Changing Our Minds by Naomi Fisher

-Book Review-

I first met Naomi in 2015, the year my eldest child turned 8 years old. We both attended an unschoolers camp during the Spring time with our children, who found each other within the first few hours of arrival, and have been friends ever since.

We have spent many collective hours since then discussing children’s learning, mainstream schooling, unschooling, and parenting. All in snippets of conversation as we play alongside our children and navigate the world of unschooling. Most notably, for myself, Naomi has been a role model of the supportive adult that our children need.

I am both honoured and excited to have seen her book, Changing Our Minds, evolve from inception to completion. It has also been a privilege to contribute and officially endorse the book.

Again, and again through literature, we find the assumption that going to school is the best option for every child, and that not going to school is associated with poor outcomes in every way.

Naomi fisher
changing our minds
page 101

Choosing to educate our children outside of mainstream school can seem a daunting move, then, finding ourselves in a position whereby our children reject any school type instruction, or program, can feel overwhelming. This book challenges the idea that mainstream school is the gold standard and examines the true effects and lessons of twelve years of compulsory schooling. It then explores both the benefits and the practicalities of self-directed learning, a term used to describe an education driven by the learner themselves.

Changing Our Minds, brings together the educational theories, psychological research, experiential reports, and reflections from grown self-directed learners. Naomi expertly guides us through all of this whilst gently demonstrating, through case studies and relatable stories, how self-directed learning works in reality. Reminiscent of sitting around the kitchen table and talking through the ideas that are influencing our educational approach, Naomi writes in short digestible bursts (perfect for those with children at hand) whilst simultaneously leading through practical examples. This book will leave you confident in your educational choices, excited about the possibilities that lie ahead, and provide a guiding hand to lead the way.

Her strong advocacy and conviction for this educational approach is central to her writing and evident throughout the book but presented in a relaxed and informative style that leads you to thoughtfully consider the points raised. The scientific research discussed provides reasoning and evidence for approaching education in this way and, whilst extensive and wide ranging, Naomi explains it clearly and thoughtfully. At the same time, interviews with long standing advocates of self-directed education, and personal accounts, gives relatable context to the arguments outlined. Bringing together these different threads into one text has been compiled skillfully, in a succinct and thoughtful manner.

The process of deconstructing our own school like thinking and rebuilding our perspective of education is one that I personally recognise. Naomi Fisher interjects her writing with stories and reflections which will resonate with all of us who have children living outside of the school system. At one point I exclaimed out loud as a story unfolded and hit the nail on the head, such was its accuracy. These stories remind us that we are all learning (even the adults) and that how we choose to parent and educate our children has a fundamental impact on their lives. This process of unlearning and relearning begins with us but the ripple effect extends beyond ourselves, to our children.

When we, and our children, move beyond the school system, we are not simply giving up and “dropping out,” we are actively and purposefully opting in to an entirely different form of education. The narrative that school equates to good future prospects, and that leaving school amounts to poor outcomes is prevalent throughout western society. The message is repeated and echoed across tv, radio, news outlets, story books, and most notably in 2020, the core message from our government, as they promote back to school, telling the nation that “school…is the best place for [children’s] education and wellbeing.” (UK, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, August 2020.) Naomi Fisher’s book writes for us a new narrative. She confidently proposes that self-directed education empowers our children and enables them to become happy, healthy adults who are able to contribute to their wider communities, are enthused by learning, and the opportunities before them.

This book encourages you to actively change your relationships, environment and mindset. Naomi provides practical suggestions to implement on your own journey into self directed education, this includes elements that could be applied whilst your children continue to be in school, but largely cover your own deschooling and moving into unschooling or self-directed learning environments. It answers many of the common questions, and equips you with practical steps forward, so that as you become confident in this educational philosophy and enthused by the possibilities.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who wishes to empower their children and support them in their own unique learning journeys. To anyone who wishes to ground themselves firmly in their choice to pursue a life without school. It will sit on my bookshelf next to Peter Gray’s Free To Learn, which is high praise indeed, and is entirely deserving.

Published by heiditsteel

Teacher turned Unschooler: passionate about autonomous education and supporting our children's natural inclination towards learning through play.

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