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Deschooling Our Lives - by Matt Hern
  
Reviewed by Jaime Rapaport
   
Deschooling Our Lives
, a compilation of short essays by deschooling parents, advocates, and educators discusses the various aspects of alternative schooling, ranging from the philosophies of its original supporters to representatives from modern alternative schools.  The compilation focuses on core issues such as:
  • The negative psychological effect of the present school system
     
  • The need for schooling that venerates individuality, self-definition, and responsibility for one’s own growth
    
  • Determination to raise critical thinking individuals committed to social transformation and a democratic society
     
  • The need for a free school system that allows parents school choice
     
  • Emphasis on community building and community support
     

Separated into 4 sections: 1) Looking Back: Some of the Roots of Modern Deschooling; 2) Living Fully: More Recent Analysis; 3) Just Say No: Staying Home; 4) Schools That Ain’t: Places That Work; the collection of pieces are written by individuals with experience in the field. 

Part One - Looking Back: Some of the Roots of Modern Deschooling incorporates articles from authors ranging from Leo Tolstoy to John Holt, each drawing on their own experience in the educational system.  Although each of the writers gives a different perspective on the issue, they each discuss the failures of the current school system as well as ideas for how to transcend them.  Each writer emphasizes the need to refrain from distinguishing intellectual from physical and advocate learning as intertwined with experience. This part offers various critiques of the general school system.

Part Two – Living Fully: More Recent Analysis focuses on more recent proponents of deschooling who form the core philosophy of the deschooling movement.  Writers such as Grace Llewellyn and John Taylor Gatto discuss the use of arbitrary tyrannical authority in the current school system and the negative psychological effects this method has on children.  Others focus on the need to create an environment that encourages children to view life as a lifelong process of questioning, discovery, and commitment to social transformation.  Each writer offers their own criticisms of the current school system and visions for the future.

Part Three – Just Say No: Staying Home, contains pieces by a diverse group

of deschoolers, ranging from single mothers to musicians.  Each author gives their own angle of the deschooling issue, touching on various topics such as the literacy rate of African-American children, the destructive approach of musical teaching, and benefits of deschooling for single mothers.  Each expands on the strategies she/he finds beneficial to a child’s self-esteem and healthy sense of the world.  This section provides a more in-depth, detailed analysis of modern deschooling. 

Part Four – Schools That Ain’t: Places That Work completes the compilation with examples of successful alternative schools and communities. Although many of the schools differ in their specific approaches to deschooling, the basic inspirations and visions of deschoolers remain consistent.  Both deschooler students and educators take part in this discussion, giving the reader opinions from various angles of alternative schools.  The schools embody democratic environments, child-tailored education, and adaptable school constitutions.  

This compilation effectively takes the reader from numerous deschooling philosophies to examples of ways to make them a reality.  A variety of ideas and visions coupled with diverse approaches to deschooling reemphasize the notion that there is no right way to educate a child.  The book emphasizes that education should not adhere to a stagnant curriculum, but center on the child and the community.  Deschooling Our Lives is an informative reader for anyone dissatisfied with the current school system or looking towards a future of deschooling for their child.

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