Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Reviewed: Some Homeschooling Books

Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense
by David Guterson

This is probably the most persuasive book I've read about homeschooling. The title threw me a bit-- images of the afore-mentioned buck-toothed fundamentalists began dancing in my head--but it came highly recommended by my brother Scott, so I gave it a go.

In Family Matters, Guterson-- a high school teacher who homeschools his four children-- addresses everything from the ubiquitous "but what about socialization?" to the question of whether a public education is an essential component of life in a democracy. He argues that homeschooling-- done properly-- is a better choice educationally, emotionally, and socially for children.

Guterson's basic premise is that parents-- who know their children's learning style, interests, personalities, and needs better than anyone else-- should be at the center of their child's education, and he cites a substantial amount of data to show that this is a superior approach. He also includes personal descriptions of the life his sons are experiencing as they grow up outside of the public education system.

The book also contains a fascinating history of the American public shools.

Guterson's approach to homeschooling is well thought-out and practical. I appreciate that he is neither absolutely rigid about a home curriculum nor completely given over to the concept of allowing kids to just learn whenever and whatever they please.

So anyway. I give this book two thumbs up. If you are at all considering educating your kids at home (or are homeschooling your kids but would like to build your defense arsenal), this is a book I recommend you read.

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education
by Grace Llellewyn

I found The Teenage Liberation Handbook to be less persuasive in terms of why I should homeschool my children (it was very idealistic and flitty, fraught with the idea that children should never be made to do things they don't want to do) but surprisingly, personally inspirational. I read this book and wanted to develop my own educational curriculum, apprentice myself to a potter, start a political discussion group, and exchange poetry with my friends. I loaned it to my thirteen-year-old niece, Arielle, who is just the sort of person who would actually do these sorts of things.

A Sense of Self: Listening toHomeschooled Adolescent Girls
by Susannah Sheffer

Susannah Sheffer was on the staff of Growing Without Schooling magazine back in its heyday. This book grew from a series of interviews-- some in person, some written--she did with several homeschooled girls who responded to a notice she published in the magazine. The general conclusion of the book was that homeschooled girls (vs public-schooled) have a tendency to be more confident in themselves and their opinions, attitudes, feelings, beliefs, plans, and interests. This is probably true, but it's really difficult to draw any really definite conclusions from the book because of the sampling of adolescent girls from which Sheffer drew (girls who (1) were from families that cared enough to subscribe to a magazine about homeschooling (2) cared enough about homeschooling to read the magazine and see the notice, (3) were interested enough in expressing their opinions about homeschooling that they would contact Sheffer (4) were gregarious enough to initiate contact and participate in the interviews.

As I was reading A Sense of Self, I remember thinking, "Wow! This is rocking my world! This is changing everything! Yeah! I've got to homeschool my kids!" But now I can hardly remember what it was that I found so wildly persuasive. I blame this phenomenon on my brain, which has been slowly and completely fried by motherhood. So, yeah, read it. It will probably change your life. Hopefully for longer than it changed mine.


Simply Mother said...

Haha, that's exactly what happened to me with John Holt's books. I read How Children Learn, and remember having a hard time getting to the "good stuff" at first, but then I fell in love with it, enough to do the complete switch from, "I would never homeschool" to "I would never send my kids to school!" I recommended it to lots of people, but by then I couldn't really even explain why I liked it so much.

I haven't read any of those books, though I skimmed the first few pages of Teenage Liberation on Amazon once and wondered what my parents would think if I told my 150-year-old brother about it.

Simply Mother said...

Um. That would be my FIFTEEN year old brother. Not my hundred and fifty year old brother. He's already liberated enough.

Rachel said...

I was kind of excited about the 150-year-old brother. I started to dial up the press when your second comment came through. Dangit!


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