156 of 158 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2000
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.
113 of 114 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2005
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.
122 of 127 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2003
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.
I've been unschooling for a year now, and I love it. I've never been happier, and my only regret is that many of my friends go to school and we can't do much together during the day.
Unschooling is hard, but it's the best thing that has ever happened to me. TLH should be required reading.
63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2005
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. It discerns a difference between "education" and "school," and poses education as a far greater and broader concept than school. Further, the book illustrates students' struggles within the school system. (Failures of the school system might be more fully explicated in the book The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher's Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling by the award winning former teacher John Taylor Gatto).
Llewellyn makes the point that relying purely on the modern compulsory school system as a source for education may mean missing out on a lot of meaningful, real-world experiences and learning opportunities, and she encourages teens not to settle for mediocrity or a one-size-fits-all approach to education. She employs "unschooling" as an alternative means to school, and through the principles of unschooling, Llewellyn encourages teens to excel in education by creating a "tailor-made learning extravaganza:" seeking mentors, taking classes, reading books, going places that inspire (personally meaningful) learning. An overall theme of this book is to not wait until "after high school" to create the life one aspires to, rather to take responsibility for pursuing the life you aspire to live, right now.
Perhaps not all teens need this message, but I did: My parents expected little of me outside of my standard public school academics. I dispassionately attended school and made good grades, but it wasn't until reading the grandiose vision of The Teenage Liberation Handbook that my perspective was broadened. It begged me to think, "Is there more to learning than school? How is school helping me achieve my goals, and so what are my goals? What communities do I participate in, and how do I contribute? What are my interests and passions?"
After reading this book, I recognized that the modern school path could be ordinary and impersonal, and the Teenage Liberation Handbook became my permission slip for a field trip into the great beyond...beyond the system into a world where I could think big, achieve academically or otherwise, and stop selling myself short of my potential.
Indeed, The Teenage Liberation Handbook encouraged me to do the implausible: quit school and participate in the world in new ways, set goals, seek out resources and mentors, value adults for their wisdom and experience and engage in activities that would shape my future...I had a new sense of freedom and personal responsibility. Never again would I be "bored" because Llewellyn raised the stakes: I could actively pursue an education that was highly valuable to me, or passively attend school, taking it for whatever its worth. I no longer wanted a pre-packaged educational experience handed to me with a diploma/receipt. I assumed the role of "lead character" in the story of my own life, dreaming, earning and striving for Llewellyn's type of personally-meaningful, ongoing education. I completed my high school education through correspondence school while continuing to learn and evolve through other learning tactics.
Howard Thurman said "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." I decided I was a kinesthetic learner and an artist and I took college courses and apprenticed in areas that nurtured those qualities I cherished most in myself. Moreover, I began, at age 17, to shape my life, consciously.
...Yes, the concepts proposed in this book are idealistic and appeal to the emotions; the very nature of this book is philosophical, dealing and concepts like "liberation" and values like "getting a real life." I suggest reading this unorthodox book for what it is, and formulating your own opinion of whether Llewellyn's empathetic approach detracts from or inspires the book's message of liberation. To put the book in context, the author was 26 when she wrote it, and she called it a "wild-card."
George Carlin said, "Some people see things that are and ask, 'Why?' Some people dream of things that never were and ask, 'Why not?' Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that ..."
If you are satisfied with your overall educational process or simply don't care to ponder the value of your schooling, this book may not be for you. However, if you are a teen falling short of your potential (even if you plan to remain in school or homeschool already), or if you or someone you know is currently frustrated or dissatisfied with your current school experience, you may find this book helpful in helping yourself.
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2006
"She had the ambition of Napoleon and the talent of your average high school valedictorian."
This Ernest Hemingway quotation supposedly about his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, somehow fits with the spirit of The Teenage Liberation Handbook. Though I don't agree with Hemingway's assessment of Gellhorn, I couldn't help but think of it when reading this book.
