Books and Articles

Current Staff Favorites

Free To Learn
by Dr. Peter Gray

This is a book we recommend to those new to Self-Directed Education as an accessible, well-written introduction by one of the most foremost experts on the topic.

Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings
by Dr. David Lancy

A little more dense than Free to Learn, this book is a great for those interested in how human ideas about childhood have changed over time and how the influence of such changes on our ideas about education.

Far From The Tree
by Andrew Solomon

While in every relationship the individuals involved are magnificent, strange universes, sometimes reading striking illustrations–such as these case studies in which parents reflect on their relationships with their distinctly different children–helps us reflect on our perspectives and relationships.

Super Parents, Super Children

by Frances Kendall

This one is a parenting book lent to one of our facilitators in her first year. She credits it with helping her find language for ideas about responsibility, consequences, and engaging with young people in a way that’s more about empowerment than control.

How to Love

by Thich Nhat Hanh

We relate to facilitation as a practice, because our facilitation is connected to our work being in relationship in ways that recognize, cherish, celebrate, and make space for the continued blossoming of the best in all involved. This is a book we keep on hand (and frequently replace quietly when curious minds pocket the school copy), along with its companion booklet True Love, because it has lots of light, clear action steps tied to the kind of love we’re trying to practice.

Here’s the Brainpickings synopsis.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish, Kimberly Ann Coe

A popular book within the ALF community, this one was introduced to us early on by a parent who had found it helpful in her relationship with her kid. It’s come up at trainings since, suggested by both facilitators and parents, most recently for the insights about problem-solving.

Emergent Strategy

by adrienne maree brown

Part of how some of us came to this work was through exploring how change happens in individuals and societies. At some point, “how can we grow and support the growth of other humans?” spiraled out to “how can we seed and nurture the growth of new communities?”

Articles by Mel Compo, Nancy Tilton, Rebecka Koritz, and more!

Agile Learning Facilitators from across the network have contributed articles to Tipping Points, the publication run by the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. In addition to those named above, Abby Oulton and David O’Connor have also contributed pieces. You can read the archives or subscribe at


aka How To Think Like An Unschooler

It’s a piece worth checking out.

What happens when Unschoolers grow up?

Peter Gray’s post here links to the results of a study on outcomes for grown unschoolers. And it’s fascinating…

Lockhart’s Lament

On maths, both in reality and according to conventional schooling…

Self-Directed Education Classics

Further Reading

There are tons of other resources relevant for Self-Directed Education, Agile Learning Centers, facilitation, self-reflection, how we learn, schooling versus education, etc.  Sometimes they’re clearly related (like Akilah Richards’ amazing podcast, Blake Boles’ work, and anything on Adventure Playgrounds). Sometimes they’re less obvious (like The Little Prince movie, bell hooks’ writings, Neofuturist shows, and the Bronx Zoo lion sign explaining how cubs learn through play). There’s recognized education texts like Freire, Dewey, and Vygotsky in my head. There’s resources on Reggio or Montessori philosophies. The work of Dr. Monique W. Morris or Rev. angel kyodo williams. Erich Fromm. bell hooks. Ta-Nehisi Coates. Zora Neale Hurston. 

The learning is abundant, once we start looking and learn to recognize it.

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