The majority of the parents we talk to are not eagerly looking to provide their children with a rich, self-directed learning environment. Sadly, most of the parents we talk to are trying to save their children from the trauma that is so often associated with schooling (e.g., testing, sleep deprivation, depression, bullying). One of the greatest challenges we face when talking to those parents about Emancipated Learning as an alternative to school is that it is often the first time that they have heard of an educational environment that does not rely on coercion. Most of them have never been introduced to the notion of self-directed education, or they believe that self-directed education can be achieved by allowing a student to pick a topic they are expected to write a report about. They might have heard of homeschooling, but have never heard of unschooling, Sudbury Valley, or Summerhill.

Instead of being able to highlight how we are creating a psychologically safe learning space where young people can engage in deep, meaningful, and enduring learning experiences that will allow them to lead remarkable lives, we are left trying to educate them on human psychology, the history of schooling, and the science of learning. Needless to say, a 30-minute conversation covering such deep topics is typically not enough to compel parents to take meaningful action to improve their children’s learning experiences in their current schools, to move them to alternative schools that better meet their children’s needs, or to opt out of schooling altogether.

At the same time, there are a lot of teachers and administrators who know that something is not working at their schools, but do not know what they can do to substantially improve the situation.  They have most likely never been introduced to much of the research that proves that self-directed learning is the best way to deepen learning, promote lifelong learning, and eliminate much of the trauma associated with coercive schooling. It is not their fault, as the organizations they work for and the education schools that they attended go out of their way to ignore these topics, and instead focus on marginal reforms while pushing the baseline assumption that young people need to be forced to learn, and that schooling environments are where that happens.

In an attempt to spur the necessary conversations around education that are currently not being had, we will be hosting the “Smart Schooling Book Group” at the Laura Bush Community Library for the duration of this year. We will read one book each month that focuses on education, with an emphasis on the psychology that would ideally inform how we approach education, and then come together to discuss it on the last Thursday of each month. [Each Thursday during the Covid-19 pandemic]

We hope that young people, parents, future parents, teachers, and school administrators can all benefit from these readings and conversations. Hopefully some school board members will also drop in.

2024 Reading List
Jan – Brain-Body Parenting by Mona Delahooke
Feb – How to Raise an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Mar – A Different Way to Learn by Naomi Fisher *
Apr – Immeasurable Outcomes by Gayle Greene *
May – Totto-chan by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
Jun – Deep Play by Diane Ackerman
Jul – Walking with Sam by Andrew McCarthy *
Aug – An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger
Sep – Never Enough by Jennifer Breheny Wallace
Oct – I Never Thought of It That Way by Monica Guzmán
Nov – Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown
Dec – Thrivers by Michele Borba

2025 Reading List
Jan – Learning to Imagine by Andrew Shtulman
Feb – Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen by Michelle Icard
Mar – A Minor Revolution by Adam Benforado
Apr – What Happened To You? by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey
May – A Place to Belong by Amber O’Neal Johnston
Jun – Tiny Humans, Big Emotions by Alyssa Blask Campbell and Lauren Elizabeth Stauble 
Jul – Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf

2017 Reading List
Jan 26 – Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel Willingham
Feb 23 – The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine
Mar 30 – Wounded by School by Kirsten Olsen
Apr 27 – Free to Learn by Peter Gray
May 25 – Overschooled but Undereducated by John Abbott
Jun 29 – Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman
Jul 27 – The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik
Aug 31– Drive by Daniel Pink
Sep 28 – Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood by A. S. Neill
Oct 26 – The End of Average by Todd Rose
Nov 30 – Old School by Tobias Wolff (novel)
Dec 28 – [holiday break]

2018 Reading List
Jan 25 – Mindset by Carol Dweck
Feb 22 – Creative Schools by Ken Robinson
Mar 29 – Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
Apr 26 – Free to Learn by Peter Gray *
May 31 – The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey
Jun 28 – Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz
Jul 26 – Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto
Aug 30 – How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims
Sep 27 – Most Likely to Succeed by Tony Wagner
Oct 25 – Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks
Nov 29 – Schools our Children Deserve by Alfie Kohn
Dec 20 – The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith

2019 Reading List
Jan 31 – The Self-Driven Child by William R Stixrud and Ned Johnson
Feb 28 – Educated by Tara Westover
Mar 28 – How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
Apr 25 – The Creativity Challenge by Kyung-Hee Kim
May 30 – Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
Jun 27 – Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Jul 25 – Small Animals by Kim Brooks
Aug 29 – Lifelong Kindergarten by Mitchel Resnick
Sep 26 – Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby
Oct 24 – Mindset by Carol Dweck
Nov 21 – Opening Minds by Peter H. Johnston
Dec 19 – Teacher Liberation Handbook by Joel Hammon

2020 Reading List
Jan 30 – The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King
Feb 27 – A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz *
Mar 26 – Hacking School Discipline by Nathan Maynard
April – Raising a Screen-Smart Kid by Julianna Miner
May – Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
June – The Years That Matter Most by Paul Tough
July – Education and the Significance of Life by Jiddu Krishnamurti
July – Learning in Depth by Kieran Egan
August – Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
September – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
October – Breath by James Nestor
November – Republic of Noise by Diana Seneschal
November – Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman
December – Raising Free People by Akilah Richards *

2021 Reading List
January – Curious by Ian Leslie
February – Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields
March – The Teenage Brain by Frances E Jensen, Amy Ellis Nutt
April – The Game Believes in You by Greg Toppo
May – Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchhart
June – Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J. Hanscom
July – Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
August –Unequal Childhoods by Annette Lareau
September –The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath
October – Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff
November – Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
December – Range by David Epstein

2022 Reading List
Jan – Upstream by Dan Heath
Feb – Untigering by Iris Chen *
Mar – Humankind by Rutger Bregman
Apr – The Playful Classroom by Jed Dearybury and Julie Jones
May – How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg
Jun – Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Jul – When You Wonder, You’re Learning by Gregg Behr
Aug – Raising Critical Thinkers by Julie Bogart *
Sep – The Power of Ritual by Casper ter Kuile
Oct – Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman *
Nov – Changing Our Minds by Naomi Fisher
Dec –The Orchid and the Dandelion by W. Thomas Boyce, M.D.

2023 Reading List
Jan – The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
Feb – Trust Kids! by carla bergman
Mar – Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman
Apr – The Art of Talking with Children by Rebecca Rolland
May – The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl
Jun – The Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon
Jul – Good Inside by Becky Kennedy
Aug – ADHD 2.0 by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey
Sep – Visual Thinking by Temple Grandin
Oct – Sensitive by Jenn Granneman
Nov – Growing Up in Public by Devorah Heitner *
Dec – Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

Note: We changed the name of the group to Education Conversations to emphasize that we would be going well beyond the confines of schooling.
* author will be / was present for the book group discussion