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Education Reporter

Homeschooling: A Family's Journey, Gregory and Martine Millman, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2008, 304 pages, $24.95

The acknowledgments section of this wonderful homeschooling memoir thanks the unnamed bureaucrats and teachers whose lack of cooperation launched the Millman family out of conventional schools and into homeschooling. "If they had not held closed the doors, we might never have looked for a window," write the Millmans. Their decision to homeschool soon opened up a new world in which the border between life and education blurred, and then disappeared.

The authors recount taking advantage of many "teachable moments" that conventional schooling would have had to pass by. Digressions and detours lead to surprising chances to learn, grow, and make connections among subjects that schools treat as disparate categories. Travel, museums, conversations, reading Dickens at the dinner table, attending Congressional hearings, cooking, taking things apart, and engaging with other families have all played their roles in the Millman children's educations.

Gregory Millman is a financial expert, and he uses concepts from the realm of business and finance, such as value investing and disruptive innovation, to evaluate homeschooling and traditional schooling. Insights from sociology and the history of education also add much to the book.

The Millmans see education as a relationship, in which each child is respected and valued for his own sake. "The most important part of education is a close personal relationship that folds a child in arms of love and deep respect," they write. "This is a relationship in which the parent makes a perpetual self-gift." Among other things, parents can encourage their children to explore their own interests and to use their own particular gifts.

One of the Millman children waited until age eight to read. While school settings require early reading since they depend on worksheets and textbooks, homeschooled children can read when they are ready, whether early or late. Late readers' varied learning experiences before reading enrich their lives, and they read with incredible enthusiasm on their own timetable.

The book does expose some of the shortcomings of traditional schooling, but it is primarily positive: a cheerful and thankful account of 15 years of home education, and an exploration of the possibilities home education opens up. Readers will immediately find specific ideas they want to try with their own children, as well as broader principles to consider on the subjects of parenting, education, truth, and freedom.

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