Grace Llewellyn's THL is not just a volume about how to homeschool (though she prefers the term "unschool," with self-directed learning based on ever-expanding interests being the primary occupation of young people). The book is also a direct attack on American schools, particularly high schools, and how they have managed to turn truly fascinating subjects into a series of meaningless assignments, make learning a chore and create lemmings out of otherwise bright and alive individuals. Because of their dictatorship tactics ("Jane, could you please go to the bathroom before class starts?" "Harry, this is not math class, so please put your math book away!"), Llewellyn posits, schools undermine the very basis of American democracy. And you know what? She's right.
At the beginning, Llewellyn recounts her own experience with the epitome of anti-democratic institutions known as the American (and not just public) school. In a telling anecdote, she relates how she and some friends joined forces in junior high school to circulate a petition indicting the school lunchroom for serving food unfit to eat. Several students signed the petition, only for it to be confiscated by a teacher and relayed to the principal. Llewellyn's friends had to report to the principal, who informed them that there would be no more complaints or petitions about lunchroom food or anything else. At that same time, Llewellyn sent a letter to the governor of her state, who responded, gave her a resource to contact about the quality of her school's food, and thanked her and her friends for promoting democracy. Now, is anyone shocked that the school squelched this most basic freedom of expression while an elected politician encouraged it? Hardly.
But not only do schools rob their students of their fundamental rights as Americans, they also make learning a tasteless, dull chore. Think about the people who scored the top grades in your school--were they bright, alive, vibrant individuals who loved learning and had a curiosity about every subject that they turned into excellent grades? Not at my school. Instead, they had "the talent of your average high school valedictorian." They knew how to manipulate the system and come away from it without being the slightest bit improved by their "education." I don't think they were exceptions.
Llewellyn pulls out all the stops in her critique of school. It's an outdated, archaic institution that makes slaves out of people whom it should be liberating. This critique is not too strong. After reading this book, I felt vindicated in all the frustration and resentment I ever felt in middle and high school.
A diatribe against schooling would have been enough for me to like this book, but Llewellyn outdoes herself by showing how to make unschooling all it can be. She warns against reconstructing school at home and instead offers countless resources for teens wanting to take their education into their own hands.
I passed this book along to my cousin, who homeschools her three children but so far has more or less stuck to "school at home." In reading just a few pages, she's already made some changes that have benefited both her and her children. I can't wait to see what happens when she finishes the book.
A note to parents: Llewellyn operates from the assumption that you all love your teens beyond belief and want what's best for them. Therefore, her advice to teens follows the reasoning that they should help you come to see that "rising out" of school is the best for them. Listen closely, and read the book. I know from personal experience that self-directed learning will prepare a student for college better than pretty much any high school could hope to.
60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2002
I was a very fortunate person as I knew Grace Llewellyn personally and was privelaged to read a copy of the book when it first came out. When I she told me about the book I rolled my eyes and shrugged my shoulders, "that's Grace" I thought. I felt certain that I would find the book well written but would disagree with it right down to the premise. I had an excellent High School experience and held a BA from a very good private college. I felt that schooling had been to my beneifit.
But when I read the book my reaction was one of sorrow and outrage that I had not had this book when I was a teenager. I gave it to my Mom to read and she is now a huge supporter of Ms. Llewellyn's work as well. This is significant as my mother is a former community college administrator.
Reading this book is risky, dangerous, frightening. It will open your eyes to truths you don't want to know and ideas you don't want to think. It will make you question the systems we have set up for education. It might make you quit school, it might make you wish you had.
145 of 162 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2003
One thing I can say for this book is that it definitely reaches its intended audience - that is, children and teenagers who are unhappy in school and want an alternative. It is inflammatory in its wordings and its ideals, and sometimes that's exactly what a teenager needs to shift them into gear.
However, at fifteen, a year and a half after becoming an 'autodidact', I can definitely appreciate the pros and cons of both homeschooling and public schooling, something the author seems completely unable to do. In my case, there are several things that I miss from public school that, while not impossible, are hard to do in my particular homeschooling situation. Sports and Music being the most prominent examples. And while I can't imagine giving up my academic freedom at this point, especially since I'm beginning college next year, there are details that Llewellyn either glosses over or doesn't mention entirely while describing unschooling, and many of them are important.
