Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book Review of Home Schooling: A Family's Journey by Martine and Gregory Millman

Published in 2008 by Tarcher

This very well-written book chronicles the journey of one New Jersey family out of the public/private school system and into interest-led home schooling; a journey these highly educated parents didn't originally anticipate, but one which they found to be completely rewarding.
This book also touches on some important deficiencies in the public education arena, and gives a very interesting look at one family's personal solution to those deficiencies. If you are a home schooling family looking into interest-led home schooling, read this book. If you are a mainstreamed public or private school parent, this is a good book to read to understand why some parents choose the home schooling route for reasons other than religion.
"We want our children to become who they are--- and a developed person is, above all, free. But freedom as we define it doesn't mean doing what you want. Freedom means the ability to make choices that are good for you. It is the power to choose to become what you are capable of becoming, to develop your unique potential by making choices that turn possibility into reality. It is the ability to make choices that actualize you. As often as not, maybe more often than not, this kind of freedom means doing what you do not want, doing what is uncomfortable or tiring or boring or annoying." - Gregory Millman
Their approach to learning is characterized by a reliance on "real" books (as opposed to textbooks), real-world experiences, and travel, with very marked success. Gregory Millman says, " With exceptions so rare it is hard to remember one, textbooks are to books as powdered food supplements are to a good, balanced meal." Yes, yes and yes.

Here are some other quotes from the book on issues that resonated with me:
"Sometimes it [the government/society]* wanted children to solve the social problems, such as racial segregation, adults could not handle. Sometimes it tacitly supported some schools as warehouses, not instructional facilities. Sometimes it sought schooling to be the equalizer in a society in which the gap between the rich and the poor was growing... Now the drumbeat demands that all children achieve academically at a high level and the measure of that achievement is tests." - Patricia Albjerg Graham, former director of the National Institute of Education
In elaboration of the above statement, Millman writes, "The decision to send a child to school is a decision to send a child into an environment with an organization and culture shaped by such seldom articulated assumptions and compromises. It is a decision to entrust a child to an enterprise whose tacit mission and goals may be different from the ones written on the wall. These missions and goals are both political and economic."

Millman discusses the concept of "agency risk - the notion that people who manage an organization [in this case, schools] tend to manage it in their own interest, not in the interest of shareholders or other stake-holders [i.e. the children]."

Personally, I read this book with a silent cheer, because not only does it outline so well the issues and struggles my own family has faced in the public school system in our town, but the Millmans' philosophy toward education and learning is one that I passionately share.

(Let me also clearly state that I support every family's right to choose the educational option that works best for them, be it public school, private school, home school, or even no school. It is not my place to question another family's educational decisions.)

*The words within the brackets [ ] are mine, to make the quote clearer.

The Millman's blog at

1 comment:

  1. This is one homeschooling book I haven't read, but it sounds fabulous! Thanks for the review!