Brodie (English/Washington and Lee Univ.) home-schools her daughter for a year, with engaging, unpredictable results.
The author had no religious or philosophical objection to the public-school system, but she knew it was not serving her ten-year-old daughter well. Julia displayed “a deep inwardness, an engagement with her own imaginative universe,” and her mother wondered at times about autism and ADD. With considerable humor and clarity, Brodie chronicles the process of letting her little caged bird out, “offering her the sky, the clouds, the freedom to let her mind soar”—or, equally likely, to crash and burn. This story is no rosy manifesto to homeschooling, nor a condemnation, but a real-life encounter, full of stormy battles, power struggles and, most of all, passion. There are moments of pedagogic beauty, as the author segues with ease from history to music to geography to fractions, following the natural rhythm of conversation. There are also quite a few less-idyllic moments, duly noted in the chapter titled “The Winter of Our Discontent.” “Away from home,” she writes, “we enjoyed the pleasures of hands-on learning…[but]…as most parents can attest, extended spells of homebound mother-daughter contact are a recipe for trouble.” With a sure hand, Brodie tracks their progress through the whining and discontent, the crush of a mother’s high expectations, the bribery, the great field trips, the reintroduction to the outdoors and the closeness that comes from sharing your favorite things. Without the author’s prompting, readers will understand that this was a fruitful year for Julia.
Graceful and charming.