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The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education Paperback – September 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

You won't find this book on a school library shelf--it's pure teenage anarchy. While many homeschooling authors hem and haw that learning at home isn't for everyone, this manifesto practically tells kids they're losers if they do otherwise. With the exception of a forwarding note to parents, this book is written entirely for teenagers, and the first 75 pages explain why school is a waste of time. Grace Llewellyn insists that people learn better when they are self-motivated and not confined by school walls. Instead of homeschooling, which connotes setting up a school at home, Llewellyn prefers "unschooling," a learning method with no structure or formal curriculum. There are tips here you won't hear from a school guidance counselor. Llewellyn urges kids to take a vacation--at least for a week--after quitting school to purge its influence. "Throw darts at a picture of your school" or "Make a bonfire of old worksheets," she advises. She spends an entire chapter on the gentle art of persuading parents that this is a good idea. Then she gets serious. Llewellyn urges teens to turn off the TV, get outside, and turn to their local libraries, museums, the Internet, and other resources for information. She devotes many chapters to books and suggestions for teaching yourself science, math, social sciences, English, foreign languages, and the arts. She also includes advice on jobs and getting into college, assuring teens that, contrary to what they've been told in school, they won't be flipping burgers for the rest of their days if they drop out.

Llewellyn is a former middle-school English teacher, and she knows her audience well. Her formula for making the transition from traditional school to unschooling is accompanied by quotes on freedom and free thought from radical thinkers such as Steve Biko and Ralph Waldo Emerson. And Llewellyn is not above using slang. She capitalizes words to add emphasis, as in the "Mainstream American Suburbia-Think" she blames most schools for perpetuating. Some of her attempts to appeal to young minds ring a bit corny. She weaves through several chapters an allegory about a baby whose enthusiasm is squashed by a sterile, unnatural environment, and tells readers to "learn to be a human bean and not a mashed potato." But her underlying theme--think for yourself--should appeal to many teenagers. --Jodi Mailander Farrell


"Bursting with ... wise guidance .... the sole inspiration for ... an endeavor we thought was out of the question." -- The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog

The TLH is more than a book. It’s a map . . Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always thought provoking... -- In2Print Magazine, Fall 1997

The single essential book for those who value learning but not school... a complete tool kit. . . -- LUNO (Learning Unlimited Network of Oregon), April 1992

Will . . . embolden homeschoolers to be courageously creative . . . and will encourage parents to trust their children’s choices. -- Clonlara Home Based Education Program

[Llewellyn’s] enthusiasm. . ., great faith in kids, and... wonderful educational possibilities she presents will make her book tantalizing reading.... --Booklist, October 15, 1991

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 435 pages
  • Publisher: Lowry House Pub; Rev Exp edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0962959170
  • ISBN-13: 978-0962959172
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

159 of 162 people found the following review helpful By Carrie Laben on February 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Most people were miserable in school. Most people have been convinced that school was good, even necessary for them. The unfortunate result is that many people believe that being miserable was good for them and will be good for their children. This is far from a healthy attitude.
This book presents evidence that even the most ardent defender of the status quo will be hard-pressed to dismiss out of hand; the unschoolers who went to Harvard, the youthful acheivers in every field from theatre to animal science, the testimonials of parents who report that their 'dropout' kids are now happier, more relaxed, less sullen, and brighter.
Though the author's tone is often that of the impassioned hippie lady, it adds to rather than detract from this essentially idealistic and hopeful book.
This book is for all the teenagers, and all the adults who still have the spine to think that just maybe they didn't deserve to be miserable as kids.
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115 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Lund on March 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
Are you thinking about home-schooling or un-schooling but still have some doubts? Then read this book. I wish I had read it in time.

My parents and I talked off and on about homeschooling from the 7th grade on, but always rejected it for one reason or another.
First we feared I would lose all social content, then my mother was scared off by all the work she would have to do to "teach" me, and when I got to high school we dismissed home-schooling altogether, since you "have to" have a high school diploma and do normal high school course work to go to college. After I finally escaped from high school by graduating a year early, I asked my parents if I could take a year off before college. My intention was to do some self-study and just figure out more of what I wanted. They immediately said no. I wonder if, had they read this book, they might have answered differently.

After reading Llewellyn's book, I realize none of our reasons for rejecting homeschooling were valid. I was a smart, self-motivated teenager who hated school. Had I unschooled, I believe my high-school years would have much happier, as well as more intellectually productive.

With all that said, this book is not flawless. Llewellyn has a tendency to descend into some mystical metaphors that aren't really my cup of tea. Skip the first chapter with the "fruit" story on the first read.

I highly recommend this book. It will change the way you think about school, and if you decide to un-school, it is chock-full of great ideas and resources for furthering your intellectual development.
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130 of 136 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book changed my life.
When I was thirteen, bored with school, I was given this book. It took me one long hard summer to convince my parents to let me unschool, but I did. I haven't looked back since.
When I read this book, my immediate thought is: "I am the luckiest teenager in the world to be given this book." I loved myself, my life, and I was so happy I was leaving. It also made me angry that I hadn't left school earlier, that I'd been tricked by everyone.
I know, I know. You're all wondering about social concerns, right? Well I go to school and have lunch with my friends once a week. I also occasionally stay after school with friends and watch football games or sports. I am involved in the school's after school activities and am considering joining our high school's choir. Just because you're leaving school doesn't mean you leave all of it's benefits! You recieve the best parts of both worlds!
However, unschooling is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I love it. I've learned so much more than school ever taught me, as much about life as about academics. If I don't do my "work," I don't just get a bad grade and forget about it. It still needs to be done, and I've learned to just do it.
In response to what another viewer said (It's harder to look in the library for something to give yourself in education--in school everything is laid out) I agree with that. It's true. I've learned how to look through a library and find that. I've learned to ask the librarians, my parents, and former teaches for suggestions. I've learned how to find things on my own. Also, someone mentioned that Grace "glossed over" things, and I'd like to say that I believe the reason she did that was because each state/country is different about how it deals with unschoolers.
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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful By B. Andrews on February 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have read this book and would like to point out several erroneous ideas of other reviewers:

First, I read the Teenage Liberation Handbook at age 17 and was not in any way convinced or persuaded that this book endorses the idea of experimenting with illegal substances, though it does mention them briefly.

Second, that a more suitable title for this book is "Let's skip college and live on a farm handbook," is highly implausible. That reviewer suggests that the book is useless to any reader who aspires to 1.attend college or 2.NOT live on a farm. Contrary to the cover-photo on one edition of the book, it doesn't cover farm life and DOES get intimate with the process of getting into college (in fact, there's a chapter allocated to just that). I know unschoolers in urban (San Francisco, Cincinnati, New York, Sydney) as well as rural places and who, as young as age 16, attend colleges and universities. Further, this book suggests resources for attending college such as the book Homeschooling for Excellence by David Colfax and Micki Colfax and others such as And What About College?: How Homeschooling Leads to Admissions to the Best Colleges & Universities by Cafi Cohen.

Lastly, to the reviewer who suggested that the author MUST be a high school failure...Llewellyn explains her perfectly ordinary (or should I say, "above average") educational background, from high school through college, and she does so in the first part of the book.


As for myself, I find this book to be a beneficial resource.
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