Sunday, October 06, 2013

Review: Legendary Learning

People homeschool for many reasons.  My main reason?  A desire for a quality education for my children.  I am, of course, also concerned about the idea of children being taught morals by other children.  That doesn't sound like a good plan to me. But my primary motivation?  I want my children to learn.  And love to learn.  And know how to learn new things on their own.  And have time to pursue their own interests, not bogged down by a too long school day followed by ridiculous dictates on what they do with their precious few hours of home time (aka homework)!

Since homeschool requires quite a bit of my time and energy I am understandably always reading new books on how children learn and how to provide the best environment for them.  It's my job!  I started out my journey reading books on classical education.  Classical education appeals to  me because I'm a creature of habit and order and because it is familiar.  Lately I've ventured into more foreign territory - exploring student directed learning, unschooling, and democratic schools.  It's a crazy world of choices out there!

One of my favorite books is a newer one, entitled Legendary Learning: The Famous Homeschoolers' Guide to Self Directed Excellence.  It is by Jamie McMillin and I enjoyed it so much that I read it twice!  The first time I read it on Kindle because I keep trying to convince myself that I should be moving towards electronic books.  When I finished it I had a problem - I loved the book and wanted to reread it, with the ability to mark it and tag it and highlight it.  But I couldn't quite justify buying a second copy of it when I already had one, that's wasteful!  So I wrote Jamie and asked if I could review the book.  Luckily for me she said yes and I'm the happy and content owner of the digital AND physical copies now.

Legendary Learning is an exploration of how famous and successful individuals from history were home educated.  Why famous leaners?  Because, as Jamie points out, they are the ones we have records on.  Fame is not equal to success but it is a good subset of successful individuals to study due to availability of info.

Jamie is a homeschool Mom herself, which I like.  The stories about how she's applied the principles of self directed learning in her own home made the book more "real" to me.  What exactly IS self directed excellence, as stated in the book's title?  It is the paths that children follow when given the chance to learn about what they want to.  When given the ability to provide input (that is listened to!) about what they want to study kids are more likely to be passionate about learning.  They're more likely to remember what they learn.  And they're more likely to want to learn more!

Think about it.  In schools (and with some homeschool curriculum packages) we force feed children a prescribed and very specific set of information.  We can make them sit there while we do this, but we can't make them internalize or remember it.  We can't MAKE them excited.  I don't think this qualifies as learning (or as an education, for that matter).  When children are exposed to different options and allowed to roam where their interests lead, on the other hand, meaningful learning is happening.

Here are a few things I like about this book.

  • The structure.  It's divided into discussion on three areas that work together to provide an optimal learning environment.  Passion, determination, and atmosphere.  The chapters are short and offer doable advice on how to implement the material.
  • As mentioned above, the book discussions passion and determination.  In other words it discusses character formation!  It is crazy to me how many books on education neglect this core - without a child who can stick at it when things get tough, and without a child who is eager to learn - you're not going to get anywhere fast.
  • The conversational tone.  It was an easy read that I was eager to come back to every day.
  • The middle ground struck.  This isn't an extremest book about unschooling, but more of view on how you can become more effective at teaching and become more child directed.  Most of the stories about famous learners in this book show that there was still a guiding influence by the parents that provided the basic framework of learning (the reading, writing, and math), but then the children were encouraged and allowed the resources and space to work at what they wanted.
  • The awesome resource list at the end of the book.  I want to read every book on the list!  But until I find the time to do that (haha!) I'm glad that all these great resources have been used and tied together by Jamie.
  • The author's obvious passion for the subject, and for children!  The book ends with this thought: "We each have all the genius we need to live an extraordinary life."  Wouldn't it be amazing if we could convince our children of this?  With a toolbox that gives them the ability to learn new skills, and the confidence that they have the genius necessary to be extraordinary, they can do anything!  Extraordinary, I believe, simply means living up to our divine potential - finding what we are passionate about and becoming the best that we can at whatever that may be.  What an amazing way to live!

If you are interested, Jamie has a great blog that you can find here.  One of my favorite posts is this one, on *gaps* in curriculum and what to do (or, rather, not do!) about them.  You can also read the first chapter of the book for free, on the website, if you want to get a better idea for the tone of the book.  The sign up is on the right hand side of the main page.

Interested in diving into more about student lead learning?  This book is a quick, delightful, AND motivational read.  I highly recommend it if you're struggling to figure out exactly how to provide the best educational environment for your kids.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book for review purposes (at my request!).  All opinions expressed, however, are 100% mine!

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