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Free to Learn: Five Ideas for a Joyful Unschooling Life

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  279 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Thinking about homeschooling? Curious about unschooling?

Walk with me as I share the five paradigm-changing ideas about learning and living that freed my family from the school schedule. With over ten years of experience, I have come to see how key these ideas were, and still are, to our unschooling lives. With stories, examples, and clear language, Free to Learn explores
Published November 2014 by Living Joyfully Enterprises (first published March 3rd 2012)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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Jen (bookscoffeedogs)
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Picked this up from the library for new homeschooling inspiration. While I agree with some of it, it is definitely a radical unschooling approach, one in which kids can go to bed when THEY want, eat pb&j for every meal for 5 days if THEY want in the theory that they will learn what works for THEM and not to follow some arbitrary rule that works for others. Unfortunately, I need to take care of myself too which means them going to bed at a reasonable hour, eating food that is healthy enough we do ...more
If you've never heard of unschooling, it's basically homeschooling without a curriculum. The central idea is that people learn well when they are interested/invested in the subject matter, so children should be encouraged to follow their passions without having a curriculum imposed on them by a teacher/parent. The other ideas Laricchia shares all flow from there, challenging parents to consider how, when, what and where people can (and "should") learn. I agree with her about many of the limitat ...more
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: family
This book was repetitive and not dense.
It also didn't seem to cover much new ground.
That being said, it emphasized/reminded me of a few critical things that ideal education should be:
1) Child directed
2) Allow play
3) Age mixed

I am not sure how to make this actionable. The nearest similar philosophied schools are 45 minutes away. My opinion on my options are to
1) Homeschool (I don't think I have the time to do a good job with this)
2) Start a charter school with other parents (probably also don't
Apr 24, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children
I appreciate where this book is coming from. I think unschooling is an admirable choice and I like a lot of the concepts here but find the author too judgemental and don't agree with some of what she is saying. For example, kids like 'sugary treats' because that is what we are genetically programmed to like, not just because they are restricted from eating these foods.. I don't think I could follow her idea of unschooling.
Sep 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: homeschooling
An easy read about unschooling, discusses five main ideas:

1. Allow real learning to take place (i.e. not textbook/curriculum based learning)
2. Follow your child's interests (learning takes place best when the learner is interested and engaged)
3. Learn how to make choices and decisions (don't make the choices for your child)
4. Yes instead of no
5. Live together, give children a voice in the family
Crystal W
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Simple, quick and enlightening read. It helped solidify our choice to unschool our kids and brought to light many ideas on how to better trust our children and cultivate our family relationships. We won't be utilizing everything she mentions but have taken many great nuggets of info, without getting bogged down by too many details. I love the short examples she included in each chapter and helped me relate to her explanations.
May 16, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've read on unschooling. I expected to find research to back up the ideals and a home that still had a "little" structure and guidance. I need to do a little more research on the topic, but I will be very disappointed if it is about encouraging my child to play video games all day while I bring them food in their room.
Alex Polikowsky
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book specially if you are new to the idea of unschooling!
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a life-changer for me!!! I devoured it in an afternoon ... then shared it with my family. So much inspiration and optimism within these pages!
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education-read
"In those first years some teachers were more flexible, while others were quite determined to shave off his uniqueness.............Most of the teachers understood what I was talking about, but their feedback was that they don't have the time to work with kids outside the personalities and learning styles that mesh with the classroom setting. The kids have to fit the surroundings, not the other way around...........It became clear to me that he would not thrive in public school."

"And soon you beg
Ozy Frantz
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: education
(This is a review of Pam Laricchia's entire series, not just Free to Learn; while the books were inexpensive, they really should have been one book and not three.)

I have complicated feelings about this book. Sometimes I call myself half an unschooler. On one hand, I agree with following the child's interests, creating an enriched environment that helps the child learn, encouraging the child's independence, and fostering a culture of lifelong learning in the family.

