When I was actively homeschooling, I would occasionally see humorous lists citing the top reasons to homeschool. One that resonated with me (and seemed serious to me even if it lent itself to funny illustrations) was that homeschooling validated hours upon hours of reading. Not only did I get to read in order to prepare for teaching, but there was a practical need for reading books about education and learning.
With that in mind, those of you in the trenches of parenting whether you are homeschooling or not, might enjoy reading two books that I recently finished. Lenora Chu is an America journalist whose parents immigrated to the States from China. When she and her small town, Minnesota-bred, blond and blue-eyed husband attain career opportunities in China, she utilizes her skills to explore and compare education in China and her home country. Since the couple has two young children, one of whom they enroll in school, her writing is conflicted, passionate and very human.
Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School and the Global Race to Achieve is a fun read that will make you think. Like Ms. Chu, you may find yourself alternately horrified, envious, curious and forced to analyze exactly what your goals for education are.
The second book I enjoyed was the smartest kids in the world by Amanda Ripley. (Neither the title nor the author’s name are capitalized on the cover though that has nothing to do with the content that I could see.) Like Ms. Chu, Ms. Ripley is a journalist who turns her talents to explore some of the most successful schools around the world. She follows three American high-school students as they respectively study abroad in Finland, South Korea and Poland as well as visiting and interviewing educators, parents and additional students in the United States and abroad.
Not surprisingly, she finds that some of the most successful school systems run on systems that diametrically conflict with the systems of other successful schools. There is no secret formula to be followed, but rather a variety of methods and ideas that each have their positive and negative sides.
Depending on your personality and confidence level, both these books can be supportive or threatening. They can reassure you that your personal parenting and teaching techniques can breed success even if they conflict with those around you or set you on a futile journey to incorporate a mishmash of ideas that will leave you and your kids exhausted and dejected. If you can avoid the potential pitfalls, relax and enjoy getting input from a variety of places, both these books deliver thought-provoking insights on education wrapped in a good read.
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