Maybe it’s my own personal homeschool bias, but a lot of the books I read for the Cybils (Middle Grade Fiction), didn’t feel very school-friendly.
I’ve already discussed the confusing mixed messages from and about school in Barbara Dee’s Solving Zoe, and how the protagonist, Zoe, learns and thrives much better outside of school than she does in classes.
In The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Calpurnia has this conversation with her grandfather:
“What are you studying in school? You do go to school, don’t you?
“Of course I do. We’re studying Reading, Spelling, Arithmetic, and Penmanship. Oh, and Deportment. I got an “acceptable” for Posture but an “unsatisfactory” for Use of Hankie and Thimble. Mother was kind of unhappy about that.”
“Good G–,” he said. “It’s worse than I thought.”
This was an intriguing statement, though I didn’t understand it.
“And is there no science? No physics?” he said.
“We did have botany one day. What’s physics?”
“Have you never heard of Sir Isaac Newton? Sir Francis Bacon?”
“No.” . . .
“And I suppose they teach you that the world is flat and that there are dragons gobbling up the ships that fall over the edge.” He peered at me. “There are many things to talk about. I hope it’s not too late. Let us find a place to sit.”
Not exactly a plug for schools, even if the schools that are being criticized are turn of the century, c.1899.
In several of the books, the protagonist is flunking out of school even though he/she is capable of doing the work:
In Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams, Cam O’Mara is learning a lot more at home dealing with his injured brother, working on the family’s ranch, and practicing his skateboarding and bull riding skills than he does at school.
Author Andrew Clements is known for his “school stories”, and Extra Credit is not an exception to the genre. However, Abby learns more from her extra credit assignment of writing to a pen pal in Afghanistan, completed outside of school time, than she does from her work at school, even though she spends a great deal of time trying to “catch up” so that she can be promoted and go on to seventh grade with her classmates.
In Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson, Lonnie loses his motivation to study anything at all when an insensitive teacher tells him he’s too young to be a real poet. He gets his math instruction from his older foster brother at home.
The Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank was actually more school-friendly than many of the other books that were not about homeschooling. The message I got from Frank’s book was that many different kinds of schooling situations work for different children and young adults at different times.
Which is what I believe. Different strokes for different folks, and let’s live and let live. I have a child in a nontraditional public high school, four young adults who have graduated from my homeschool and who have never been to a public or private school, a young daughter who is trying out an online virtual academy (public school) this semester, and two children who are still homeschooling. There are advantages and disadvantages to each situation. It takes time and energy to find the best educational setting for each child each year. And some times you just hope it’s not too late.
Let us find a place to sit.