Home Education Magazine
July-August 2000 - Articles
Homeschooling Books - Lillian Jones
Homeschoolers' Success Stories by Linda Dobson
The most important books ever written about homeschooling is Linda Dobson's Homeschoolers' Success Stories: 15 Adults and 12 Teens Share the Impact That Homeschooling Has Made on Their Lives. After all, what is it we want to know when we're first thinking about homeschooling? We want to know what impact homeschooling will have on our children's lives. What is it we want to know when we go through times of doubt or anxiety? We want to know what impact homeschooling will have on our children's lives! What is it we want to know as our teens start to approach those years beyond homeschooling? We want to knowØ You got it! Well, folks, the homeschooling movement is coming of age, and we finally have a body of graduates to look to for answers. The answers our graduates are providing will surprise and enlighten even seasoned homeschoolers.
Homeschoolers' Success Stories starts out with a brief history of American homeschooling, and lists an impressive number of eminent homeschoolers, including presidents, business tycoons, writers, inventors, scientists, military leaders, and artists of all kinds. While it was disappointing to see this fascinating part of the book come to an end, the ensuing chapters were the best eye-openers of all , the personal stories told by homeschooling graduates.
Reading through Homeschoolers' Success Stories is a little like walking along a splendid buffet table at a banquet , you don't know what you'll come across next, and you can't wait to see what surprises await you. Yes, I was surprised again and again. The surprises come with the fresh realization of how fulfilling and unique the fruit of anyone's personal passions can be when they're not being run through a mill. The theme of this particular mind banquet was diversity and individuality in full bloom. The important message these graduates deliver is that homeschooling provided them with the opportunity to follow their own dreams and find their unique fulfillment and happiness in ways that might have been completely closed off to them otherwise.
This book isn't about getting into an Ivy League college and getting a professional title that denotes success , this book is about the incredible processes people can go through to find their personal satisfaction and success in any number of imaginative ways, Ivy League education among them. You can't read these stories without stretching your mind and questioning a whole lot of cultural assumptions about what "success" is. You'll find more than just success stories, however; the book includes moving and intimate personal responses to questions about how homeschooling impacted their lives.
The variety of successful people and stories in this book is amazing , from a Yale law school student to an Arkansas state trooper to NFL football player. There isn't a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker in the crowd, but there's a Broadway performer, a multi-millionaire internet entrepreneur, a firefighter , and a building contractor who sailed solo around the world in his teens, went to Stanford on a scholarship and quit because he didn't want to waste precious time in college.
Those are only a few of the stories you'll find in Homeschoolers' Success Stories. Some homeschooled for a while, some for the entire time, and all did it in different ways. Some followed structured programs while pursuing their interests in the enormous amount of spare time homeschooling provided, while others unschooled. There are also a few homeschoolers included in this book who have not "graduated" yet, but have already achieved impressive levels of success. Among these is a happy 10-year-old who was once severely autistic and is now non-autistic. Another is a 14-year-old columnist for a city newspaper.
Regardless of all the differences, there are important common experiences that can be found in these families. One thing I noticed is that even those who did follow a traditionally structured study plan found their really valuable education outside of that compartment. All these kids were allowed great freedom and encouragement to pursue their passions. The reader can't but think about the way this contrasts with the limitations set up for a child trapped in the demanding schedule and the confining expectations of school life.
Parental experiences are included, and Linda Dobson tells us, "Many routinely accepted school practices seemed unnecessary or even antithetical to learning, raising even more questions and concerns. Some parents emerged with the very real feeling they had been deceived in their own schooling. Others questioned that if their parental instincts were screaming the antithesis of what educational experts espouse, could experts in other arenas be equally wrong?"
Interesting similarities among the successful homeschool graduates include a tendency toward self-employment, working in a family business, or freelancing. Many began working as volunteers, employees, or entrepreneurs in early years. Dobson points out that "Many of these folks , whatever their current age might be , state that they don't know what the future holds, in large part because they see so many options available. They are, by and large, happy in their work. Many are pursuing interests that emerged when they were children, took root as they grew, and because of homeschooling, became proficiencies. They are doing what they love, and the money is following , to varying degrees, but always enough to continue pursuing goals and dreams."
After reading Homeschoolers' Success Stories, I reread Linda Dobson's Introduction. Some words that had puzzled me on first reading took on much clearer meaning the second time around: "Some of what the people featured in this book have to say about education may make you uncomfortable; it's better you know it right from the start rather than discover it halfway through the book. If you don't want to hear any more, put the book back on the shelf and don't buy it. I have no desire to deliver anything you don't want to hear. I'm sure it has something to do with humans' predisposition to kill the messenger." Powerful warning, huh? It's because Homeschoolers' Success Stories gets into some pretty unusual territory, and it will definitely make you rethink some deeply ingrained ideas. The book had a profound impact on my some of my own perceptions, or maybe I should say preconceptions , and I'm sure it will have a similar impact on other readers.
So, you see, Homeschoolers' Success Stories is quite an important book! This is our chance to get an intimate look at what wonders can occur when a person is allowed to truly grow and develop as an individual outside the traditional educational system. These stories make us stop and question both traditional means and traditional ends. Even the most seasoned homeschoolers will find something here to stretch and refresh their minds, and the beginning homeschooler will find provocative testimony encouraging openness to more unorthodox paths than they might have considered.
© Lillian Jones
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July-August 2000 Issue
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