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Archive for May, 2009

This post briefly reviews Lizza Aiken, “Growing Up with Joan Aiken: A Daughter’s View” in Horn Book Magazine (May/June 2009): 253-258.

Joan Aiken (1924-2004!) was a major figure in 20th century children’s literature.  She wrote nearly 100 books, the most popular of which are probably the Wolves of Willoughby Chase series.  In this article her daughter Lizza describes Joan’s early childhood, and it turns out that she was, until age twelve, taught by her mother at home.

Joan’s mother Jessie was a well educated woman who immersed her daughter in a world of books from her youngest years.  Readers of Aiken’s often dark work will not be surprised to hear that as a child she was exposed to quite a bit of literature with mature themes. 

Lizzie Aiken describes her mother and grandmother’s typical day:  They would begin with lessons in the morning–perhaps an assignment to re-write a Biblical passage in Shakespearean language, or to “produce a poem in the style of Wordsworth or Chaucer.”  Next the pair would do housework (in a home without running water or electricity).  Later in the day Jessie would often read aloud from great literary works.  In the evenings Joan would do her own work: “from the age of five, she kept a writer’s notebook.”

Lizza Aiken describes a mother-daughter relationship mediated by a rich vocabulary drawn from the literature in which the pair constantly marinated, giving Joan a love for reading and writing that laid the foundation of her future literary success.

At age 12, however, Joan was sent away to school.  She was “totally unaccustomed to noisy adolescent society” and had tremendous difficulty making the transition.  Her daughter writes, “she said that from that time she stopped growing, started to become deaf, and developed even further the habit of withdrawing into her imagination.”

The article goes on to discuss Aiken’s adult life, much of it tragic.  Poems, songs, and stories memorized as a girl helped her cope, and as such Aiken passed on to her own children a love for committing large quantities of literature to memory.  There are many other revealing anecdotes and incidental details mentioned in this article that shed light on Aiken’s work for those who may be interested.  The article, quite understandably, is written as a loving homage rather than a critical appraisal, but I mention it on this blog because of its value in noting yet another historic figure who was taught at home and establishing another example of the strong association in the world of children’s literature with home schooling.

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This post reviews Gene V. Glass, Fertilizers, Pills, And Magnetic Strips: The Fate Of Public Education In America (Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, 2008).

Glass, a professor of education at Arizona State University and author of numerous studies related to empirical research in education, here provides a sweeping, almost epic account of the broad economic and social trends that have affected recent educational policy.  While homeschooling is not a central theme of his book, it is for him one facet of a larger trend toward educational privatization that he tries to account for here.  (more…)

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This post briefly reviews Brian D. Schwartz, The Law of Homeschooling (Dayton: Education Law Assn., 2008) [ordering info here]

Let me begin by saying that I have not read this book.  When I was writing the legal chapter in my own book on homeschooling I looked at the older edition of this text (published in 1994) and wasn’t very impressed.  Back then the best book on homeschool law was far and away Rutherford Institute founder John W. Whitehead’s Home Education: Rights and Reasons

This new edition is only 74 pages and costs $35.  I didn’t want to spend that, so I’m relying here on a good review of the book by Theresa Willingham, published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of School Choice.  [unfortunately unavailable online]  (more…)

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