanation. As a long-time homeschooling father and fervent advocate of "unschooling" and alternative education, I learned nothing new from this book. Personally, I found the foreword and afterword by Jeff Sandefer to be more valuable than the author's content. But having said all that, I can this this being a good introduction for newbies to the national education crisis and alternative education.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    The surely well-meaning author bandies around the most annoying word in education, "should." This word does not require evidence, research, or even polling. The kinds of items that provide support from a broad set of information. "Should," is just one person's like experience, which as we know is flawed. Occasionally, in this list of platitudes Clark hits on something that may have merit. His style of no substance and weird chapter design lead me to easily discount it. The surely well-meaning author bandies around the most annoying word in education, "should." This word does not require evidence, research, or even polling. The kinds of items that provide support from a broad set of information. "Should," is just one person's like experience, which as we know is flawed. Occasionally, in this list of platitudes Clark hits on something that may have merit. His style of no substance and weird chapter design lead me to easily discount it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Betsie

    There really wasn't any new information presented in this book, but it did serve to help me focus back on what our actual goals for education are. Love of learning and exposure to as much as possible are what we consider truly important; and I had gotten off that track in the last year or so. This was a great book to start off the year with and we'll start making the shift back to child-directed learning now. There really wasn't any new information presented in this book, but it did serve to help me focus back on what our actual goals for education are. Love of learning and exposure to as much as possible are what we consider truly important; and I had gotten off that track in the last year or so. This was a great book to start off the year with and we'll start making the shift back to child-directed learning now.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dusty

    Meh. I don't disagree, but I don't totally agree either. This book states that there are many things children need to learn that aren't taught in school. I agree, but I don't think the school should be teaching them, it's the family's job, or the church's, or it's the kids job to just figure out some truths on their own. I didn't even finish the book, it just didn't appeal to me. "You don't have to go to school to get an education, " but I didn't learn that tidbit from school. Meh. I don't disagree, but I don't totally agree either. This book states that there are many things children need to learn that aren't taught in school. I agree, but I don't think the school should be teaching them, it's the family's job, or the church's, or it's the kids job to just figure out some truths on their own. I didn't even finish the book, it just didn't appeal to me. "You don't have to go to school to get an education, " but I didn't learn that tidbit from school.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    Super fast read (about an hour). Mr. Aldrich is insightful and dead on in his summation of the public school system. He doesn't only highlight the problems, he provides "doable" solutions. It's obvious his primary concern is that children incorporate learning into everything they do and for it to be viewed as a gift, instead of curse. Super fast read (about an hour). Mr. Aldrich is insightful and dead on in his summation of the public school system. He doesn't only highlight the problems, he provides "doable" solutions. It's obvious his primary concern is that children incorporate learning into everything they do and for it to be viewed as a gift, instead of curse.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah

    Much of what Clark Aldrich writes in Unschooling Rules is incredibly spot-on, precise and a refreshing breath of fresh air. He has many excellent suggestions for improving the archaic public school education system. Great insight for public schoolers, home schoolers/unschoolers, parents, teachers or anyone else interested in gaining new perspective on education.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alba

    Though, this book would appeal more to Unschoolers, I think that Non Unschoolers could benefit from this book. It is an easy read of 55 tips of thinking outside the box. Full of great ideas and worth having a copy to reference now and then as reminders.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    This book offered some good thoughts and motivation. Simple and easy to read, offered me direction in a time of doubt.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Great book for people who want to find better ways to teach and educate children

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    A quick test of this book's insightfulness was to run it by my 15 year-old, who has been educated in a combination of homeschooling, classics-focused co-ops, and now a public charter school. I showed him some of the author's observations, like: "Homework helps school systems, not students;" and: "What a person learns in a classroom is how to be a person in a classroom." He gave a grim nod. As we plan to start a small private school, I found this book valuable for challenging preconceptions I have A quick test of this book's insightfulness was to run it by my 15 year-old, who has been educated in a combination of homeschooling, classics-focused co-ops, and now a public charter school. I showed him some of the author's observations, like: "Homework helps school systems, not students;" and: "What a person learns in a classroom is how to be a person in a classroom." He gave a grim nod. As we plan to start a small private school, I found this book valuable for challenging preconceptions I have about what education should look like. The author is no theorist, and quickly encourages us to read thinkers like Maria Montessori. But his quick hits -- both against the Education-Industrial Complex and for a more child-centered, exploratory approach to learning -- are provocative. The one area I think he's way off is his critique of some schools' obsession with "the classics." He's got an unfortunate utilitarian streak, combined with what appears to be a thoroughly inadequate grounding in literature. This leads him to the mistaken conclusion that we should judge books based on whether they teach us how to do something, or to be better people in some demonstrable way. There's a far richer way to approach literature than that. But the beauty of the educational philosophy he advocates is that you don't have to agree with how he would position literature in his school. You and the child learners in your care are free to chart your own courses. Which is ultimately the radical message underlying this book -- that we should enable children to determine their own learning paths while nurturing their curiosity, rather than hammer them into a mass-production line that destroys creativity, curiosity, and independent thought.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie Langford

    Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education is a quick introduction into the world of disruptive education. An easy read split into chapters as short as two pages, Aldrich moves through best practices emerging in educational research, all of which bring the inadequacies of traditional schooling into focus. The overarching theme is that the way children are hard-wired for learning, with innate curiosity and an eagerness to gain knowledge is stamped ou Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education is a quick introduction into the world of disruptive education. An easy read split into chapters as short as two pages, Aldrich moves through best practices emerging in educational research, all of which bring the inadequacies of traditional schooling into focus. The overarching theme is that the way children are hard-wired for learning, with innate curiosity and an eagerness to gain knowledge is stamped out through the expectations of most traditional schooling practices: sit in a chair quietly, listen to the lecture, absorb the information, study for the exam, get the grades. The lack of intrinsic motivation encouraged by traditional schooling is detrimental to children on a journey to discover their passions and hone their strengths. The best practices may seem revolutionary but in the context of how people learn best, they make complete sense. The style of writing is quippy and can, at times, be a bit brash. The points Aldrich makes, however, are concise, clear, and important. In my opinion, the brashness is a tactic to hold your attention, point to the inefficiency of traditional schooling, and the immediate need for change. The best practices are not cited and the book does not have an index, unfortunately. Throughout the book, Aldrich does point to websites and other books that dig deeper into most of the ideas put forward. Unschooling Rules is a good place to start if you are unfamiliar with the concept of disruptive education and have had a nagging feeling that the traditional ways of educating are failing you or your child.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jess Levy

    A disappointing start to learning about unschooling. To begin with, it is beyond classist. The author asserts that people who are unable to eat well has "failed in his or her own ability to systematically learn." Inability to eat well is often caused by living in a food desert, which is often caused by poverty, and that poverty is a reflection of systematic societal inequalities. Aldrich also suggests that you drop everything and cancel plans to follow the interests of your children. Imagine tha A disappointing start to learning about unschooling. To begin with, it is beyond classist. The author asserts that people who are unable to eat well has "failed in his or her own ability to systematically learn." Inability to eat well is often caused by living in a food desert, which is often caused by poverty, and that poverty is a reflection of systematic societal inequalities. Aldrich also suggests that you drop everything and cancel plans to follow the interests of your children. Imagine that conversation with your employer! "Hi, I won't be coming into work for the foreseeable future. You see, my three year old has taken a liking to cows so we're about to vacate the city in favor of a farm until when and if his interest wanes." Aldrich also asserts that a police station is an appropriate place for a child to seek an internship! I for one will certainly not allow my child to be in a room full of people with loaded weapons. Most infuriating is that Aldrich says that "children should be taught by adults who love them," a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with, but clarifies that the only people who could possibly love a child are parents, grandparents, and possibly in a pinch, an aunt or an uncle. If this man is unable to love anyone who isn't directly related to him or imagine a world where anyone could love a child who isn't their own, I feel sorry for him. What saved the book from being only one star were the points about giving children ample free time, learning not being one size fits all, etc.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ozy Frantz

    This book has probably given me the best vision of the day-to-day life of the unschooler. I appreciated the concrete advice about how to unschool. Sample advice: have children spend time with animals; show them microcosms of more complex systems, from fishtanks to one-person businesses; give them apprenticeships, internships, and interesting jobs; teach them to use a spreadsheet program well, which covers a lot of basic math skills necessary for life; have a well-stocked library, including maps, This book has probably given me the best vision of the day-to-day life of the unschooler. I appreciated the concrete advice about how to unschool. Sample advice: have children spend time with animals; show them microcosms of more complex systems, from fishtanks to one-person businesses; give them apprenticeships, internships, and interesting jobs; teach them to use a spreadsheet program well, which covers a lot of basic math skills necessary for life; have a well-stocked library, including maps, personal photos, picture books of places and art, computer games, and DVDs of great movies and TV series; give them lots of time outdoors; travel. However, several aspects of this book I personally found annoying. As always with unschooling books, I was annoyed by the author's idea that video games and social media are educational and count as schooling; in reality, depending on how you use it, I think they range from valuable but not really 'schooling' to actively harmful. Second, the author was very down on many traditional school subjects, ranging from calculus to Wuthering Heights. As someone who enjoys both math and classic literature, I don't understand why those aren't interests exactly as legitimate as any other interest of the student's. Third, I would have appreciated it if this book had maybe a tenth of the vitriol it directed against the school system. That felt really unnecessary to me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Short, concise, simple, yet thoughtful and profound. I am an educator and I will be returning to this book again and again. While reading, I actually could recall some of the misery, terror, and shame of my own childhood educational experience vividly, as Aldrich enumerated some of the methods schooling uses to "teach" children. I think it's entirely possible that my emotionally-miserable childhood education, in what was considered a "first rate" school district, eradicated any desire I might ha Short, concise, simple, yet thoughtful and profound. I am an educator and I will be returning to this book again and again. While reading, I actually could recall some of the misery, terror, and shame of my own childhood educational experience vividly, as Aldrich enumerated some of the methods schooling uses to "teach" children. I think it's entirely possible that my emotionally-miserable childhood education, in what was considered a "first rate" school district, eradicated any desire I might have had to have children of my own. This book raises ethical and moral questions about the current practice of mass education that will have you rethinking your understanding of pedagogy and its theoretical underpinnings. Highly recommended. Will recommend to strangers on the street.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Wright

