Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Appropriate Literature

Time4Learning, an online homeschool & enrichment service, received this email this weekend....

"A homeschool acquaintance told me about your site so I had to try it. First, I have to say I was really looking forward to having my children do your program. So much so that I even signed up my two boys (on March 28 2006). They've been having a pretty good time with it ....But that's not why I'm writing and canceling our subscription. ....

I must say, your interpretation of what homeschoolers want is light years away from reality....I say this after taking a look at what your 8th grade "lesson plans" had to offer. Dang folks! Do you really think I'm going to let my 8th grader read the kind of trash that you offer in your first language arts lesson?

I mean really. I looked up "Surviving the Applewhites" on Amazon and was appalled that you can even think that a book so disparaging of homeschoolers could even possibly be attractive. Was the intent to show us just what we were missing by not sending our children to public school?....."

Here is how I answered.....

"I am very sorry to have upset you.

Time4Learning takes its educational content seriously. We have licensed the
CompassLearning system which is sold into schools around the country. We make it available to users at home with minimal adaptations and at as low a price as possible.... When I got your email earlier this weekend, I looked up the book. Since I had not personally read it, I acquired a copy and read it. I have not read the Amazon summary but generally I have found Amazon to be very accurate on questions of price but somewhat undependable on questions of content. Have you found differently?

The book is interesting and a fast read. Here is what I have found.

The book was a Newbery Honory book in 2003 for literature and as such, it is on many recommended reading lists for students. My first reaction is that as a homeschool enthusiast, I am pleased that a major children's book uses homeschooling as its context instead of the usual stories where "John and Jane go to school every morning..."

The book focuses on a difficult rebellious adolescent (Jake) who is taken in by a unschooling family in NC made up of a set of colorful tempermental characters. The story is a combination of coming of age and dealing with issues of adolescence, identity, self-worth, and family.

Do I think the family is ideal or typical? No, this is literature. The family is more than a little dysfunctional although big-hearted and full of talented people. Their approach is unschooling which works extremely well for some of the children in the family, not so well for others.

The family itself is portrayed a little cartoonishly. I found that as literature it would have been more appropriate for a younger grade since it lacked subtlety and was a little formulastic, the ending was relatively predictable. However, the book did support the content of the lessons that it was supposed to and it is very well written. I'm sorry that you found a review of the book which led you to believe that it was inappropriate.

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