Posted by: whimsigal | May 29, 2007

A Book Review and Lessons Learned

This holiday weekend was spent hanging out with family, catching up on housework, and reading A.S. Neill’s book, Freedom – Not License. It was interesting to read a book, written over 40 years ago on a topic that even by today’s standards seems avant garde. I cannot imagine what the reaction was when this book was introduced in 1966. While it is not a book about homeschooling, many of the ideals presented by Mr. Neill certainly fit well with unschooling. It is actually set up much like Rue Kream’s book in that it is sectioned off with questions followed by answers. I really like this format because if there is something that doesn’t apply to me then I can easily skip over it and not worry that I’m missing something pertinent to my situation. Also, it makes locating a passage very easy which is nice when I want to share something with my husband.

While this book echoes many of the sentiments and ideals expressed by people like Sandra Dodd, A. S. Neill’s philosophy is different in some ways. He definitely feels there is a line between allowing a child the freedom to be him/herself and being too permissive. Freedom is allowed as long as it doesn’t infringe upon anyone else’s rights and comforts. The example he gives is a child is allowed to play the trumpet but he is not allowed to play the trumpet at 4am when it would disturb the sleep of others. Also, at the Summerhill school, he says there are bedtimes that all the children agreed upon. They felt it was necessary in order to respect those people who are sleeping. This is one thing that I had a lot of trouble with when trying to follow Sandra Dodd and Rue Kream into the wonderful world of unschooling, as they believe that there should not be a bedtime established. My perspective on our life here is that the kids have to be in their room by a certain time, usually 9pm. Now, whether they go to sleep or not is totally up to them but I absolutely need time sans enfants with my husband.

I’m really glad that this book was recommended by someone on the Unschooling message board to which I belong. Neill says that freedom is not license to do anything you want and it is necessary to tell a child no sometimes. He says that you must use common sense in parenting your children and on that point I completely agree. The tone of the book is very libertarian and I found that I identified with many of the views expressed within.

If you want to unschool or are struggling with the radical unschooling point of view, by all means try and get a copy of this book. I bought mine for $1 at It’s definitely worth reading.


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