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Danii Oliver’s New Book Series Explores the World of Unschooling

Danii Oliver’s New Book Series Explores the World of Unschooling

Danii Oliver and kids with Unschool Discoveries

After a long and stressful move from New York to Texas in 2018, Danii Oliver was encouraged by their partner to draw as a way to process the change. So Oliver picked up their iPad and made some illustrations that eventually became their first children’s book, Unschool Discoveries.

Danii Oliver's children with book Unschool Discoveries
Oliver’s two sons enjoying Unschool Discoveries. Photo courtesy of Danii Oliver.

“When I first started. I just knew that I wanted to tell the story,” Oliver said. “My therapy in that process gave me this gift of a story to share with others.”

Unschool Discoveries, published in October 2023, was inspired by how Oliver homeschools their kids, two sons ages 11 and 6. Oliver’s role as a parent is important to them, and it directly influences their writing — they consider their work as mostly memoir.

“The core of the story is still the lives of my kids and what they’re going through as unschoolers, as homeschoolers, because there are no books like that,” Oliver said.

“Unschooling” is a concept of education that lets children direct how they learn. Oliver’s teaching emphasizes natural play and letting their children decide how long they want to learn, rather than forcing a schedule that keeps them from engaging and being curious.

Oliver wanted to publish a book that covered different challenges from popular back-to-school books, which focus on bullying and other “depressing” back-to-school issues.

In Unschool Discoveries, two Arawak/Taino siblings learn how to grow their own food and be self-sufficient, demonstrating unschooling techniques. Indigenous themselves, Oliver wanted to bring better representation to their people in children’s stories and celebrate their culture.

The story will continue in book two, where these siblings will learn how to cook the food they’ve grown. Once again demonstrating the lessons from unschooling, the kids ask for help from adults when they need it, but make mistakes along the way and keep going.

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“That pretty much is unschooling in a nutshell,” Oliver said, “where you want to learn how to do a thing. You go do it, no one tells you to do it. You use all the resources that you have and you figure it out until you triumph.”

The second book will come from the same illustrations Oliver used to inspire Unschool Discoveries. Oliver will even release a third book, which has already been read exclusively on their podcast, “Unschool Pages of Our Lives.” In book three, the kids reflect on how much they have grown in this experience of being independent, making messes, and learning. Oliver said this third book was based on an experience they had with their own kids.

Danii Oliver's kid with Unschool Discoveries
Photo courtesy of Danii Oliver.

Balancing parenthood with writing — not to mention Oliver’s other careers as a solar software engineer and owner of Island to Island Brewery — is no easy task. But they consider family their business.

“My business, my kids, they are my co-workers,” Oliver said, “and when they need mentorship or they need something from me, I stop and give it.”

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