Book Chatter: The Year of Learning Dangerously


There are three reasons why this book has been on my mind recently.

  1. A decade or so ago, this would have been the time of year that I was shopping for new pencils and Pee Chee folders.
  2. My teacher friends are posting pictures of their squeaky-clean, freshly decorated classrooms.
  3. I got a haircut that makes me look like a sixth-grader in the 1980s.
Roughly how I look.

This is roughly my head’s appearance at the moment.

In The Year of Learning Dangerously, author Quinn Cummings is less than satisfied with her daughter’s school and decides to explore the unplumbed depths of homeschooling. As she tries to figure out what would be best for her daughter (and for the whole family’s sanity), from coops to online classes to course kits, she discusses the history of the homeschooling movement and its current place in America, as well as the more recent trend of unschooling.

As you might expect from such a broad scope, there’s a lot to take in, and Cummings is frank about the bafflement and frustration she experiences during the journey. Her honesty and discomfort are encouraging, and she brings up some great questions about freedom and independence — not just in the sphere of education, but also in the realm of parenting in general. For example, is it better to have set cultural standards for parenting, or to let parents figure it out on their own?

As a non-parent, I don’t have many wise words to offer, but it’s been interesting to track the threads of the discussion. As well as Cummings’ book, which spurred my interest, I’ve especially enjoyed this TED essay on global parenting, this NPR article on the same topic, Mei-Ling Hopgood’s similarly themed book How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, and Joanna Goddard’s gorgeous eleven-part series on expats’ parenting experiences.

Parents, I’m curious: If you could leap into the past and change one thing about your children’s educational experience, what would it be?


Photo credits: Book cover from Better World Books; willow from ADD on Pixabay.


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