Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: Love in a Time of Homeschooling

Summary: "I had always thought of homeschooling as a drastic measure. . . . But when my daughter decided that she would rather hide in a closet than complete her homework, I knew that it was time for me to become a schoolteacher, if only for a little while."

After years of watching her eldest daughter, Julia, struggle in a highly regimented public school system, Laura Brodie determined to teach her ten-year-old at home for a year. Although friends were skeptical and her husband predicted disaster—"You can't be serious"—Brodie had visions of one ideal year of learning. The monotony of fill-in-the-blank history and math worksheets would be replaced with studying dinosaurs and Mayan hieroglyphics, conversational French, violin lessons, and field trips to art museums, science fairs, bookstores, and concerts.

But can one year of homeschooling make a difference? And what happens to the love between mother and daughter when fractions and spelling enter the relationship?

Love in a Time of Homeschooling is a funny and inspiring story of human foibles and human potential, in which love, anger, and hope mingle with reading, math, and American history. As today's parents ponder their children's educations, wondering how to respond to everything from homework overload to bullying to the boredom of excessive test preparations, homeschooling has become a popular alternative embraced by millions. Short-term homeschooling is the latest trend in this growing movement.

Brodie gave her daughter a sabbatical to explore, learn, create, and grow—a year of independent research and writing to rejuvenate Julia's love of learning. The experiment brought out the best and worst in the pair, but they worked through their frustrations to forge an invaluable bond. Theirs is a wonderful story no parent should miss.-- Harper

Last year I read and reviewed THE WIDOW'S SEASON by Laura Brodie. It was a beautifully written novel about a woman whose husband has recently died. I loved how the book explored grief and loss, and I thought Ms. Brodie's writing was terrific. So when she contacted me about her new book LOVE IN A TIME OF HOMESCHOOLING: A MOTHER AND DAUGHTER'S UNCOMMON YEAR, I didn't even hesitate. Of course, I wanted to read it -- I loved Ms. Brodie's writing style.

So why was it when I sat down a few days ago to read LOVE IN A TIME OF HOMESCHOOLING, I wasn't exactly jumping up and down in excitement? Could it possibly have been the subject matter of the book? I have to admit that a book about homeschooling probably wouldn't be on the top of my list of books to read. I don't have any objections to those parents who go that route. It's just that homeschooling is so not something I would ever do (or could ever do.) In fact, anyone who knows me would laugh hysterically if I told them that I wanted to homeschool one of my kids!

I knew Ms. Brodie was a wonderful writer, but I had no idea how much I'd enjoy this book. I picked up the book and read it entirely in one evening -- in almost one sitting. I can't put my finger on how Ms. Brodie did it, but she hooked me on her story (and I didn't even know that I'd care.)

LOVE IN THE TIME OF HOMESCHOOLING takes place during one year when Ms. Brodie decides to homeschool her fifth grade daughter Julia. Her daughter was pretty much miserable with school and homework, and Ms. Brodie felt as if she needed a little sabbatical. So she decided to take her out of the public school system and teach her from home for one year. She began talking to other parents and doing a huge amount of research, and she finally came up with some ideas for what would work best for herself and Julia.

Like Ms. Brodie, I am the mother of a fifth grade daughter who doesn't always love everything about school. Maybe that's one of the reasons that became so caught up in this story. I don't know that my daughter and Julia have a lot in common (past their toddler year stories) but I found myself totally relating to Ms. Brodie. I sure wasn't expecting to find that when I started reading this book (especially since I know I'm not homeschooling parent material.)

I'm pretty sure that Ms. Brodie wouldn't say this about herself, but I consider her to be a hero for homeschooling Julia. At the very least, she is a remarkable mom. She sacrificed her own desires for the benefit of her daughter, and she totally threw herself into being the best teacher she could be for Julia. She admits that it wasn't always easy, and I loved that the showed the challenges she faced on a daily basis.

I did find the parts of the book about homeschooling to be very interesting. And in so many ways, I do see the benefits of homeschooling your children (it's just not for me!) I enjoyed reading about the Brodies' day trips and field trips as well as their activities in the car. And I loved all of the creative approaches Ms. Brodie took to teaching Julia. I especially enjoyed seeing how Ms. Brodie realized what worked and what didn't work and how she adjusted her curriculum to best suit Julia's learning abilities.

But what I think I appreciated the most about LOVE IN A TIME OF HOMESCHOOLING was how Ms. Brodie showed the beautiful (yet often times trying) relationship between a mother and a daughter. This was where I could most relate to Ms. Brodie and the book as a whole. She shows the real side of parenting -- the fights over homework, the smart mouths, the nagging about practicing an instrument, etc. Yet she also shows the extent a mother is willing to go out for the love of her child. While there were definitely pluses and minuses to their year-long homeschooling experience, I think both mother and daughter would agree that they truly benefited from it. There is no doubt that they got to know and respect each other on a much deeper level.

I guess it's obvious by now that I highly recommend this book. Of course, it should be a must-read for any parent who is considering homeschooling their child. (Evidently there aren't an abundance of books out there that show this side of homeschooling.) But it is also a book that I think women are going to love because Ms. Brodie is extremely honest about the ups and downs of being a mom.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of her book.


Kay said...

Thanks for putting this book on my radar. My time of homeschooling my daughter is long in the past now, but I did do it for 2 years. It was her 7th and 8th grade years and we had a lot of reasons for trying it. In any case, I think it helped her with her life and schooling from that point on and I know that it was the time she figured out what she wanted to do with her life (she's a nurse). Very nice review and don't sell yourself short. I never thought I would homeschool and I did. If the situation warranted it, you would likely be able to do it too. :-)

Mrs. C said...

I haven't read it yet, but it sure looks like one I'm going to have to get my hands on! :)

What I personally found is that it is far easier to homeschool than to send a child to public school. There are always worksheets and parent conference nights, etc. that you have to work on at the end of the day when everyone's crabby and tired. With homeschooling, if you're organized, you can get all that done toward the beginning of the day when you have more energy. :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I agree that she sounds like a remarkable mom! I would be afraid to homeschool, like I wouldn't be clever enough to devise a curriculum or make it interesting or know the answers!

bermudaonion said...

The book sounds interesting, but I never could have home schooled - I'm just not disciplined enough.

Beth F said...

I just skimmed your review because I'll be writing one soon (I hate to be influenced). But I know I would have never been able to homeschool -- just too difficult.

PeachyTO said...

Excellent review. I don't think homeschooling is in the cards for my family, but with the continued crumbling of our education system, who knows?

I'm really interested in reading this book, and I'm glad you brought it to my attention. Thanks ;-)

Jen (Devourer of Books) said...

I have a copy of this book and I'm really excited for it, thanks for the great review!

Carrie said...

Great review - I loved this one, too, though I come at it from a different angle, since I am a homeschooler. I agree, though, that the beauty of the book is the love Brodie feels for her daughter and her willingness to try something she never imagined in order to do what's best for her. And she is an amazing writer!

John said...

Certainly for some of the federal programs you need to have at least a cumulative 3.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale.