Role models for a generation of homeschoolers, David and Micki Colfax are teachers turned ranchers who taught their four sons at home in the 1970s and '80s and schooled three of them into Harvard. Isolation on their northern California homestead forced them into the experience, but this resourceful family eventually discovered all kinds of advantages to home education. Like a modern-day Little House on the Prairie
, the Colfax children learned about geometry while constructing outbuildings on their ranch, explored aspects of chemistry and biology as they improved their livestock and garden, and generally discovered the value of self-reliance as they went about life without TV or neighbors. Their world is described in clear, warm words that illustrate the fondness these parents and children possess for each other. Family photos grouped throughout the book show the boys working and learning together.
The Colfaxes don't purport to be experts; they don't prescribe a formula for their success. Rather, their experience is described as a trial-and-error effort, with some of their mistakes offered up as lessons for others. The value of critically examining textbooks in advance, for instance, is learned after one son falls behind in algebra using a schoolbook that touts "new math" principles. The Colfaxes' philosophy is that every child is gifted. Parents don't need to be certified teachers to teach them (although it does ward off doubters). But, despite the contention of some homeschoolers, the Colfaxes do caution that teaching at home requires much time and money--and they don't advise it for single parents or most working women. Any parent interested in connecting with his or her child, however, will find the Colfax take on life an enjoyable and enlightening read. The couple closes the book with an appendix of suggested references for building a family library and a delightful list of their children's favorite books. --Jodi Mailander Farrell