Book Review: Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter’s Uncommon Year by Laura Brodie

April 16, 2010 Categories: Books , Contests | Comments Off  


Title: Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter’s Uncommon Year
Author: Laura Brodie
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the author
First line: On a cold October morning my ten-year-old daughter, Julia, sat at our kitchen table and contemplated the Earth’s layers.

Last year, I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Laura Brodie’s novel The Widow’s Season. While communicating with Ms. Brodie about her novel, I mentioned that I am a homeschooling mom. She told me that her next book would be a memoir of the year she spent homeschooling her daughter, Julia. When she e-mailed me earlier this year about reviewing it, I didn’t hesitate.

I have to admit, as a full-time, long-term homeschooler, I wondered if my philosophy of homeschooling would be so different from Ms. Brodie, who decided to homeschool her daughter for 5th grade only, that it would be an awkward read and review. I needn’t have worried. Ms. Brodie has a beautiful writing voice, and her love for her daughter and desire to tell about her homeschooling experience with honesty came through on every page.

In Love in a Time of Homeschooling, Ms. Brodie decides to consider short-term homeschooling after she loses her 4th grade daughter Julia for an hour one afternoon. She discovers her hiding in a closet – hiding because she had heard her mother say it was almost time to do homework. Julia is a bright girl who loves to read, draw, and experience nature – and she is going crazy in a traditional classroom setting. Brodie is a college professor and author, and knows that long-term homeschooling won’t fit for their family, but decides to take Julia out of school for 5th grade. This memoir tells the story of that decision and the resulting year.

I loved how honest Brodie was about the gap between her expectations for her year of homeschooling and the reality of it. Very few homeschooling books are honest about the fact that while some days are nestled in a rosy haze of delightful learning, most days are full of routine and plugging ahead at work that is not always enjoyable. And there are days when the idea of putting all four of my kids on a big yellow school is immensely tempting, and evenings when I end the day ashamed of the way I lost my temper over having to explain some math concept yet one more time.

This book has a much wider appeal than simply homeschoolers, though. Readers of memoir will recognize a talented author and enjoy reading about a year in which she decided to take a different path than she had expected, and how that year turned out. Parents will be in agreement with the difficulty in assuring a good education for our children in today’s public school system, the struggle to balance enriching extra-curricular activities with mountains of homework and the need to simply let our kids be kids while they can.

The thing I most appreciated about this book is that Brodie came away from her experience with the conviction that all good parents are homeschoolers, whether they are doing the day to day teaching themselves or entrusting their children to others. She realizes that as parents we bear the ultimate responsibility for our children’s education – and she didn’t hesitate to try something different when it was needed.

Some favorite passages:

As I thought back on my mom, it occurred to me that all good parents are homeschoolers. Homeschooling is what happens when families turn off their TVs, cell phones, and iPods. It occurs in long, thoughtful conversations at the dinner table, as well as at baseball games and ballet recitals, and in the planning of a vegetable garden. Parents who enrich their children’s lives with art and sports and multiple trips to the library provide the backbone of American education. Unfortunately, in our busy lives, parents and children have less and less time for hours of thoughtful interaction, which is one reason why homeschooling has been on the rise. Homeschooling provides family with the quality time that used to occur after school. ~ p. 52-53

Most homeschooling books don’t mention these troubles; they don’t dwell on shouting matches and slammed doors. Perhaps other homeschooling households are more placid than mine, or perhaps the first foray into homeschooling is always rocky, and years of practice are required to smooth the path. But I suspect that even the best homeschooling families have their ugly moments, from minor annoyances to major fights… ~ p. 145

Above all, homeschooling enabled Julia and me to understand one another more deeply – to witness each other’s flaws and strengths and practice the art of patience. I wish I could claim that my angry outbursts have disappeared, and that I am now a model of meditative calm. But who would believe it, especially in a house with four opinionated females? Truth is, the emotional weather in our family alternates between sunshine and storm, with the occasional hurricane looming (never more than a category two). Homeschooling taught Julia and me to comprehend each other’s tempests, and to appreciate all chances to bask in warm, cloudless love. ~ p. 237

I have an ARC copy and a hardcover copy of Love in a Time of Homeschooling to give away to two of my readers. Click over to Books and Movies to enter.

(Disclosure: Love in a Time of Homeschooling was provided to me by the author for the purpose of review. The above link is an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it and subsequently purchase anything, I will receive a small percentage in commission.)

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