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Book Reviews March: Kylie


Now that Otto is just a little older, he is spending more time engrossed in independent play, mostly outdoors (!) and I have been able to spend a whole lot more time reading. Today I'm sharing a few books that I've enjoy over March. 

The Brave Learner: Finding Everday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life by Julie Bogart. This is more  about parenting than homeschooling. The Brave Learner contains a lot of ideas for promoting natural learning at home. It contains ideas for creating a learning environment and material suggetions, including ways to lay them out. There are tips on how to find enchantment or magic in the everyday or 'garden-veriety days'. Very useful if you are trying to ignite you child's passion for learning - which I think we all are at some time.

The author's tone is really warm and positive and I couldn't put this one down. I love the concept that everything (from maths to history) can be taught through anything (including your child's passions). This is casual, friendly, easy reading which gave me warm fuzzies. The author is inspiring and I found The Brave Learner motivating. If you are struggling with ideas on how to home educate or create home learning environments with a touch of whimsy, this may be for you. This runs down the unschooling line but could work in a Montessori home. 


Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children by Angela J. Hanscom. This is my favourite read this month and possibly this year. While the focus is on the benefits of free outdoor play the arguments and supporting evidence are different to other books I've read. The author really focuses on strengthening our chidlren's bodies, stimulating all senses and removing barriers to outdoor play. There are suggestions on ways to engage children outdoors essentially from birth, which is fantastic if you want to spend more time outside with your child but don't know what to do, or if you need support designing outdoor learning spaces. 

Barefoot and Balanced has inspired me to try new and different activities outdoors. This is 110% compatible with Montessori parenting. It is easy to read and follow. I appreciate that the author covers children from birth, often books which discuss outdoor play don't include infants. I have highlighted so much in this book for future reference.


The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids by Alexandra Lange. From Froebel Cubes, unit blocks, LEGO to Minecraft, the author examines the impact of the material world on our children's development, looking at the educational potiental of toys and the environment. I found it fairly intense and would recommend it for education and design enthusiasts including toy designers, architects and anyone creating educational spaces. 

The Design of Childhood covers blocks, house/home, school, playground and the city. The author even makes a few toy recommendations which I love. It contains only a few diagrams and photographs in black and white, and I wish there were more and in colour. The Design of Childhood looks at the environment in different educational settings, and how children use spaces which is refreshing and also really informative. I enjoyed the discussion on the history of child size furniture with a Montessori-like perspective. "Designers who consider the whole child - and reject simply making miniture versions of adult products or rendering them decoratively juvenile - continue to contribute objects and environments that extend the ability of design to improve and transform everyday life."

On the Tripp Trapp high chair the designer Peter Opsvik asks "Why shouldn't children of that age be able to climb up and down from the chair when they want to?" This is at a time when children were expected to conform and to be contained. The Design of Childhood is thoroughly enjoyable. 


Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play WIll Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray. There is a lot of science and research in this book, there is also a lot about the history of schools and education. I found this difficult to review. While many topics discussed are in line with Montessori such as multi age learning groups, supporting the child's indpendence and risk taking, and, self directed learning, it really favours an unschooling approach. The section on hunter-gatherers is too long and it was difficult to follow the comparisons to modern day living. Free to Learn is insightful and informative regarding how children learn. If you favour unschooling it's likely you will enjoy this. If you are sitting on the fence or interested in different ways to educate, I think you'll appraciate this author's work. 

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SCHEMAS A Practical Handbook by Laura England. I recommend all parents of toddlers read up on schemas, they can help us to understand our child's behaviour and assist in their development. Knowing the schema your child is in can help us to provide appropriate toys, materials and learning opportunities. The book comprehensively covers schemas and provides examples of how they can be used with children in practice.

I find this complimentary to the Montessori approach where observation forms the basis of the prepared environment. Although this could be used by early education specialists it's also useful for parents. SCHEMAS A Practical Handbook is approachable, easy to read and it's also easy to read in chucks, you can read a bit and put it down and come back later. I highly recommend this to parents with little to no knowledge on schemas.

Please let me know your thoughts on any of these books and give me your recommendations for next month. 

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