Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 8:04 a.m.

The scene: // As usual, I’m sitting at my desk in the living room. I spend a lot of time at this spot, doing research, reading, or just watching my kids play outside.

Drinking: // coffee.

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Reading: // Syllabus by Lynda Barry. I started it earlier in the week and though it’s a short book, I’m taking my time reading it. Barry has been a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a few years now and Syllabus is about some of her past classes. The book includes syllabi, assignments, and is done in that typical Barry style: composition book-like pages and filled with images. I can see why Joy enjoyed this book so much.

Thinking about: // the power of storytelling. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Avid readers love stories and there are some themes we gravitate to, while ignoring others. Stories have the power to change us and give us words to experiences that we ourselves couldn’t voice.

With my daughter starting high school next year, I have the opportunity to create her English class. Previous classes offered for homeschooled high schoolers have been pretty bland, filled exclusively with busywork, books that were written at least forty years ago, and all the authors are white. Nope. That’s not for us.

So I’m starting from scratch: going over standards while figuring out what we should explore from themes to books, documentaries to podcasts. It’s scary, yet exciting at the same time. It also means that I have a ton of reading ahead like old favorites such as To Kill a Mockingbird, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Persepolis, American Born Chinese, and more. I have my work cut out for me.

Enjoying: // my last few weeks of pregnancy! I have four weeks left and it’s exciting, though I hope time flies by. I can’t wait to meet my baby girl.

Now I’m off to: // figure out what’s for breakfast. These kids aren’t going to feed themselves (though they’re old enough to).

What are you up to today?

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Review: The Year of Learning Dangerously by Quinn Cummings

cummingsThe Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling

Quinn Cummings

230 pages

Published in 2012 by Perigee Books, an imprint of Penguin

Source: Public Library

I was hiding in the laundry room fighting off a full-blown panic attack. If long division with remainders hadn’t been invented, this would not have been happening.

So begins Quinn Cummings’ memoir, The Year of Learning Dangerously, documenting her first year homeschooling her daughter, Alice. Alice is like any other kid: she loves cats, playing outside, and reading. When it comes to math, there’s this huge struggle every year. At the end of the school year, Alice usually doesn’t advance much in the subject. Cummings sees herself in Alice and knows that if she doesn’t intervene, the situation won’t change. What comes next is a hilarious and honest account of Quinn’s quest to homeschool her daughter, explore various homeschooling approaches, and just figure out what she’s doing.

Homeschooling has been going on for decades in the United States and one of the biggest reasons parents take their children out of school is for religious or moral instruction. That’s not always the reason why we decide to take our kids out of school. With Cummings, we know that she just wants Alice to love learning and to become willing to tackle things even when they’re not easy for her.

What makes the author’s story different from other memoirs about the same subject is the humor. Cummings is hilarious and honest about her shortcomings and her search to make Alice’s first year memorable. Or at least not traumatic. While tackling homeschooling, Cummings also finds the time to examine several approaches to homeschooling such as the classical method and unschooling, attend a Christian homeschooling prom, and learn as much as she can about the history of homeschooling. None of this is new to any veteran homeschooling parent. But if you’re curious about the subject or new to homeschooling, this book is really helpful.

While reading The Year of Learning Dangerously, readers see how privileged Cummings is. In her search to learn more about other homeschooling groups like Fundamentalists and Gohardites, she’s flying all over the country. Unless these same groups are living in my community, there’s no way I’m going to find out about them. These sections of the book are interesting because I had no idea what some of the groups think or believe, but it takes the focus away from Alice and her adjustment (which went well) to homeschooling. Some people may be offended by these sections since Cummings pretty much lied her way through most of these conventions. I wasn’t offended at all.

I found The Year of Learning Dangerously to be one woman’s hilarious take on her year of homeschooling and all that she’s learned. My rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Faced with a very foggy road ahead of us, we are probably best served by understanding there is just so much we can predict, and so much we can’t. We need to acknowledge that we’re all trying our best−homeschoolers and brick-and-mortar schoolers alike. After that, we need to embrace the uncertainty and just hope everything turns out better than bad.