I never realized how many books that I read when I was a kid were forming my thoughts about education. Here are just a few of the books or authors whose characters pursued alternative or home-schooled methods of education:
~ Books by Louisa May Alcott (an advocate of learning through life, not just academics)
~ The “Pippi Longstocking” series by Astrid Lindgren
~ “Ballet Shoes” and “Dancing Shoes” by Noel Streatfield
~ The “Borrowers” series by Mary Norton
~ “The Chronicles of Chrestomanci” series by Diana Wynne Jones (still a favorite today!)
~ “Dark Lord of Derkholm” by Diana Wynne Jones
~ The entire “Redwall” series by Brian Jacques
~ “From The Mixed-Up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler“ by E.L. Konisburg
~ “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri
~ The “Littles” series by John Peterson and Roberta Carter Clark
~ Most of the early American Girl books; I didn’t like the dolls, even though my sister had one, but I did enjoy the stories!
~ “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George
~ “The Sign of the Beaver” by Elizabeth George Speare
~ “Nim’s Island” by Wendy Orr (not the movie, which I didn’t like)
~ “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett
~ “Skellig” by David Almond
Growing up, it seemed perfectly reasonable to me that a child did most of his or her learning outside a school building. Most of the time the child’s greatest periods of growth occurred through their own discoveries, or with their family, or through a hard trial which took all their resources, ingenuity, and independent learning to solve. Academics seemed to be just one small area of a child’s education; at least, that’s what the books I read implied, and I believed it was true because that was what I found in my own life as well.
Here’s a wonderful example of how my thoughts were shaped during those formative childhood years.
My sister used to read the Magic Tree House series when she was little. Never one to turn down a good story, even if it was meant for children a few years younger than me, I would always read them too. In Osborne’s eighteenth book, “Buffalo Before Breakfast”, little Jack and Annie travel in the Magic Tree House to a tribe of Lakota native Americans on the Great Plains in the 19th century. They make a friend named Black Hawk, a young Lakota boy. Jack, always eager to interview people, decides to ask him about his life:
“What about school?” said Jack. “Don’t you have to go to school?”
“What is school?” Black Hawk said.
“It’s a place where kids go to learn things,” Jack explained.
Black Hawk laughed again.
“There is not only one place to learn,” he said. “In camp we learn to make clothes, tools, and tepees. On the plains we learn to ride and hunt. We look at the sky and learn courage from the eagle.”
Lakota school is everywhere.