Earlier this past summer I was having a hard time finding any nonfiction I wanted to finish. So when I stumbled across Quinn Cummings's homeschooling memoir The Year of Learning Dangerously, I was pleased not only to start it and enjoy it, but to finish it as well.
I found it to be a really fun little book, which didn't set out to be any big manifesto, but rather Cummings's thoughtful consideration of her year spent homeschooling her daughter Alice. Cummings decided to homeschool Alice after her daughter proved too successful at gaming her teachers, convincing them she didn't know how to do long division so they wouldn't then go on to teach her anything harder.
Cummings does offer a brief history of the American homeschooling movement and includes a chapter on the most frequent challenge to homeschoolers (but what about the socialization?). She also spends some time investigating a wide variety of homeschooling methods, including "unschooling."
This is not really a how-to book or even a serious philosophical consideration of homeschooling, but it is a very enjoyable memoir. I really, really enjoyed the author's voice--smart, questioning, funny, but still kind of no-nonsense. This is how she describes a moment at the unschooling convention she attends:
"That morning, one of the speakers had told us that human beings come from one of two places: fear or love. If those were the only sources of human motivation, I knew where I got my mail. But in my case, I swear fear and love are joined at the hip: I love you so deeply that I fear all the possible things that might happen to you." (p.83.)
And her thoughts on the ever-present "socialization" question are the best. In the following paragraph she describes a moment at her daughter's co-ed water-polo game, as she watched all the boys in the pool keep the ball away from the girls:
"All of a sudden someone bellowed, 'That is some seriously sexist shit!' From the number of parents suddenly staring in my direction, I was led to understand the bellower was me. 'Sorry,' I whispered to no one in particular and attempted to shrink under a towel. Alice continued with water polo for another month, but that night marked the beginning of the end. The next time she asked to quit, I let her. Which circles back to the question, 'What about socialization?' I guess the most accurate answer would have to be: Alice is doing quite well. I could use some work." (pp 135-136.)
Good stuff. There's an ever-increasing number of homeschooling memoirs out there, but this one's a keeper.