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Everything I Thought I Knew: An Exploration of Life and Learning Paperback – August 12, 2017
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"Our editor Wendy Priesnitz had the privilege of reading the book prior to publication and is sure that you'll love this memoir-style group of essays by an eloquent and insightful writer and life learning mother."
~ Life Learning Magazine
"Ellen Rowland's book is so aptly titled! When we make a major life change, often everything we think we know tends to come into question. As she explains, "Like a stack of dominos leaning precariously on each other, if we take one aspect out to examine it, the rest will likely topple." In this insightful collection of essays, Ellen dives deep into the many dominoes around living, learning, and parenting that toppled when she and her husband chose to move their family from the US to West Africa. We journey with her as she is transformed by the challenges, triumphs, and miracles that transpired as she gave her children the freedom to live their lives with curiosity, autonomy, and purpose. And what a fantastic journey it is!"
"A worthwhile read for newbies and experienced home educators."
From the Author
Everything I Thought I Knew is dedicated to any parent or care giver who longs to give children the freedom to live and learn outside the constraints of institutionalized instruction and to trust in themselves to be a gentle guide.
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Foremost, Ellen is not trying to convert folks into becoming homeschoolers/unschoolers; she is simply sharing her family's experiences, both good and bad. And the "bad" is what I found to be very comforting and affirming, in that it helped me to realize that I'm not alone. I often struggle with the judgments of others regarding my family's choices -- are we doing the best for our daughter? ... is she missing "opportunities"? ... will she be prepared to be the person she aspires to be? Yes, no, and yes. :-)
The book is a collection of essays, many of which were compiled from her blog, A Muddy Life, and it need not be read from cover to cover (although that is how I chose to experience it.) She deals with everything from her very conventional upbringing, to her husband's more carefree approach to life, to her early intentions to get her kids into the "right schools", to her eventual espousal of unschooling. It's beautifully written and a lovely testament to both her devotion to her kids and her determination to do what she believes is best for them.
I love Ellen, I love her book, and I believe that, if you were interested enough to read these reviews, you will really get a lot out of it.
Ellen’s story, however, was nothing short of incredible: incredible bravery, courage, humor, and humility. Having made the decision to raise her family outside of formal schooling, “unschooling”, she writes about the liberation and acceleration of learning not only by her young children ( starting at 3 and 4), but of herself. Each chapter is a vignette in the myriad tales of learning, describing how her son and daughter both go deep into subjects (flight and design, to name a few) because curiosity was not restricted by formal education’s pattern of lesson teaching, and planned curriculums. Her students’ real questions get examined in real time and the reader can see the branches of the learning tree grow before us.
Ellen’s book references many leaders of the “Homeschooling” movement, but she is quick to explain the book is not a HOW TO, but a life reflected upon. It is this style of writing/sharing that makes the book so enjoyable because she shares her doubts and conflicts and how her experiences played out. But she also is encouraging for anyone thinking of such a path because she tapped into a vast internet network of like-minded families who post and blog on line. From these resources, a community of ideas develops to aid the journey.
I am happy Ellen wrote this book now, while her children are approaching teen years. As such, the story, still has many chapters to go and I am excited to hear more– I hope a sequel is in the planning!
While the book is about "unschooling"--similar to home schooling, but not the same--there is a bigger underlying theme: what happens when we let go of everything we thought was true and open our eyes and minds to other experiences and ways of thinking? Through a series of chapters arranged alphabetically, the reader learns how the Rowland family walked away from a conventional American life and built a life overseas, shedding their own prejudices along the way. Some of the chapters are funny, some will break your heart, but all of them will open up your eyes to a different way of living and looking at what you thought you knew.
I know that many people can't grasp the concept of unschooling. "You mean if the kids don't want to learn math, they don't have to?" But if you're able to get past the paradigm of your own life and open your mind to other methods and experiences along the way, your life will be richer for having read this book and learning how the Rowland children--AND their parents--are living and continuing to learn.