This book was recommended to me by another homeschooling mother. She was so enthusiastic about it, I just had to pick it up. I placed it on hold at the library and in less than a week, it had arrived. I started reading with interest.
One important thing to note is that Morning by Morning: How We Homeschooled Our Boys to the Ivy League is less of a how-to manual and more of a memoir. It chronicles how this one, middle-to-upper class Black American family came to homeschooling and how they approached it. For that reason, it was an interesting enough read.
Homeschoolers are in the minority. Homeschoolers of color, even more so. So all-in-all, I thought it was worth it to read the book although I will admit that I did not read the whole thing in it's entirety. I couldn't. Ms. Penn-Nabrit has got to be the most-longwinded, roundabout writer I have encountered in a long time. Seven paragraphs and 3 pages later, she would still be circling around the same topic, beating that horse till it was not only dead but safely in heaven. My goodness. At one point, I started to just skip over whole chunks only to find her still talking about the same thing. Towards the end of the book, I started to read the synopses at the end of the chapters and to tell the truth, I think I got the full gist of what she was saying. This book could have been half the length but I get it: it's her life story and so I totally forgive the tendency to go into excruciating detail.
I didn't connect much with Ms. Penn-Nabrit for a number of reasons. The decision she made to homeschool was pretty much forced. Problems at her sons' elite private school brought things to a critical point and led Ms. Penn-Nabrit and her husband to some major paradigm shifts. Homeschooling was the way for them to embrace and practice their new understandings. For me, even if I did have the resources to send my sons to elite private schools, from the very beginning I would most likely use those resources to enhance our homeschooling experiences: more enrichment classes, camps, tutors, etc./moving to an area with a more vibrant homeschooling community. Homeschooling was and is my first choice. I did find it interesting that the couple pulled their sons at the very point where most people think that home-schooled children should probably be making the transition to traditional school. There's this idea that will totally miss out on the "wonderful" junior and senior high school experiences. But as Ms. Penn-Nabrit points out, there are ways to get the bulk of that experience, and wonderfully enough, the more positive aspects of that experience without being enrolled.
Secondly, her sons were much older than my sons when she started homeschooling so she had to deal with the emotional angst her boys felt at no longer being in a traditional school environment. Also, many of the academic subjects and extra-curricular activities her kids were involved it are not quite suitable for my kids as yet.
Thirdly, Ms. Penn-Nabrit is clearly a middle upper class American and it comes through in her writing and attitudes. I would say I have middle upper class aspirations but I am definitely not in the class. So certain comments would rub met he wrong way. There was one comment in particular of which I couldn't make heads or tails. She was writing about why continental Africans excel in American schools and seemed to place it all on the fact that they would have had teachers of the same race at their schools back home. I think that's overly simplistic and denies the fact that for many Africans, education is one of the few ways out of poverty and/or a situation with little hope for progress.
Fourthly, I want this homeschooling journey to be something we all enjoy not endure. Yes, there are things about which I am not willing to negotiate but I am willing to work with my children to find out how we can change the energy and make things what we have to do more pleasurable and less like torture. I didn't get the sense that this was a big concern of the author's. And I also got the sense that there was some use of corporal punishment--not a lot but it was there.
We did connect out on some points like the fact that people will always try to shoot you down with the dreaded socialization question. Also, when one takes full responsibility for his/her child's education, there are moments of doubt but also moments of triumph. I think Morning by Morning was borne out of that triumph. The family had a goal and they achieved it despite the inner and outer naysayers.
Ms. Penn-Nabrit did make some excellent points:
When African-American male children attend school, they are in an environment designed by Caucasian-white men and controlled by Caucasian-white women. The combination of race and gender diversity may explain, at least partially, why so many African-American male children end up in detention, suspended, and expelled. (p. 29)
Contrary to conventional wisdom, very few people home-school in a limited environment--most homeschoolers spend quite a bit of time away from their homes. Nevertheless, on a universal level, I think most kids are grossly under-socialized. Single-environment socialization, whether that single, exclusive environment is created in a school or in a home is inadequate. When our children emerge into the broader world, they will be forced to engages outside of their racial, socioeconomic, religious and academic classification. (p. 30)
There's a large resource section at the end of the book and intend to go through and pull out ones that seem useful. The "how" of homeschooling that is presented in the book, I think, should mainly be common sense for the resourceful homeschooler: using community and recreation centers, volunteering, relying heavily on the library, finding enrichment classes and activities. On this end, I have been very successful. One thing Ms. Penn-Nabrit had going for her was that her sons, having been pulled out of school later, had established social lives. That was not a struggle for them. As you know if you've read this blog for any length of time, this is a huge concern of mine that hasn't been addressed well yet. I was encouraged by the fact that the Nabrit boys, though they did have lots of outside friends, loved and enjoyed being in each other's company and I am hoping the same will be the case for my boys.
Now, I can't say that my goal in homeschooling is that Z1 and Z2 attend top tier colleges. My goal is that they can if that's what they want to do. My goal is that they have a well-rounded, solid education that can take them anywhere. Like Ms. Penn-Nabrit, I am looking for a holistic education that addresses the academic, physical and spiritual aspects. So again, I recommend this book as a way to learn about another person's experience homeschooling. I love to hear all the different voices.