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Love in a Time of Homeschooling by Laura Brodie

When I used to review books about homeschooling for Home Education Magazine, some of my favorite books were those written by homeschooling parents themselves. They all had some philosophy of learning they wanted to share — that’s why they wrote a book, after all — but what I really loved was their spirit of adventure and their openness about family life. Homeschoolers sometimes feel like they’re under more scrutiny than other parents, because they’ve chosen to buck society a bit and take on responsibility for something most people think is best left to the experts — their child’s education. So a homeschooling parent who chooses to expose their family life to public view is a brave parent indeed.

Laura Brodie took on this double adventure with her daughter Julia, first, by homeschooling Julia for a year, then by writing about it. The result is Love in a Time of Homeschooling. You can read more about the book and the Brodies in this article in the Washington Post. I read a pre-publication version of Love and had no hesitation in recommending it to my homeschooling friends, not because I thought they would agree with every word of it, but because I thought Brodie’s book was a valuable addition to the on-going conversation about education and homeschooling in the US. The book speaks to an important part of the homeschooling community — parents who choose to homeschool for a year or a few years or for a certain season of their family’s life together, and then return to some kind of institutional schooling.

I homeschooled my children for about six years, then they returned to private school. I have many happy memories of those times, and many regrets as well, but in the end I have come to realize that no one method or approach is ideal. There are some homeschoolers who reproduce school at home, with curricula, textbooks, even “school rooms” and school desks. There are others who practice unschooling, in which there are few or no formal lessons, the family follows its interests, and learning is just what you do every day in the course of living. Taking a child out of school for a year with the intention of returning her to school means you can’t try everything, and you are under some pressure to keep up with the local school’s curriculum, but while reading Love I often felt sad that Julia couldn’t experience a little bit more freedom to learn on her own. She’s clearly a bright and creative young woman, and at times, when Brodie is explaining how she worked math lessons into a trip to the coffee shop, or rehearsed language lessons during a car ride, I wanted to tell her that every moment doesn’t have to be a scripted learning opportunity. Learning is always happening, even if you’re not seeing it or hearing it or measuring it.

The title of the book, though, is not “Learning in a Time of Homeschooling.” Love is the first word of the title, and it shines through the book. No family comes away from homeschooling unchanged. Brodie ends the book with a thought toward homeschooling another of her daughters, “beginning from day one with more patience, more humor, and more openness to outrageous fun.” And what could be better than that?