Homeschooling, especially teaching yourself, takes a lot of dedication and hard work. This is not an easy ride. The nice thing about public school is that information is generally laid out in a orderly, understandable manner. You don't have this when you're searching through your library trying to figure out how to give yourself a comprehensive education on your own. And the internet, while a brilliant resource, is even more confusing.
Llewellyn talks about how you can go from homeschooling to college just as easy or easier than if you went to public school. This is only true if you study. I don't care how much someone thinks that playing video games all day will help them when they're a game designer, if you don't have basic math and english enough to write an essay without dropping into webspeak, then you're essentially screwed when it comes to college.
While I'd recommend this to any truly desperate-to-get-out-of-school teenager, especially if there is no chance of them graduating on time or even at all, I'd also recommend that they read more than just this one book and have a good idea of what they're getting into before they make a commitment. And the more help you can get from learned adults, the better!
44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2002
I read the reviews on this site, yet it took me a full year before I finally picked up the book at my local library. One of the reasons I didn't pick up this book earlier, is that I didn't realize it would contain over 400 pages chock-full of truly fascinating ideas capable of changing my life. (It's not full of pictures and fancy boxes with quotes that take up half a page -- it's ALL great information.) A second reason I didn't pick up this book earlier is that I didn't realize it could have such a profound effect on the life of a college freshman who had already lost his chance to quit school. I was wrong -- this is a book about how to live life. I'm a motivated self-learner (as we all could be, although many of us don't realize it). Many of the ideas, books, movies, and activities suggested in this book had already changed my life when I discovered them on my own. I'm excited because there are so many things suggested in this book that I haven't yet tried, which I'm sure will bring my understanding of the world to a new level. And it's already done that. (This book has motivated me to study the politics of alternative education in Germany and Denmark this summer -- in which many of my interests come together: education, language, politics, and culture, and travel. It's a book about how to "advance confidently in the direction of your dreams," as Thoreau said in "Walden."
First, I recommend this book to teenagers (or anyone old enough to read it) who thinks they don't have any options. If you've never thought quitting school as an option, read this book. It may very well change your life. (Even if you still want a high school diploma, or want to participate in school sports, Grace Llewellyn amazingly shows how you can still achieve these goals).
It's definitely not a book just for teenagers (and it probably wouldn't be considered such if it weren't for the title.) It's intelligently written, and the treasures contained in this book are for everyone. It's ultimately about how to live the life you've always wanted to live by following your dreams. It's a book about taking advantage of the educational resources that we don't realize are all around us. It helps us to realize that most of us have simply forgotten how to learn. It includes many suggestions for helping us regain our natural desire to learn about our world. Things you never found interesting in school, if approached in a new way, might just fascinate you! I've never found a single book with so much new and fascinating information about how to live a fulfilling life.
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2001
Words cannot say how grateful I am for this book. I have hated school ever since I was a child, but I was always told that it was something I had to deal with. This book gave me the courage to question that dearly-held belief, and the courage to trust in my abilities to learn on my own. The decision to start home-schooling was the most difficult, and the most rewarding thing I have ever done for myself. In the past year I have learned more about myself than I have in all my 10 years of public school. I have learned that I CAN be independant, and I CAN make my own decisions, and I CAN be treated like an adult.
This book contains a lot of new ideas that will probably make many people very uncomfortable. It will shake up your beliefs about school and will make you think twice about some of the concepts in your life you have been taught to accept. But even so, it always remains respectful. It is not a book about degrading and defacing public schools or teachers. It is a book about empowering teenagers to get off their butts and start taking responsibility for their own life. It is a book that inspires self-reliance, confidence, and a genuine love of learning.
If I had my way, this book would be required reading for every teen going into high school. Everyone deserves to hear about the wonderful opportunities that lie outside of school. It's sad that most teens are still in the dark, thinking they have no options.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2007
After reading this book at the age of 17, I got a GED, went to community college, and now hold a Master's in English. As a highschool student I had a 1.7 GPA and as a graduate student my GPA was a 3.8. I have Grace Llewellyn to thank.
This book gave me the courage to step away from public school and follow my own path. I realized how much energy I was wasting rebelling against a system I could just walk away from.
God bless Grace Llewellyn.