    **When reading this book: Don't go in thinking everything he says has to be gospel truth... go in willing and open to take in exactly what YOU need and let whatever doesn't resonate with you fly on by.** Really enjoyed this as someone who is considering continuing to keep my children at home as they get older. I enjoyed how the book was laid out. He made a lot of great points and there were a lot of good takeaways that I'm hoping to utilize! I wish he hadn't lumped all schools and teachers togeth **When reading this book: Don't go in thinking everything he says has to be gospel truth... go in willing and open to take in exactly what YOU need and let whatever doesn't resonate with you fly on by.** Really enjoyed this as someone who is considering continuing to keep my children at home as they get older. I enjoyed how the book was laid out. He made a lot of great points and there were a lot of good takeaways that I'm hoping to utilize! I wish he hadn't lumped all schools and teachers together like they're all doing everything for their own agenda, but he still did bring up a lot of good points about traditional schools. Definitely recommend for anyone with school-age children! I'll be buying the physical copy to do some highlighting and to refer back to.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Myers

    This is a very short read, but has some very powerful concepts. The author really pushes towards homeschooling being the best way to unschool, but I feel these concepts can be applied to other types of schools. I think this is a great primer to really open minds to some of the pitfalls of the current education system and how they can be better, but I do wish it dug a little deeper and discussed more ways to apply this to public schools, because homeschooling is definitely not an option for every This is a very short read, but has some very powerful concepts. The author really pushes towards homeschooling being the best way to unschool, but I feel these concepts can be applied to other types of schools. I think this is a great primer to really open minds to some of the pitfalls of the current education system and how they can be better, but I do wish it dug a little deeper and discussed more ways to apply this to public schools, because homeschooling is definitely not an option for everyone. Overall I think this is great read for everyone, but don't expect to discover all of the answers to our education systems problems in this one book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Lulu

    At first I thought it was about unschooling, and I was excited, because unschooling seems to be devoid of rules by definition, and I was looking forward to some practical hands-on advice. It seems to only have "unschooling" in the title for the sake of cleverness. It seems to be written more about parenting a child who goes to school. I generally agree with the premise, but I thought it was a bit incoherent. A little too much about this broader idea of supporting children's interest, but not spe At first I thought it was about unschooling, and I was excited, because unschooling seems to be devoid of rules by definition, and I was looking forward to some practical hands-on advice. It seems to only have "unschooling" in the title for the sake of cleverness. It seems to be written more about parenting a child who goes to school. I generally agree with the premise, but I thought it was a bit incoherent. A little too much about this broader idea of supporting children's interest, but not specifically geared towards homeschooling, nor pedagogy, to be useful to me personally. Had I gone into it with different expectations I may have liked it better.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Izel Ahunchain

    Today, I am going to be reviewing Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich. I am going to rate this book a five out of five. I rate this a complete rating because it is really good and I feel like it is underrated. This book is really good, and I would recommend it to my entire family and school. It is really good. It has taught me so many ways that traditional schools could improve on. This book relates to my journey in a way that in my school we do not follow the type of rules which mess up the educ Today, I am going to be reviewing Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich. I am going to rate this book a five out of five. I rate this a complete rating because it is really good and I feel like it is underrated. This book is really good, and I would recommend it to my entire family and school. It is really good. It has taught me so many ways that traditional schools could improve on. This book relates to my journey in a way that in my school we do not follow the type of rules which mess up the educational skill of schools. This book changes me as a reader and as a person which was really good because it taught me so much stuff that was really present in my other school.

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