As I've mentioned before, I am a lifelong fan of Louis L'amour. I have read ALL of his books, which are mostly westerns, and include a few works of historical fiction from other time periods. I'll talk about those in just a bit.
But first, I want to recommend his sort-of-autobiography, which basically illustrates my premise. He was an unschooler before unschooling had a name. This is from the cover:
"...his decision to leave school at fifteen. While his contemporaries attended high school, L'Amour skinned cattle in Texas, worked as a circus roustabout and a mine caretaker, won small-town prize-fighting exhibitions, hoboed across Texas on the Southern Pacific, and shipped out to the West Indies, England, and Singapore as a merchant seaman. Wherever he wandered, his pockets were always bulging with books."
If you've read his books, you know with what detail he describes locations, geography, people, and historical fact. Every full-length novel includes a map. You KNOW when reading that he actually walked the places he describes. His westerns make you feel like you're there. He was self-taught, and experienced. And he had a real knack for storytelling. Combine those qualities and you have the makings of an award-winning writer.
Of course, I have been sold on his books for years. But when I picked up his book Education of a Wandering Man, as a homeschool parent, I was fascinated!
Here are just a few quotes by L'Amour:
The idea of education has been so tied to schools, universities, and professors that many assume there is no other way, but education is available to anyone within reach of a library, a post office, or even a newsstand. No matter how much I admire our schools, I know that no university exists that can provide an education; what a university can provide is an outline, to give the learner direction and guidance. The rest one has to do for oneself. Education should provide the tools for a widening and deepening of life, for increased appreciation for all one sees or experiences. It should equip a person to live well, to understand what is happening about him, for to live life well one must live with awareness. No one can "get" an education, for of necessity education is a continuing process. If it does nothing else, it should provide students with the tools for learning, acquaint them with methods of study and research, methods of pursuing an idea. We can only hope they come upon an idea they wish to pursue. It is consistently reiterated that education begins in the home, as indeed it does, but what is often forgotten is that morality begins in the home also. My own education, which is the one I know most about, has been haphazard, a hit and miss affair that was and continues to be thoroughly delightful. I do know that when I was in the fifth grade my father told me he would give me a three-volume History of the World if I would read it. For the next few months, when my father came home, I would sit on his knee and tell him what I had read during the day. This is all from Chapter 1! I think you see now the incredible story that is about to begin with his life. When L'Amour finally settled down to write books, they were amazing! Some may ask, "How did he get by without English I and II? He didn't stay in school long enough to write a research paper, or learn Advanced World History!" The incredible point to be made here is that learning doesn't just happen in a school room.
"...school was interfering with my education."
Anyone interested in education should read this book. Teachers, college professors, superintendents, and parents will benefit from this incredible story of an out-of-the-box type of education (know in the homeschool community as "unschooling").
And then go on and read his novels.
I mentioned his westerns. They are wonderful. Clean language and exciting stories. The Sackett series is extremely popular, but I love them all. Many of his stories include a character being stranded in the desert. L'Amour speaks from his own experience, outlined in Chapter 8. There are stories of Indian raids, battles, and scalpings. L'Amour's own great-grandfather was killed and scalped by the Souix. Numerous fist fights take place in his stories, and he describes each move from his own boxing experience.
Aside from westerns, there is a fabulous medieval tale called The Walking Drum that just may be the best display of L'Amour's extensive knowledge in world history. I first read this one as a teen, and then again as a young mother. With that first child, I knew this would be future required reading for all of my children. My second teen is currently reading it.
The Sackett series begins in the 1600s, tracing the Sackett family from England to the New World, where they settle and move further west with each generation. At least 4 books cover this period: Sackett's Land, To the Far Blue Mountains, Warrior's Path, and Jubal Sackett. Those are on our high-school reading list, as well.
Ride the River is about Echo Sackett, a teenage girl traveling alone in 1830.
Read these to yourself, read them to your kids or have your kids read them. If reading is not pleasureable, get the audio version. We own almost all of them on Audible.com, and listen to them regularly. The narrations are top-notch. If you don't use Audible yet, oh-my-gosh what are you waiting for? Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks
*Note* Louis L'Amour uses very occasional humanistic references, and in a couple of books discusses the belief that "we all worship the same God, just different in name" in books that involve American Indian beliefs in detail. It is not overt, and he does not "preach a doctrine" but as a homeschool mom, I appreciate this kind of information up front.
Now, for the fun part! Because I have two copies of Education of a Wandering Man on my bookshelf, I'm going to give one to a lucky reader!
Here are the rules:
comment telling me if you've read Louis L'Amour's books
share on Facebook
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subscribe to 400things
you'll earn 1 chance to win. Leave your comment below telling how many entries you've earned. I will draw a winner on May 1!
Before you go, one last link: on education. I also write (okay, it's been awhile) about Laura Ingall's profound impact on our culture, society, and my own education at Prairie Sense. Hop on over there and read about another interesting take on learning.