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Kids Books For Sudden Unschoolers

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[Image: Illustration from ‘On a Magical Do Nothing Day’ by Beatrice Alemagna. A nonbinary child wearing a bright orange raincoat leaps across a creek from rock to rock in the gray and drizzling rain. As they hop, their game device is forgotten, and falls from their hand toward the water.]

Unschooling for beginners

Really beginners. Like, we’re talking the first 24 hours of even considering how to get started here.

We’re settling into a new routine now that schools have shut down. We’ve started emotional triage with our kids and started talking about how they are handling the sudden upheaval of their daily lives for the foreseeable future. Awesome.

And now I guess we need to figure out what to do with ourselves with all  of this free time. Can we find some good in this and come out of it stronger? Can we find a way for the adults to work while the kids incessantly bicker and whine at us?

Or, at least, can we get through several weeks locked up together without eating our children like stressed out hamster parents?

At-Home Activism While Home With Kiddos

For those of us locked at home with little booger-factories to care for, the most powerful thing we can do now is to sit our asses down and stay home. That can be hard to hear for activists who want to get outside, to change the world and wrestle the kyriarchy to the ground with our bare hands.

It’s weird, right? We’ve been fed a steady diet of viral media, and the spread of that relies on outrage and visual artistry. If that’s all we see, of course we believe that real activism takes to the streets.

I mean – how else do we model courage and kindness for our kiddos?

We gather, we march, we hold hands, we bring gifts, we cook and nurse and have difficult face-to-face conversations. There is so much mobility and touching integral to visible activism. This has traditionally created accessibility issues for folks with disabilities and other challenges – including folks with heavy care-taking roles and lower mobility.

That quieter, keep-to-ourselves activism feels wish-washy and almost performative in the shadow of more bombastic activism. Are we too quiet? Too inactive? Is what we’re doing enough? Does the connection of activism have to be so…physical?

So we’re working on that and I’m assembling a book list for later. (If you’ve somehow managed to exhaust the years of archives on this website already, that is.) There are plenty of at-home activities in our Student Ignition Society tool kits that kids can do at home with internet access. Check out the immigrant solidarity toolkit, if you’re just itching to put those tiny humans to work.

Books to get kids excited!

Meanwhile, let’s discuss books about living under full-family house arrest like a bunch of loud, busy hamsters.

Wondering how to get your hands on germ-free books during library closures? Check out the previous post about empowering kids during Covid 19 isolation for how I’m hoping to keep our story time stocked up and critter-free.

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Books showing the value of boredom

For the next…who even knows how long, my kids will have to learn to entertain themselves while I lock them out of the house* so I can work. This is an opportunity for them to deal with frustration, boredom, and self-regulation. All the good stuff of creativity and innovation.

*Figuratively. I’m not going to literally lock them out. But I won’t judge if you do, because seriously they aren’t going to die of exposure after a couple hours in the yard. Also a few hours with a door muffling their loud nonsense prevents me from murdering them, which is good for their health, overall.

On A Magical Do Nothing Day, Everybody Needs A Rock Mattland

You might also like: Books For The Next Generation of Kind & Brilliant Leaders

Books about folks who used unstructured solitude to do great things

Lots of parents are freaking out about missed class and enrichment time. Calm down. Whether our kids learn to read right now or next year, it’s not going to make a huge difference in whether they get into the ivy leagues.

Rest assured that if your family can afford all those private tutors and enrichment activities, it’s not time with the books that is going to give your kids a leg up. It’s all that spare money you have to open connections, provide a mental safety net, and support them through unpaid internships! Perhaps a couple of weeks of unstructured time now might save kids some hours of therapy in the teen years.

I mean the fact that money was never an issue for all of these white folks, born into financial security certainly played the key role here. But for this purpose, we’re here to show kids that so long as their basic needs are met, taking this time to innovate and think undisturbed while locked away in isolation might be a good boost for creativity.

You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood, Ada Byron Lovelace & the Thinking Machine, Emily

Books about tenacious kids who deal with their own sh*t

To dissuade the kids from hounding me every 15 seconds to fix things that are broken and (AARRghghahg!) breaking things that are too fixed – we’re exploring lots of self-sufficient themes this week.

None of these books has a parent just desperately begging to be left alone so they can poop in silence, but I’m hoping they get the message.

Off & Away, The Most Magnificent Thing, The little pig, the bicycle, and the moon 

Books about active homeschooling

For bookish kids who are getting anxious about missing out, these can reassure kids who are worried about missed class time. I was one of these kids, and it would have been nice if an adult had been like “Dude, chill. Your brain is still learning stuff even when you’re not at a desk.”

This is my home, this is my school

Ages 5+


You might also like: Kids Books About Education Rights

Stay Curious, Stand Brave & Support Your Local Food Pantry

Many kids in your district rely on free school meals to survive. With shutdowns, families will be struggling to feed their kids. Make a donation to your local food pantry, which will be extra-strained during the Covid 19 shut down.

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