I picked up Homeschooling: The Bigger Picture, by Sarah Hall, because it had been written by a homeschooler, and as someone who was homeschooled, I was interested in reading about others’ experiences. By the writing style, this book was written by someone who is obviously still pretty young. The author spends a lot of time saying “rah-rah, homeschooling!” without much actual content or real advice. The structure of the book sometimes seems jumbled, with some parts that would be better together split into various sections (the book also needed some general editing as well, given the misspellings). The author also cited Wikipedia as a source at one point, which made me flinch – not that Wikipedia isn’t accurate, but years of college has trained me out of citing it as a source.
In some ways, I think that this book does prospective homeschoolers a disservice; to be fair, sometimes homeschooling is awesome and fun, but there will be challenges and bad days, just like at public or private schools. Sometimes you have to figure out why your homeschooling methods aren’t working for your child. Sometimes you’ll get frustrated. These things have happened to me, and at those times, what I’ve taken comfort in is that it’s okay for things to go poorly sometimes. Making it sound like homeschooling will fix all that’s wrong with your life does no one any favors; if you’re prepared to experience challenges, then you’re more likely to react constructively when it happens. Really, what I think people need to do is find out what works the best for their family; for some, that means homeschooling, but for others, it means public or private school. There’s nothing wrong with any of those options. Sometimes homeschooling fails kids, just as public schools do. Homeschooling can be great, but it’s not magic.
One of the most insulting things about the whole book comes at the very beginning. The author tells the reader to think about who they want their child to become, and insinuates that every parent should know this. You know what? I don’t know. I want my children to be happy, to be able to support themselves in their chosen profession, and to lead a fulfilled life (and I mean fulfilled by their own definition, not mine). Beyond that, it doesn’t matter too much to me if they grow up to be scientists, artists, engineers, veterinarians, farmers, mimes, or doomsday preppers. If they’re geeks or jocks, outgoing or shy.
After that lovely insinuation, the author posits that homeschooling is how parents can be sure that their children become whoever the parent desires them to be. My parents homeschooled me, and, um, I’m not too sure that I’ve become the person they desired I would. Not that I’m a mass murderer or anything, but most of the decisions I’ve made that have changed my life are ones that I’ve made without seeking their advice or approval. Falling in love with computer programming? Deciding to quit being a computer science major and becoming a business major? Getting married? Having kids? Yep, made all those without much care for what my parents thought. Sometimes I’m not happy with the decisions I’ve made, but they’re mine to live with. My kids will sometimes make bad choices, and that’s okay. It might hurt to see those choices made, but I believe that they have to forge their own path, for good or ill.
Though there were definitely times that I nodded my head in agreement with activities and events that I shared with the author (her story about homeschooler’s aloofness is one), I can’t say that I recommend the book. It is one of the few books I’ve read recently that genuinely made me angry. At one point in my life, I was pretty “rah-rah!” about homeschooling as well, but in getting older, I’ve realized that it’s not as simple as all that. I’d be curious to see what this author says in another five or ten years, but for now, I won’t be reading her work.