10 Books That Will Forever Change the Way You Look at Learning

Sometimes it can be extremely hard to rid ourselves of an accepted concept that not only we grew up with, but so did our parents, grandparents, and, sometimes, our great-grandparents. The educational institution we know of today has only existed for a very short time when compared with the rest of history as we know it; however, since the past several generations have never known anything different than the brick-and-mortar school setting, oftentimes our idea of what “real” education looks like gets crammed into a neat little illustration of what’s going on within the four walls of the public school down the street. 

As someone who “thrived” in that setting, when we began our homeschooling journey, I was intent on replicating everything I knew of about school. Two years later, my children ended up back in school, hating the homeschool life, and I was defeated, frazzled, and burned out.

What went wrong??

I felt like a failure. Why didn’t my kids love me as their teacher? I was torn during the time my kids spent back in school. On the one hand, I was relieved because I was stressed. out. On the other hand, I missed my kids, and I knew that school was not the place God intended them to be.

After two years of contemplation, prayer, and research, I pulled my kids back out of school with a renewed look at what it means to be educated- and it was nothing like what I grew up believing!

Nowadays, this former public school advocate has done a complete 180 on education, and I’ve got these ten books to thank for opening my eyes:

10 Books That Will Forever Change the Way You Look at Education


1. Teach Your Own- The John Holt Book of Homeschooling

This book was written by John Holt, the late education reformer who finally gave up on school altogether and eventually became a staunch advocate for homeschooling. His insights into the learning processes of children are so valuable and so true.


2. Learning All the Time

You’re going to find a lot of books by John Holt here…This was the first one I ever read by him and was, in fact, the first book I ever read about the natural learning process of children. It literally changed our lives.


3. How Children Learn

Surprise, surprise- another John Holt book. I can’t help it! They’re all so good that I can’t pick just one!


4. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

John Taylor Gatto is another of my favorite education authors. Where John Holt made me view learning differently, John Gatto made me view the entire school institution differently. His books are no joke, and his credentials to write about this subject are astounding, considering that he was NYC and NY State Teacher of the Year- multiple times.


5. Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling

Another John Gatto book. I dare you to read this. I promise you, you will never, never look at school the same way again.


6. Teaching from Rest

Sarah Mackenzie nailed it with this book. If I could sum this up with one sentence, it would be, Let go and let God. After I finished this book, I felt like I had a huge weight lifted off my chest. If you’re feeling stress in your homeschool- and I think we all do at times- I’m telling you, read this. Seriously.


7. Free Range Learning- How Homeschooling Changes Everything

Laura Grace Weldon has provided an awesome resource that is chock full of learning ideas that have nothing to do with textbooks, worksheets, or busywork. Like Holt and Gatto, she embraces the idea that children learn best when supported in a natural environment.


8. Big Book of Unschooling

Although I’m not an unschooler anymore, Sandra Dodd does a phenomenal job of illustrating how learning happens in everyday life, even at times it may look like your kids are doing nothing at all!


9. Free to Learn- Five Ideas for a Joyful Unschooling Life

Pam Laricchia is another unschooler who beautifully displays how learning can happen in the most unlikely places. Her writing style is so inviting and peaceful, yet her content contains so much depth.


10. Instead of Education- Ways to Help People Do Things Better

Okay, I tried really hard to limit my John Holt books to three, but I couldn’t do it. There are so many out-of-the-box ways to facilitate learning in this one that I couldn’t possibly leave it out!


One of the best things you can do for your children is to be informed about your educational approach, whether you are homeschooling or have kids who go to school. I hope I’ve given you a good starting point to begin looking into the history of education and the reality of how learning best happens. Your homeschool may never be the same again! 

Be sure to check out these other must-read book lists over at iHomeschoolNetwork!

must-read books





Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

29 thoughts on “10 Books That Will Forever Change the Way You Look at Learning”

  1. One of the most important books in our journey – – – and one that truly inspired my husband – – – was Martin Gross’ Conspiracy of Ignorance. I had gone to public school; my husband had gone through Catholic schools. Both of us saw the mess in each system. Gross’ book put it all in perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those all look good. Do you have any idea if any of them are available in the audio version … I seem to get through audiobooks much faster than actually reading books as I can listen while I clean and sew.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been wanting to read some of these books for years! I just ordered “Dumbing Us Down” for my teen son to read. I’ll have to find some time to read it, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a great list (you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve read them all)! I also love all the ones mentioned above in the comments, although the Conspiracy of Ignorance is one I haven’t heard of, so I’m off to stick it on hold at the library now…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice! I’ve added a couple of these to my list. My daughter is in daycare, so I tend to have to pick up the slack of her not being in preschool. These will help tremendously! I’ve pinned, stumbled and tweeted this post as well.


  6. I wish I had read these before I started homeschooling. My education degree had me trying to replicate the only school model I knew with my children. It worked great until my 3rd child began kindergarten and then completely fell apart. While stressful, looking back I see those fall apart moments are what challenge what we know and help us become better educators.


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