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Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter's Uncommon Year Hardcover – April 6, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Told by elementary school teachers that her daughter, Julia, "needs to spend more time in our world," author Brodie (Breaking Out, The Widow's Season) decided that her daughter's unique intellectual needs would best be served by a year of home-schooling: "The more I looked into it, the more I discovered that short-term homeschooling is a growing trend in America, for a vast array of reasons." Chronicling the entirety of her homeschooling experience, from the decision-making process to Julia's successful re-entry into 6th grade, Brodie takes pains to show how difficult homeschooling can be: "How foolish I had been, to have believed that Julia's complaints over the past two years... stemmed from an institutional cause" (as it turns out, Julia simply doesn't like to be told what to do). Having been frustrated by other homeschooling books' Pollyanna attitude toward the parent-child relationship, Brodie's contribution to the field is full of honest revelations that make it vital for anyone considering homeschooling; happily, her gift for good storytelling and keen observation (of herself and others) make this an absorbing read for everyone else.
“Engaging, unpredictable. . . . No rosy manifesto to homeschooling, nor a condemnation, but a real-life encounter, full of stormy battles, power struggles and, most of all, passion. There are moments of pedagogic beauty. . . . Graceful and charming.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“In a world where homeschooling is so often misunderstood, discounted, and even ridiculed, Laura Brodie offers a clear-eyed view and makes a valuable contribution to the literature on the subject. This is necessary reading for anyone with an interest not just in homeschooling but in education generally.” (David Guterson, author of The Other and Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense)
“Funny, heart-cracking and ultimately profoundly educational. I recommend this book to all parents and educators who have ever thought-I wish things could be different.” (Mary Pipher, author of Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World)
“Laura Brodie shines a spotlight on love as an essential ingredient [in homeschooling], creating a well-earned space on all homeschoolers’ bookshelves and, optimistically, on the bookshelves of all parents.” (Linda Dobson, author of The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas)
“Love in a Time of Homeschooling, a touching glimpse into a mother-daughter relationship, will inspire you to foster a love of learning no matter what your schooling choice may be.” (Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder)
“The only thing worse than sending your child off on a bus each morning might be keeping that child at home. But Brodie manages the feat with wit, wisdom, love, and some hard knocks along the way. Her story gives hope that there is more to life than long division.” (Cameron Stracher, author of Dinner with Dad)
“As a parent involved in homeschooling, I highly recommend this book. It’s timely, beautifully written, and must reading for anyone who has ever wondered what homeschooling is all about-and it would make a great gift for all your friends who think they know!” (James Grippando, author of Money to Burn)
Top customer reviews
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The author is a very good writer (being a college English professor), and all the concerns she has are normal parenting concerns. She is honest about her experience and does not sugarcoat things, telling all the ups and downs she had during the homeschooling year. This book is inspiring, funny, serious, and informative.
The author lives in VA/DC area, and I happen to live in MD and could related to her educational culture. The author is neither religious or hippy (a stereotypical image of a homeschooling family), just a well-intending parent.
For one thing, deciding to homeschool when you know it is only for one year, is very different than deciding to homeschool long term.
The author is too conflicted and too set in her desire to resume her "old" indepedent life with mornings free to devote to her writing, to make a truly unbiased decision.
She tries to convince herself that public school is the only way to meet the social needs of her daughter. It is not.
Quote from page 231: "For us, however, continued homeschooling was not an option. Julia needed more time away from Mom, in a place where she could observe hundreds of other human beings, and learn what behaviors she admired and deplored. As for me, I wanted more time alone. The writer's life is a solitary venture, and in the hours before noon, when I am most productive, I yearned for the silence of an empty house to allow characters and words to take shape in my mind. One year of homeschooling had provided a wonderful break from our usual routine, but I needed an end date too."
P249: "Many times I felt the urge to yank Julia out of Lylburn Downing but I was well aware of the failures of my own teaching, and Julia needed daily exposure to social situations even more than she needed practice writing paragraphs.
Unfortunately, middle school is a miserable place to learn social skills."
To each his own, and she has the right to decide what works for her family. What irked me is that she wants to have her cake and eat too.
After deciding to send her kid back to school full time, she deludes herself into thinking she can still call hers a homeschooling family.
P232: ... "A well planned family outing can constitute a day of homeschooling..."
