when learning and life are one lovely jumble

this is my home this is my school cover imageThis is My Home, This is My School, written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean
published in 2015 by Farrar Straus Giroux

Okay. This is a book I’ve been waiting for.

Jonathan Bean has delivered an authentic, marvelously-chaotic, loving glimpse of a homeschooling family who charge into the juiciness of life, explore and experiment with abandon, make messes, cultivate curiosity, and embrace the world as their classroom.

this is my home this is my school illustration jonathan bean

Relying on his own experience growing up in this environment, Bean is able to capture — finally! — that mixture of mayhem and creativity and mom, energy and inventiveness and freedom; the seamless intermingling of learning, living, playing, and working; the feast of ideas spread everywhere and responded to by various ones in their various ways.

this is my home this is my school illustration4 jonathan bean

This is how our homeschool looked, too, and it is a curious joy, and somehow a validating experience, to see it presented so positively, so artistically, with such verve and good humor.

If you’ve read Bean’s earlier book, Building Our House (and if you haven’t — you should) you will easily recognize the setting — that homey house set among Pennsylvania’s rolling, wooded hills — and family. The children are older now, though, and their independent, high-spirited lives are portrayed in much more rambunctious line and color than previously. There’s a grand lot to take in, in every scene.

this is my home this is my school illustration2 jonathan bean

Homeschooling is an unfamiliar world to most families, and its portrayal in children’s literature is, understandably, scant. A character might be homeschooled out of some sort of dire necessity, but soon enough they return to “real” school. (Surviving the Applewhites is a delightful exception.) I applaud Farrar Straus Giroux and Jonathan Bean for publishing a new viewpoint of this odd lifestyle some of us have adopted. Thank you.

Certainly homeschooling is not a practical choice, nor the best choice, for most families. I hope that if you’re part of the vast majority of the population who aren’t home educators, you’ll still treat yourself to this book. The delights of living and learning together belong to all of us, to cultivate all our lives. For that reason, I think you’ll come away from this brief tour of one boy’s homeschool encouraged to, as Bean says, scavenge for something to learn in every moment.

this is my home this is my school illustration3 jonathan bean

Ages 3 and up. And P.S. — There’s a swell scrapbook of vintage Bean family photographs in the end pages. Too fun.