Home Grown is more of the kind of thing I am constantly reading. Memoirs that encourage you to improve your life and give advice - is that a self help book? The modern version maybe? Whatever, I devour them. Travel memoirs (Robyn Davidson, Tony Horwitz, Anthony Bourdain), fitness and cookbooks (Laura Miller, Guy Turland, Aubrey Marcus), theological boundary pushers (Jen & Brandon Hatmaker, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr), gurus (Wendall Berry, Vandana Shiva, Soong Chan Rah), racial and class justice (Noam & Aviva Chomsky, Brenda Salter McNeil, Martin Luther King), biographies and general memoirs galore - messy stories about messy people.
We decided long ago that we would homeschool - but when I started reading about Unschooling, every hippy cell in my body rejoiced. It is genuinely everything I want for my kids. But unschooling is actually much harder than you might think. And, and honestly, there are few environments where you can genuinely make it work. Ben Hewitt exists in such an environment - and he is the first to admit this privilege. If he wasn't, I think the book would be insufferable. Thankfully, this isn't the case.
Through stories, memories, and observation, Ben Hewitt challenges and encourages parents to let their children be children, while also allowing them freedom rarely given to younger generations. The tension in this dichotomy is real, but good.
Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting Off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World.
The book kicks off from a solid place of strangely relatable feelings, despite the Hewitt's living in rural Vermont while their boys wander their extensive property making traditional weapons, hunting and gathering, etc. You start to feel at home with them, and while the book does not follow any sort of linear timeline, it impresses on you the natural order of things based on feelings and story instead of concrete facts or dates.
As you are learning about the concept of Unschooling, it is easy to search for a definition. But the rules of undoing something are infinitely more extensive than those for doing, which can easily lead to exhaustion with the subject early on. Ben Hewitt does an excellent job of never defining unschooling, and even goes so far as to discuss how that isn't really what they are doing at all - but we all must have labels.
Their lifestyle is one of simplicity, but also handwork and the reality of schedules that nature provides. It reenforces that human beings are complex and that our needs and reasonings are complex, which I love. There isn't a single moment in reading this book where it begins to feel dull or monotonous. It is walking slowly through a park, noticing everything around you. Not all at once, or in the correct order, but noticing all the same.
The book as a natural flow and a convincing finish with Ben Hewitt admitting that he doesn't have any studies to draw on to prove a point, or any ability to say with certainty how the way he is raising his two boys will end. Just the importance of instilling values of handwork, time and togetherness, as well as a deep connection to the world around.
I would highly recommend this book to parents everywhere, whether you homeschool or ship your kids of to private boarding school in another country. It's a good read and a great parenting book, without making you feel guilty - which is important.
Join me for August Book Club!
The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright
Pick it up and read along!