On the other hand, Laricchia r
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
I would term this more of a radical unschooling book. Radical unschooling would not be joyful to me. ;-) We definitely allow our children to learn at their own pace and to learn what they want. However, we do have some basic rules in our home so that we can be respectful to each other and learn how to live together in harmony. I feel like if we took Mrs. Laricchia's approach to unschooling, we would have a messy, chaotic house, without any structure at all. And I think it would produce some gru ...more
Jenna Anderson
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-homework
Oh man, am I an unschooler?? I loved this short and sweet little book. I do not know yet how homeschooling will look in our house, but these ideas make such a good foundation. I assumed that many of the things that I’ve leaned on while parenting little babies (letting them sleep when they’re tired, eat when they’re hungry, feel their big feelings) would have to be tempered when they started school. And I wasn’t looking forward to that transition. This book affirms my instincts and opens the door ...more
Not really anything new here for me.
Courtney Hasty
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great easy read for a homeschool parent!
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
This would have been so much better if it would stuck with unschooling ideas and theories instead of how to parent.
Paula Wharram
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As someone trying to wrap my head around, and embrace unschooling, it was a great read. I read it in one afternoon and made notes. we already do the food, sleep, and chores stuff; But I found the information about learners to be very helpful. I happen to also be a school teacher so deschooling is very hard, will likely never happen, but it certainly made me question my teaching practice, and made me more inspired and comfortable in following my husbands lead with our unschooling
Jun 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good overview of the unschooling philosophy, some examples and the basic paradigm shifts that happen for those who have been taught that learning only happens at a desk in a classroom from September to June.

There is much here that is not solely applicable to unschooling. I appreciated her discussion on rules versus principles in the home, opening up discussions and eliminating the "knee-jerk no" response.

I can't remember a book I have ever agreed AND disagreed with so strongly. It wa
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good homeschool inspiration book, though probably better suited to a parent at the beginning of the homeschool journey, not one nearing the end. It did give me a few twinges of regret that I had not had the courage to live an unschooling life when my kids were younger. That's why I gave it 4 stars: not for me, but for younger moms with younger kids who can get a better start than my kids had.
Archana Ananthaswamy
Loved this one! Clear and concise whether you need a reminder or want to apply the essence of it to your life. I really enjoyed the section on expectations. Highly recommend to anyone who feels that our children's learning needs to aim at personal happiness which depends more on lighting their own path and the quality of key relationships in their life rather than success as defined by society.
Oct 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
I really wanted to like this more. But I think what I'd like in a homeschooling book is more ideas about actually how to make it work and while there was some of this, eventually I started feeling like I was being constantly critiqued for being a substandard parent. That's probably just me and my baggage, though.
Emma Bliss
Sep 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a small book and an easy read. It covers the basics of unschooling and makes it make sense. Ideal as an intro or for giving to family members that question what it's all about, but you will probably want to read deeper than this offers if you do plan to unschool. There is an excellent list of books at the back with a description of each to guide you on these next steps.
Apr 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a nice, straightforward introduction to unschooling done in a way that even people who are fairly married to the idea of school can read without becoming too uncomfortable. It would be a good book to give to friends or family who are needing a bit of background on unschooling or for parents interested moving to unschooling their children.
Jill Medina
May 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How to unschool for beginnets

I love how Pam broke up the ideas and expounded on each idea, with plenty of examples. This book and her website & podcasts are really helping me with our unschooling journey, & I recommend it to anyone who is unschooling or thinking about it.
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent resource for those new to homeschooling and for their loved ones who might not be happy with that decision.
Gretchen Guglietta
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting
Good intro to unschooling. Now just have to delve in a little deeper.
Jacqueline White
The author has some interesting thoughts, but the book is not very well written. She repeats herself a lot, there were entire paragraphs that she repeated word for word just a few pages apart.
Nikki Shields
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very thoughtful and well-written discussion of Unschooling and its basic philosophies.
Jun 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
This is a good introduction to unschooling. I didn't find anything new in this, but I would recommend it to someone who hadn't read much on the topic.
Lynn Cupp
Food for thought raising kids to understand what an education is.
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Pam Laricchia is a long-time unschooling mom from Ontario, Canada whose three children left school mid-year back in 2002. She loves exploring unschooling and sharing the fascinating things she’s discovered along the way about learning and parenting.

Pam’s articles have been published in Toronto Life magazine, The Natural Parent Magazine, Life Learning Magazine, The Homeschooler, and the peer-review

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As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of young ...
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“Children who have the freedom to explore a variety of things and discard them when they no longer make sense do not feel like failures when they choose to drop something. Instead they see it as another experience from which to learn a bit about something and a lot about themselves. This is a much better attitude than the child who is forced to stay, being told to suck it up and stick it out, who begins to feel powerless and resentful. As an adult this child is more likely, for example, to stay in an unhappy career so as not to look or feel like a failure, though he will definitely feel trapped.” 3 likes
“A person makes fewer detours as an adult if given the time and opportunities during childhood to really understand themselves, how they tick, and to incorporate that knowledge into their decision making when evaluating choices. Also, seeing how their perspective and goals” 0 likes
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