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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

This Is My Home, This is My School. Written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"Of course, we have a
trusty school bus.
It's always ready to
take us to ...
the library.
Or ...
on field trips!
This is our art room.
This is the world!"

I hope you listened when I told you that you needed to have Jonathan Bean on your children's literature radar, and that having Building Our House (2013) in your library was an absolute necessity. If not, here's your second big chance! If you did read and value the story that Jonathan tells of his parents and their need to raise their children in a more natural, respectful rural setting, you will not be surprised to learn that they were also parents who saw great value in homeschooling their children.

The blond boy who narrates this book is Jonathan himself. Its detailed, joyful pages allow his readers to learn more about his home, which was also his school. He and his sisters lived in a house filled with classrooms where 'Home and work, work and school, school and home were all seamlessly connected by my parents' curiosity to learn and teach'. He is obviously totally content with the learning that took place every day in every way - from the sofa in the living room, to the basement where science experiments were carried out, to the kitchen where the essentials of meal preparation and baking were practiced, to the pond which offered up any number of specimens to be examined, to the backyard which was the perfect playground for reading, building, swinging, constructing, and caring for a multitude of animals as their homework.

Every opportunity for new learning is captured in his colorful watercolor spreads. They are full of action and chaos, while also allowing a look at the joy that the four children found in being schooled in life with their parents as their guides. Nothing of importance is missed. Field trips and 'phys-ed' are taken with other children; art classes in the outdoors might have many participants. The sun-dappled colors, the happy exuberance of the teachers and students, the many little vignettes kept my eyes constantly wandering and wondering as I moved from one spread to the next. I especially love the double page spread that shows clearly the many hats Mom must wear throughout a very busy day. When she finally flops into a rocking chair exhausted, the children realize she needs assistance. They bring her the phone - she calls in the substitute! Hilarious to be sure ...

There is so much energy here - a perfect place for learning about life.  


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