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Resources for Rational Parenting and Education

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Parents and teachers have the immense responsibility—and the great pleasure—of raising and educating children. No job is more important. The quality of a child’s life depends substantially on how he is raised and educated. And, by extension, the quality of a culture (including its political system) depends on how its parents parent and teachers teach.

But approaches to parenting and teaching range from abysmally bad to profoundly good. And, to my knowledge, no hub exists to round up and highlight the best resources in this regard. Hence this project.

The index below provides information about and links to noteworthy books, essays, private schools, homeschooling programs, educational games, and more. This is a living document, to which we will add material and sections, and update entries over time. Suggestions for inclusion are welcome and should be sent to [email protected]. (Inclusion of a resource here does not imply my or TOS’s blanket endorsement; rather, it means we regard the item as essentially good and worthy of note.)

I hope you find the index of value. If so, please share it with others who may as well.

Here’s to raising and educating children rationally. —Craig Biddle

Articles and Books on Parenting

How to Raise a Life-Loving Child,” by Sarah and Craig Biddle
Shows how one basic principle—the Master Question—applies to all aspects of parenting and raising a reality-oriented, independent-thinking, life-loving child.

How to Raise a Brighter Child: The Case for Early Learning, by Joan Beck
Provides a trove of information about how a young child’s mind and brain develop, and what parents can do to foster a child’s conceptual advancement and love of learning.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck
Examines two kinds of mindsets: a “growth mindset,” the premise that intelligence and ability can be developed through hard work, including some failure; and a “fixed mindset,” the premise that intelligence and ability are innate and static; thus, effort is futile, and you’re stuck with what you have. Dweck’s research, analyses, and prescriptions help parents and teachers to foster in children a love of effort and learning, and a tolerance for frustration and failure.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Offers a wealth of techniques for communicating respectfully and effectively with children, sharing feelings and concerns in ways that reach them, and generally fostering benevolence and healthy cooperation among parents and children.

Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
“One of the most treasured possessions on my bookshelf, one of the books I return to again and again, one of the reasons my relationship with my son is as positive, meaningful, and mutually enjoyable as it is.” —Daniel Wahl (Full review here.)

Positive Discipline, by Jane Nelsen
Provides myriad ideas about how parents can establish and maintain respectful relationships with their children while helping them develop self-discipline, personal responsibility, and problem-solving skills.

Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry), by Lenore Skenazy
An antidote to today’s culture of fear and paranoia about kids and safety. Skenazy provides sobering information to help parents evaluate risks rationally, encourages parents to teach children how to assess risks themselves, and urges parents to let children do what they are developmentally capable of doing.

Objectivism and Parenting,” by Craig Biddle
Shows how parenting with the Master Question (the basic principle presented in “How to Raise a Life-Loving Child”) is an application of certain aspects of Objectivism to the field of parenting.

The Teenager’s Guide to The Morality of Self-Interest,” by Craig Biddle
Meets teens at their context and concerns, shows them why they should be (rationally) selfish and what this means in the various areas of life, and makes clear why both self-sacrifice and sacrifice of others are unselfish.

Articles and Books on Philosophy of Education

The Comprachicos,” by Ayn Rand (in Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution)
Analyzes the horrors of modern and “progressive” education, identifies the philosophical roots of the movement, and calls for a rational, conceptual approach to educating children.

Teaching Johnny to Think, by Leonard Peikoff
Presents Dr. Peikoff’s philosophy of education, which is based on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. Peikoff discusses the proper purpose of education (in contrast to commonly held illegitimate purposes) and presents the basic elements of what he calls a “conceptual education.”

The Montessori Method: Educating Children for a Lifetime of Learning and Happiness,” by Heike Larsen
Zeroes in on the essentials of a Montessori education, and shows “its deep respect for the child’s reasoning mind and his need to develop the habit of focusing and concentrating it for sustained periods of time.”

The Hierarchy of Knowledge: The Most Neglected Issue in Education,” by Lisa VanDamme
Elucidates the hierarchical nature of conceptual knowledge; shows how the principle of hierarchy applies (yet is often violated) in the teaching of science, history, and literature; shows how the Montessori method substantially upholds but in some ways violates the principle; and calls for educators to understand and apply the principle of hierarchy in all areas of education.

Teaching Values in the Classroom,” by Lisa VanDamme
Examines three prominent schools of thought about how to teach values (or morality) in the classroom; identifies fundamental errors underlying these schools; and presents a new approach, which addresses values objectively and non-dogmatically, through a core curriculum focusing on “the history of man and the consequences of his ideas and actions; the great discoveries of science, how they were made, and what they made possible; the classics of literature and the characters and situations they describe. These are the raw material from which rational moral principles—such as honesty, purpose, justice, liberty—are drawn.”

The False Promise of Classical Education,” by Lisa VanDamme
Surveys the methods and contents of classical education in both its religious and secular forms, and shows why both forms violate the principle of hierarchy and contradict the nature and needs of the child’s conceptual faculty.

Private Schools of Note

LePort Schools (Preschool through Eighth Grade)
LePort Schools, which are substantially influenced by Ayn Rand’s theories of epistemology and human nature, use the Montessori method for preschool through third grade, and an in-house curriculum and pedagogy for fourth through eighth grade. The latter “marries advanced academic content, presented in a logical sequence, with practical, essential life skills.” LePort has locations in San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Brooklyn, and Northern Virginia.

