Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Love in a Time of Homeschooling

Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter's Uncommon Year by Laura Brodie

Ms. Brodie decides to homeschool her daughter, Julia, for one year in fifth grade.
As I thought back on my mom, it occurred to me that all good parents are homeschoolers. Homeschooling is what happens when families turn off their TVs, cell phones, and iPods. It occurs in long, thoughtful conversations at the dinner table, as well as at baseball games and ballet recitals, and in the planting of a vegetable garden...Unfortunately, in our busy lives, parents and children have less and less time for hours of thoughtful interaction, which is one reason why homeschoolign has been on the rise. Homeschooling provides families with the quality time that used to occur after school.
She begins the book with a description of the great schools of their area and Julia's troubled relationship with them all her life. I found myself shaking my head, wondering why anyone would allow her daughter to be forced to conform to the standards of education when she was so clearly intelligent and would thrive in a home environment with more flexibility, but I think it's important to remember, especially for homeschooling families, that homeschooling is not for everyone. So rather than bemoan the parents who don't care enough to give the time to homeschool, I think this book is a celebration of the willingness to reach across that gap. Ms. Brodie never intended to homeschool forever, and she probably wouldn't agree with the reasons we choose to homeschool (if I could even articulate them well), but she was willing to rearrange her schedule to experience homeschooling for a year with her daughter. I noticed some of the reviews on Amazon thought she was a little critical of homeschooling, but I found her point of view mostly positive. On more than one occasion, she mentions families who intend to homeschool for a year and end up homeschooling indefinitely because it was such a wonderful fit for their families.

It was fascinating to read someone's beautifully written book explore the internal debates and anguish of a homeschooling mom over curricula, learning styles, standards, and daily interactions. Despite all her misgivings, I think Ms. Brodie provided an amazing fifth grade for her daughter, even if it seemed the expense of such a year is out of reach for most homeschooling families. (It included many field trips and even weekends and other overnight trips.)

This book seems to be written mostly for non-homeschoolers. As they read, I imagine people who would never consider homeschooling to see the benefits of treating the education of children as an individualized endeavor that might include a variety of methods and places over time. Changing that mindset, the idea that children must sit in a classroom of age-level peers for eight hours a day, nine months a year, could do more for public education of all children in our country in an amazing way more than those of us who choose simply to homeschool could ever hope to do.

That being said, I hope someone who is considering short-term homeschooling seeks out more resources than this book as I think veteran homeschoolers, if we are generous and welcoming to short-term homeschoolers (as we should be!) could offer a great amount of guidance and support. In particular, the list at the end of ten great homeshooling resources includes only one book I might mention, and that one I probably wouldn't recommend to a short-term homeschooler because it can be so overwhelming. (For anyone interested, the first book I recommend to all potential homeschoolers is Cathy Duffy's 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum which begins by talking about the different methods of educating and helping the reader discern his or her own "best" method. It may not be perfect, but it can help eliminate a great many attractive but ultimately inappropriate curricula for a particular family.)

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