Weekend Review: Love in a Time of Homeschooling by Laura Brodie
When Laura Brodie finds her oldest daughter Julia hiding in a closet in an attempt to avoid doing her homework, she comes to the realization that their current public school arrangement just isn't working. Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter's Uncommon Year (2010) tells the story of Julia's fifth grade year, which she spends being homeschooled by her mom. Intentionally they set out to make homeschooling a short-term affair. Brodie's idea is to give her introspective and fantasy-book-loving daughter a break from the rote memorization and standardized test preparation of public school so that she can rejuvenate her love of learning before she enters junior high. In place of the state mandated curriculum of fifth grade, Brodie wants her daughter to focus on writing, reading, art, and music. Math, science, history, and social studies are also in the mix, but Brodie wants to give Julia the opportunity to explore those topics with more depth and with a bit more freedom. What follows is a very thoughtful account of the ups and downs of this arrangement.
What I appreciated most about this book is the honesty and sensitivity with which Brodie interacts with her daughter and their decision to homeschool for a year. While she understands and respects the full range of motivations for homeschooling, she isn't coming from a specific dogmatic opinion. She really is just trying to provide for her daughter's educational needs in a way that is tailor-made for that individual child. There are moments of great joy, such as when Julia finally has time to write about the fictional worlds inside her head. There are also low points when Brodie's notions about what homeschooling "should be" clash with the type of instruction (or lack of instruction) Julia craves. Brodie closes with a bit of reflection about what was successful for them and what wasn't, the role of homeschooling in their family, and the possibilities of having a homeschooling year with either or both of her younger two daughters. This was a fast and delightful read. As someone who has never experienced homeschooling, neither as a student nor as a parent, I thought that it provided a very honest window into what that decision might entail and the unexpected roadblocks one might face. No matter what schooling situation is best for any particular family, I think we would all benefit if we gave those educational choices the same measured and careful consideration as Brodie.