I've been reading a lot about homeschooling, unschooling, and education in general. I'm trying to prepare myself for what's ahead, and get an idea of approaches that will suit our family. My most recent read is Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go to School Tell Their Own Stories, edited by Grace Llewellyn.
What makes this title worth mentioning is that it's compiled of testimonials from the children themselves. Not studies or generalizations or even anecdotal blurbs, but a personal view from those who do. Recently, I've been reading juvenile fiction to try to get an idea of what homeschooling is like from the learner's perspective. I've been itching to get a first-hand glimpse into the reality of the uninstitutionalized child.
Up until now, the only adult homeschooled person I knew was a former colleague with whom I've lost touch. So imagine my surprise and delight when I opened this book to find out that the first story was from another woman I know! (Coincidentally, she is also a former colleague--from the same organization.) I'd had no prior idea that she had a nontraditional educational background. Needless to say, I dug through my address book and located her, and am now deep in discussions with her via email about her experiences. I also plan to contact her parents: her father was quoted several times in the book, and I found his insight to be very helpful.
Back to the book, however, the other thing that makes it noteworthy is that I feel it does a good job of being objective. First, I felt that the subjects selected were representative of a diverse population. Some initially attended more traditional institutions, others were exclusively homeschooled; some used curriculum, others followed a more "learner-led" philosophy; and of course the *reasons* for homeschooling were as varied as the subjects themselves. So I did not feel that I was getting a homogenized picture, but rather the frank admission that there is no "one way". But more importantly, I read the updated edition, in which the writers were asked to contribute a followup essay, a decade after the first, to reflect on their experiences. In these, the authors were very candid about what they believe did and didn't "work", and were human enough to admit to a few regrets here and there.
Honesty. What a concept. Come on, we all know that very few things in life are wholly good/bad, beneficial/harmful, what-have-you. I appreciate being able to make what I feel is an informed decision. Objectivity in reporting is so much more helpful than one-sided propaganda. And the more I'm reading from the homeschooling bookshelves, the more relieved I become as I find more and more of this sort of approach. Biased? Sure. But most also attempt to be fair. How refreshing!