New to Homeschooling? These Memoirs Shed Light
What does homeschooling look like in an everyday family? Finding homeschooling curriculum and “how-to” titles is a simple matter of heading to the library. But what about the day-to-day? Few memoirs by homeschooling families exist (are we too busy to take on such a task?).
Below are six titles, ranging from families who unschool, to methodical homeschoolers with a singular view to college. While two of the families are church-attenders and mention their faith as an important part of their children’s social and spiritual development, all books reference secular curriculum.
The Year of Learning Dangerously, Quinn Cummings, (2013, TarcherPerigree)
Known to some of us “older” homeschooling moms as Lucy, the daughter of Marsha Mason’s character in 1977’s The Goodbye Girl, Academy Award-nominated Quinn Cummings, now a grown-up writer, penned this raucously funny account of homeschooling her daughter, Alice. Doubts, fears, honesty about lack of alone-time, The Year of Learning Dangerously describes Quinn’s quest for answers about which homeschooling style to adopt, going as far as to attend conferences in disguise and chaperoning a homeschool prom.
Home Grown, Ben Hewitt, (2014, Roost Books)
A beautifully written account of a family who feels a profound connection to the land and the vast opportunities for learning that come from traipsing through the woods or helping a neighbor with farm chores. The description of Hewitt’s sons roving over the terrain in search of muskrats, fishing in the family’s stream, or caring for their animals, elicits images of Huckleberry Finn. The difference is that the life the Hewitts lead is deliberate, a conscious shutting out of the rat-race, allowing the children to become experts in how to live off the land.
By Heart, Kathleen Melin, (2012, Clover Valley Press)
Readers that prefer a chronicle backed by studies can hand over this short book to doubting family members. Melin intersperses facts with anecdotal accounts of how the research on homeschooling manifests in her own family. By Heart is an honest story, sometimes conveying the tension between professional parents and illustrating the dilemma homeschoolers in small towns face: do we interact with homeschoolers whose world view is vastly different from ours? The author takes us from Alaska to Wisconsin on a quest to offer her children more, especially when matters of the heart complicate the separation between mother and child. Eight pages of references and suggested readings accompany the book.
Love in a Time of Homeschooling, Laura Brodie, (2010, HarperCollins)
A university professor observes her middle daughter Julia struggling at school and devotes one year to bring her up to the academic level of her peers before returning her to grade 6. Brutally honest, including cringe-worthy encounters of the author’s candid admissions of losing her temper, the book chronicles the scholastic path the Brodies take. The duo adheres to a curriculum approved by Julia’s teachers, but the author strives to enrich her daughter’s education by adding knitting classes, museum visits, violin lessons, and French study, all things missing from the school experience. Above all, Love in a Time of Homeschooling is an honest description of the toll homeschooling can exact on the mother-child relationship.
Homeschooling, A Family’s Journey, Gregory and Martine Millman, (2008, TarcherPerigree)
Faced with the economic circumstances of raising six kids with a stay-at-home mom, the Millmans price themselves out of neighborhoods in areas with private or “good” schools. Then, after a meeting to discuss one of their children’s test results, the Millmans are so frustrated by school administrators that by the time they reach their car, they have decided to homeschool.
The Millman’s describe how to seize teachable moments and accomplish grand field trips, and how to do it inexpensively. The Millmans balance honoring the individual passions of their children with textbook learning, utilizing a cooperative approach, essentially learning alongside them when it becomes necessary.
Morning by Morning, Paula Penn-Nabrit, 2003, Villard Books)
One of the only accounts of an African-American family choosing to homeschool when racial incidents compel the parents of three boys to remove their children from school. It cannot have been an easy decision; in 1952, Mr. Nabrit’s uncle argued before the Supreme Court in the landmark Brown v Board of Education case that opposed segregation in schools.
To satisfy the expectations of an extended family whose academic achievements are legion (both sides of the family going back some generations and including the Nabrits themselves, attended prestigious universities, many of them Ivy League), Paula Penn-Nabrit and her husband leave no stone unturned when collating their children’s homeschooling curriculum. The family takes pains to hire African or African-American graduate students as tutors for subjects they are unable to tackle themselves. This is a deliberate strategy; one of the chief justifications the Nabrits cite in withdrawing the boys from the education system is the lack of black teachers, particularly male. The book often reads like a treatise; the author is dogmatic about paying meticulous attention to her sons’ social and spiritual development and places perhaps more weight on their importance, than that of scholastic achievements in living up to the legacy of a prominent family.
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