VanDamme Academy (Kindergarten through Eighth Grade)
VanDamme Academy is strongly influenced by Ayn Rand’s philosophy, especially her theory of the hierarchy of knowledge, and by Leonard Peikoff’s theory of education. VanDamme uses the Montessori method for kindergarten through first grade, and uses its own in-house curriculum and pedagogy for grades two through eight. (See here, here, and here for details.) VanDamme is “devoted to the goal of producing students who emerge deeply educated and who love school.” Located in Aliso Viejo, CA.

Resources for Homeschooling (or Supplemental Education)

Khan Academy
Provides short lectures on a wide variety of subjects and offers online practice exercises and tools for students and educators. All content is accessible for free. (For a brief introduction to Khan Academy and the thinking behind this massive online school, see Daniel Wahl’s review of The One World Schoolhouse here.)

Mystery Science
Offers a hands-on science curriculum for kindergarten through grade five, offering “open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science.” As co-founder Doug Peltz explains, “I taught elementary science for seven years and made it my students’ favorite subject. I created Mystery Science to share my approach with you. Every lesson begins with a Mystery that hooks your students. I then narrate an unforgettable story told with stunning images and videos and punctuated with opportunities for discussion. Every lesson concludes with simple hands-on activities designed to use supplies you already have (or are easy to get).”

(See TOS’s interview with Doug Peltz here. And see our interview with Mystery Science co-founder Keith Schacht, here.)

Art of Problem Solving
Offers dozens of online classes in math and programming. Dedicated to “bringing outstanding students together with highly accomplished instructors to prepare the students for the rigors of top-tier colleges and internationally competitive careers.”

Beast Academy
Provides a complete, rigorous math curriculum for grades two through five, by means of a series of illustrated, online textbooks and workbooks. This is a project of “The Art of Problem Solving” designed specifically “for aspiring math beasts in grades 2–5.” (Highly recommended by TOS’s Daniel Wahl.)

Front Row Math and ELA (English Language Acquisition)
Offers an individualized, well-structured, and engaging path toward mastery in math and language arts.

Singapore Math
A conceptual approach to mathematics for K–12 schools and homeschoolers. (Used at both Vandamme Academy and LePort Schools.)

Grammar Revolution
Learn (or teach) grammar using sentence diagrams, which make it easy and fun. Grammar Revolution offers exercises, lessons, and “oodles of sentence diagrams” toward mastery of this vital art of communication.

Rex Barks:Diagramming Sentences Made Easy, by Phyllis Davenport and Lisa VanDamme

Easy Grammar Series, by Wanda C. Phillips 

Diagraming Sentences, by Concetta Doti Ryan

Better Sentence Structure Through Diagraming, by Gregg Carnevale and Mark Dressel

Vocabulary from Classical Roots
A series of books teaching English vocabulary by means of the roots of the language.

Institute for Excellence in Writing

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

On Writing Well, by William Zinsser

The Art of Nonfiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers, By Ayn Rand

Educational Games

Dimension
A puzzle game in which players attempt to stack spheres according to the rules specified by task cards. The game is fast paced, highly challenging, and loads of fun.

Solitaire Chess
Combines the rules of traditional chess and peg solitaire. This game encourages players to experiment, to work backward, and to project the logical consequences of an action. It also delivers a pleasing “aha!” experience with every challenge.

Rush Hour
A logic game in which the goal is to get a red car out of a gridlock by moving the other cars around on the grid. The challenges progress from beginner to expert, develop the ability to think sequentially, and can end with a rush of well-earned endorphins.

Clue
A classic game in which players attempt to discover, by a process of elimination, who committed a murder, where they did it, and what weapon was used. In this updated version, a twist—which may result in a second murder of one of the current players—adds even more suspense. (A similar game for younger players is Outfoxed. And a more elegant and less violent alternative is Sleuth.)

Puzzle Panic
A modification of Tetris in which players must arrange shapes on a grid before time runs out and the grid springs upward, sending pieces flying in all directions. The game is challenging, develops spatial awareness, and is a blast in more ways than one.

Apples to Apples Kids 7+
Players attempt to “match” one of their red apple cards (such as “summer” or “elephant”) to a green apple card (such as”crunchy” or “slippery”), and then strive to convince the judge for each round that their match is the best. Farfetched combinations and players’ efforts to relate them lead to many laughs and lots of fun, while building thinking skills, communication skills, and vocabulary.

Rory’s Story Cubes
Players roll a set of nine cubes with different pictures on each side and connect them with an imaginative story made up by the roller on the spot. Each roll offers different pictures and generates new stories, as players strive to connect them on the fly. Exercises creativity, builds story-telling skills, and generates much hilarity. (Here’s a video showing how this works in practice.)

The Need for Freedom in Education

The New Abolitionism: Why Education Emancipation is the Moral Imperative of our Time,” by C. Bradley Thompson
Shows that government-run schools are fundamentally corrupt and unfixable, and that they morally must be abolished.

Education in a Free Society,” by C. Bradley Thompson
What would a fully free market in education look like? How would it work? Would it provide quality, affordable education for all children, including those from lower-income families? If so, how? Read the article and see.

The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government Schools,” by Andrew Bernstein
Surveys the ills of government-run schools, shows the general superiority of private schools, zeros in on the basic reason for the difference, and proposes a radical change from which everyone would benefit: the complete privatization of government schools.