There is no end to the writing of books on education and for every book pulling one one way, there is another pulling differently. Although the best advice for finding what to do with your child, I think, is to start with looking at the details of which options are actually available to you as opposed to starting exclusively with the theory and a wish list of school qualities.
Nonetheless, here are the books that I think are the most useful for thinking about education from several perspectives.
Disclaimer: I don’t endorse less than half of half the books on this list, and I do endorse more than half of half the books removed from it.
There are no books on pedagogy here. Those will be for another time.
Books about Education and Learning
Why Knowledge Matters by E.D. Hirsch
Argues that a carefully planned curriculum that imparts communal knowledge is essential in achieving one of the most fundamental aims and objectives of education: preparing students for lifelong success. Hirsch examines historical and contemporary evidence from the United States and other nations, including France, and affirms that a knowledge-based approach has improved both achievement and equity in schools where it has been instituted.
The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them by E.D. Hirsch
Argues that, by disdaining content-based curricula while favoring abstract–and discredited–theories of how a child learns, the ideas uniformly taught by our schools have done terrible harm to America’s students. Instead of preparing our children for the highly competitive, information-based economy in which we now live, our schools’ practices have severely curtailed their ability, and desire, to learn.
The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan
Why we need to stop wasting public funds on education. Despite being immensely popular – and immensely lucrative – education is grossly overrated.
Why Students Don’t Like School by Thomas Willingham
Research-based insights and practical advice about effective learning strategies.
Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich
Schools have failed our individual needs, supporting false and misleading notions of ‘progress’ and development fostered by the belief that ever-increasing production, consumption and profit are proper yardsticks for measuring the quality of human life.
Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist
Home educator Laura Berquist presents a modern curriculum based on the time-tested philosophy of the classical Trivium—grammar, logic and rhetoric.
You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick
This classic gives nitty-gritty help for each subject in each grade. Become an informed, confident teacher, free from rigid textbooks. Learn how to individualize spelling; how to use “real books” in history, reading, and other studies; how to make arithmetic meaningful; how to avoid the grammar treadmill; how to develop advanced reading skills; and much more.
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer
How to give your child an academically rigorous, comprehensive education from preschool through high school―one that will train him or her to read, to think, to understand, to be well-rounded and curious about learning.
Home Education by Charlotte Mason
My attempt in the following volume is to the suggest to parents and teachers a method of education resting upon a basis of natural law; and to touch, in this connection, upon a mother’s duties to her children.
Hybrid Homeschooling: The Future of School by Mike McShane
A quiet, readable, encouraging guide to parents and educators, filled with examples, anecdotes and first-person accounts, on what may be the fastest growing sector in American education.
Charter Schoolsand Their Enemies by Thomas Sowell.
A leading conservative intellectual defends charter schools against the teachers’ unions, politicians, and liberal educators who threaten to dismantle their success.
The Death and Life of the American School by Diane Ravitch.
An urgent case for protecting public education, from one of America’s best-known education experts.