1 Stars Out Of 5
Ugh... the kind of book that gives homeschooling a bad name
September 15, 2017
I just read the kind of book that gives homeschoolers a bad name. I feel like I have had a unique combination of experiences. I have taught in several public schools, substitute taught at various schools in several different states, taught at a private school, taught at a homeschool co-op, taught in a GED program at a community college, have tutored K-12 subjects, and have now homeschooled for over ten years. I know that there are strengths and weaknesses of each system. But, one of the biggest problems I see is how the systems--public, private, and homeschooling--interact with each other and view each other. It is this problem that grieves me. I don't believe that there is one right educational fit for all children, but I wish there was more respect and grace shown between these three systems. The book I just read does not help to encourage that.
In front of me sits a new book by Dr. Kevin Leman, Education a la Carte: Choosing the best schooling options for your child. What this book should really be titled is Education: Valuing Public, Private, and Charter Schools More. My time is short and so I'll try and get straight to the point and explain what my issues with this book are. I know I don't have time to really dig into them. I realized that this book first of all doesn't have a Christian emphasis, but does have a moral slant. Secondly, the author perceives that the goal of all parents is that their children will achieve worldly success and by that I mean monetary success. Lastly, this author was "privileged to sit in on a homeschooling focus group" in which he listened to a group (of what size? where? who was in it? what ages were their children? who was running it?) which made some statements that by no means were representative of the vast variety of homeschoolers who are educating their children today. So, my last issue is how he portrays homeschooling.
I'll start with my first point. The books I'm aware of by Dr. Kevin Leman's books have all been published by Christian publishers over the years, so I assumed that they were grounded in the Word. But, as I perused this book, I realized that there weren't any Bible verses in it or referenced in it. So, I spoke with a friend who has read several of his parenting books and asked if they were Biblical. She explained that they had some solid, good advice but that they would better be classified as "moral" than "Biblical". But, what that means for the book is that many Christian parents may not find that they agree with the premise of most of his points. I didn't.
Next point. The first chapters focus on explaining and identifying what parents want first for their children and then what they should look for in a school--note that he really means in a formal school setting. The feeling I got as I read those chapters was that we should all want monetary success and acceptance to the best colleges for our kids. On page 27, Leman writes "Let's be honest, shall we? Each of us wants our child not only to compete but also to be top dog in an increasingly complicated, global world." No, that's not want I want most for my kids!! What I want for my kids is to to love God, to love others well, and to be able to live independently as adults. Then, two pages later, he writes that "the reality is that you have to go to some sort of college these days in order to make a decent buck." No! That's not true either. I talk to people all the time about their jobs and how they got them. But, college isn't always a part of the picture. My husband took a very nontraditional path to his degree and he's a great example that debunks that myth. He's a smart man who works hard and has a lot of knowledge. He does have his degree now, but it is his experience and the knowledge he sought outside of a classroom that really helps him do his job! When I consider my own children, I expect my youngest son to pursue a trade that will allow him to be practical and support himself (and a family) and pursue his interests.
At one point, there's this statement that tells you about Leman's wife's reaction when he brought up homeschooling to her. This is how he relates the story on page 63, "...I once brought up homeschooling to my wife. "What?" she said, baring her teeth like a German shepherd patrolling the junkyard against potential adversaries. That was the end of the subject for us." When you read a statement like that in the book, you know that the author and his wife do not see homeschooling the way homeschoolers do. I wish he had left that story out of the book. The section on homeschooling is very short and gives a very strange and in many ways wrong view of how homeschooling actually works. He focuses on the drawback he sees of what to do when your child misbehaves and paints the picture that homeschooling parents have to separate the roles of teacher and parent. My experience is that you can't fully separate the two roles. You are always parent and teacher, too. Because as a homeschooling parent, I engage in my kids' lives throughout the day. Ironically, the homeschooling authorities that he quotes are odd ones--two of them I've never even heard of! I have been reviewing homeschooling curriculum for over ten years and listening to parents about the different books they read and I've never come across these two... I could go on and on, but instead hopefully I'll write a book some day that's a better representation of homeschooling.
I think the last thing that surprised me about this book is that the list of resources at the end of the book is just a list of Dr. Kevin Leman's books. There were no references or explanation of the "homeschooling focus group" he attended, no footnotes explained, or the site that told him Susan Sutherland Isaacs and John Holt are two of the major driving educational philosophical forces behind homeschooling.
I wish Dr. Leman had written a better book. I would not recommend this book. It is not a broad research based book. Instead, it is a book written based on stereotypes and anecdotal evidence from his own life and experience.
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book by Revell books and very obviously these are all my own opinions.