Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank

Finally. Finally!! A story involving homeschoolers who are not members of a cult. Ex-members of a cult. Raised by ex-hippies. Raised by nouveau hippies. Complete social outcasts with no social skills whatsoever.'s a GOOD story on top of that!

Kaity (or Katya, as she now prefers to be called) has had a wonderful summer. Summer camp was wonderful. Summer camp was all about science. Summer camp was everything she dreamed it would be and more. But now she has a problem. It's time to go back to school - and she doesn't want to. School has suddenly become unbearably petty, boring, and generally miserable and she's not proud of her behavior towards her teachers. Why can't school be like summer camp? Why can't learning be exciting and, well, interesting?

But Katya has a plan. She's met this really cool boy who turns out to be homeschooled. Homeschooling? That would be perfect! It would be just like summer camp. But when Katya finally convinces her parents she's truly miserable at school and homeschooling is a good idea, their version of homeschooling doesn't match up with what she had in mind. Sometimes, she's not even sure what she wants, but she knows it's not school.

Ah, where to begin. First, the characters. No flat stereotypes here! Katya's friends, both schooled and non-schooled, are layered, realistic middle-schoolers. Katya herself is no plaster saint; she acts out and regrets it, but can't seem to stop doing stupid things. She's not always as studious as she plans to be, and she's not a genius, just an average girl with a passionate interest in the world around her.

And, as mentioned before, no homeschooling stereotypes. {Seriously, if you can name me one other book that has managed this, I will....well, I'll stop telling people how much I hate Stargirl. And mouthing off about why Cammie Morgan (of the Gallagher Girls) would pass for no homeschooler I've ever met, including myself}. There's no perfect ending here; Katya's parents will always be "school people" and what she gets isn't exactly what she wants. But she (and her friends) all get workable compromises at the end and come to a point where they're happy with what they're getting.

Then there's reality; does homeschooling work for everyone? No. Would some kids prefer to be in school? Of course. Do kids ask to be homeschooled because they want a better education? I knew at least two - and that's not counting those who visited a "real" school classroom and decided what they had at home was infinitely better. Are there lots of options? As Katya discovers, yes! Lucy Frank obviously did her homework.

On top of all this, it's definitely a page-turner. Katya's increasingly convoluted lies, issues with her friends, and struggle to get the education she needs and wants never descend into didacticism or predictability. It's definitely popular at my library - we've only had it a month and it's circulating briskly.

Verdict: Add this - and Grace Llewellyn's Teenage Liberation Handbook - to your library collections for those teens who'd like to think a bit more deeply about their education and what they want to do with their life. Or just want a good story to enjoy.

ISBN: 0803732309; Published July 2009 by Dial; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library


web said...

Awesome! This is definitely an underserved population, to say the least. I'll match your hatred of Stargirl with my annoyance with that Hobbit-girl book. Though come to think of it, I also hated Stargirl. ;-)

Heh - my words verification is "wishn." I'm wishn for more good books about homeschooling!

Rawley said...

As a public school teacher, I have always been fascinated and intrigued by the homeschool community. This novel sounds wonderfully real and may help to satisfy my burning curiosity. Thanks!

John said...
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