P233: "So long as children lived under our roof, ours would be a homeschooling family, turning off the TV to spend more time talking and reading and going for walks."
That is not how it works, and Laura Brodie knows it or she would not have ended her year of actual homeschooling.
What she is referring to clearly indicates aspects of good parenting, and involvement in one's child's education but it is NOT homeschooling. Dropping off your kid every morning from 8 am to 3 pm for 5 days a week to a school building is NOT homeschooling, even if you take said child to a museum on the weekend or you go on very educational trips during summer vacation.
I think her daughter gave a more rational account of the experience:
P252: Whenever I ask her to look back and ponder the pros and cons of homeschooling versus traditional schools, her response is emphatic:
"Homeschooling is better, because you get to feel that you are remotely in control of your own education. And the scenery changes: in school I'm stuck in the same building for seven hours every day.
"The only problem with homeschooling, she adds, "is the socialization, because let's face it, Mom, you and I mostly hung out with a lot of old people."
Side note: my homeschooled daughter spends time with kids her age almost every day (through co-op, library story time, playdates, organized sports). Socialization is not an issue if you make the smallest of effort.
P252:"Being in school," Julia remarked, "feels like sitting in a chair and having someone with a power tool drill holes into your head."
There you have it. That is why most homeschooling families do it. They want to give their child a different experience. They give up the free mornings and take on the full responsibility of educating their child. They make the program and do their best to make it come to fruition. It is not easy. It brings tears of frustration on occasion (from parents and child) but homeschooling families find the sacrifices worth it.
She is somehow grateful for this year of sabbatical from the stiflingness of school she can offer to her own daughter while making darn sure she doesn't embrace the total idea of unfettered homeschooling - and especially not for others.
She encounters bumps in the road, which we all do, but she fails to truly comprehend how many homeschoolers work these out over a couple years of homeschooling, and how she might have too. Her very idea of homeschooling for only a year essentially provides the escape route that allows her to avoid the real work of understanding and helping a child who seems to her to be lazy or unfocused. It allows her to avoid working things out with her daughter - she can go right back to sending her to school. It allows her to avoid the real discoveries about the homeschooling community and how it works. I read her book shaking my head at missed opportunity. She failed to examine her own underlying assumptions about the status quo -- public schooling -- and continues to hold up its practices as much more of a sure thing than homeschooling ever could be. Has she not read that 1/3 of all students who enter public schools fail to graduate? Does she not know that this reaches 50% in "minority majority" schools? Just how are school-oriented regulations or regulators going to provide guidance or a safety net for homeschooled kids when homeschoolers aren't even trying to emulate "school"? There is just not much credibility here.
Through the whole book, I kept thinking, "She's afraid." Her fears seem to include what would happen if: she truly gave herself over to homeschooling, she truly allowed her daughter to learn in ways that work with her learning style, she did not push her daughter into doing what *she* thought was good for her regardless of her daughter's readiness or interest, she is seen as being too supportive of homeschooling and somehow not progressive or academic enough.
The problem is, as a memoir, the material fails to recognize the true fear. If she'd gotten to the root of it, since she's a good writer, it might have been an authentic reflection on the wrestling parents do in making educational decisions for their kids.
Contrast this book with Kathleen Melin's By Heart: A Mother's Story of Children and Learning At Home. Melin is about six levels deeper than Brodie manages to get, while also managing to portray the imperfections of any educational approach, including the hardness that homeschooling can also have. The fear in Melin's book is palpable.
It's unfortunate that Brodie managed to make things worse in various blogs and commentary about homeschooling, where she continued to demonstrate her lack of understanding about the legal aspects in her own state and fails to get the culture of learning that many homeschoolers embrace. She seems to think homeschooling is about instruction, without ever coming to the understanding that it's about learning.
If Laura Brodie had let homeschooling rock her world, she could have rocked ours. Her prose is vivid and evocative. However, she's protected herself from any real growth or change, and homeschoolers can smell that because they've lived through their own resistance and pushed onward.
At night, I think about her and her daughter sometimes. I wish she'd not planned to homeschool only a year, had not given herself that arbitrary limit, so she would have had more time to understand the need to find that mentor who would have helped her find the right resources, helped her understand why regulating homeschooling risks it to the very school-ness she's taking a year off from, helped her see ways to both accept and challenge her daughter while managing her own fear - if she can't actually let it go.