Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling

I pretty much knew the story arc of The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling by Quinn Cummings after scanning the first two pages of the book. Cummings, for reasons I wasn't quite sure of yet, was going to need to home school her child, I'd get an education in the world of homeschooling and all would turn out just fine. And even with the predictable nature of the book, I found it absolutely riveting. Cummings, it turns out, is a hilarious author. I just couldn't put the book down; not in the library after I picked it up, and not at home once I started to reading it in earnest.

I'm definitely a sucker for a good expirementation book. What better way to turn both the good and bad parts of an experience into something useful? Most of the experiences outlined in the book were both humorous and educational. Cummings lost me a bit when she attended (snuck into?) a number of fundamentalist Christian events, as that seemed like she was gathering fodder for her book and not genuinely interested in adopting their practices. Still, this gave me another view into the homeschooling world, so I'm appreciative.

It's actually only fairly recently (within a few years) that I learned how controversial homeschooling can be. Perhaps that's because I've known so few (if any?) people who were homeschooled, so it was almost other-world concept. Cummings does a fairly good job of laying out some common concerns people raise and providing sane responses to them. She also gives us a peek at the dark side of home schooling where kids can be deprived of information, and it can be used for downright evil purposes. She also does a solid job of not bashing traditional school, and lays out a strong case for frustrated teachers who feel like they don't actually get to teach.

Without giving away the ending of the book, I will mention that I very much like Cummings' prescription for eduction. To her, it's not about whether homeschooling is better than the traditional classroom, it's about combining the best that each environment has to offer. "School" may be 2 days spent in a standard classroom, a couple of days at home working on math and weekends attending an an online French course taught by a teacher in Paris. This trend matches up to our work environments, where being at the office all the time doesn't always make sense (unless you work at Yahoo!, of course). The challenge with this vision, of course, is scalability. We have enough to juggle with our 8 year old, I can't imagine also adding "craft and execute educational curriculum" to the list.

I have to admit, Cummings vision does tickle the entrepreneurial side of my brain. She confirms a hunch I've had for a long time which is that eduction doesn't have to be considered and solved solely on a massive state or federal level. If one mom can make a difference with one child, then one smart entrepreneur should be able to do the same thing. If our educational system is broken, we don't need to wait for someone else to solve the problem, any one person can start on it today.

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