Legendary learning : the famous homeschoolers’ guide to self-directed excellence, by Jamie McMillin

New to the book review list… Legendary learning : the famous homeschoolers’ guide to self-directed excellence, by Jamie McMillin.


Yet another random find while searching the online library catalogue, and I think it’ll go on the wish list!

From the website, a bit of a synopsis:

“Read about famous homeschoolers such as: Andrew Carnegie, Agatha Christie, Louis Armstrong, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Robert Frost, John Muir, Walt Whitman. Find out what these legends had in common, how they were raised and how they found success. Their fascinating stories will inspire you to think about homeschooling in a whole new way–beyond curriculum, test scores and “keeping up with the school kids.” You will discover how to: Unleash your child’s unique creative genius and power; Cultivate passion and determination; Allow your child to direct his or hear own education; Create an authenitc atmosphere of learing; Live the habits of success”

While I’m not so familiar with all the people McMillin researched, their stories are interesting, diverse and inspiring.  She also includes some biographical information on other (more familiar to me!) famous people, like Beatrix Potter… She is writing of a time when children were certainly freer than now, in some ways school was less demanding and children were vulnerable to exploitation for cheap or free labour and other forms of abuse, which are not issues that affect most western children these days.  Though all of the children in this book spent some period of time attending school, the really exciting and life shaping learning happened elsewhere, either as they were free and trying to survive, were part of a hard-working family, or were homeschooled, using some of the oldest and perhaps lesser known methods of home educating.  Interesting to me, is that all the examples in the book lived well before modern technologies such as computers and cell phones, so literally quite a different world, but still relevant.

Luna pt chev

What stood out to me?  For children to thrive, they need an environment that is conducive to learning, at best, where they feel loved and safe.  McMillin covers what such an environment may be like.  She also notes that many of the children who grew to become scientists or naturalists spent vast amounts of time outdoors, observing, playing, studying, at their ‘leisure’ or on their own terms.  And quite bluntly notes that people don’t become insightful scientists by just reading about science, they learn by doing, living in and becoming intimate with the natural world around them, they get their hands dirty, they play, experiment and try out ideas.

Finally, the concept of ‘Connecting the dots’ was a good reminder, that in looking back you can see how a young childs interests may contribute to and inform their long term passions.  That sometimes, children need to pursue something to reach a short term goal or master a particular skill to complete an activity, but often times, a childhood interest – or diverse interests – come together later in life to aid them in realising their vocation, or allow them to become masters in their own field.  Also essential are those great role models, either with experience and knowledge to share, or simply adults who were motivated, took hold of life and loved learning.  Because McMillin chose well known people, these connections were obvious, and resulted in a powerful reminder to trust that children learn what they need to learn when they learn it, and that they need to own their learning.

What did I get out of this that I’m taking on board?  Probably to trust the process, in reflecting on what our days and activities are like, I want to spend even more time outdoors!  On a personal level, all this fabulous information about how children learn is not so different to how any human learns, this has made me think critically about my own education and path of learning… inspiring me to keep working on what I enjoy and am good at, one day, that may turn into ‘work’, ‘work’ that generates income.  Fingers crossed!


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