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Book Review - Guerrilla Learning - Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver


Book Review

Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. (2001).


     Even people who think about learning and schooling a lot can be baffled by the day-to-day decisions that come with guiding a child's education. How much power does the school system have over our lives, and how much should we allow it to have? Do I have to make my kids stop reading to do their homework? What are the consequences of the labels the system proposes to tag my child with?
     Guerrilla Learning blows away the fog. Part critique, part inspirational half-time speech, and part day-to-day decision guide, the book sets out to help us define our ideals about learning and make them a reality for our children. During my first reading, I had to keep stopping to let my heartbeat return to normal. There are so many gems that I had trouble picking out a few to share with you here:

"Start to see learning not as the province of experts but as the province of the family. Learning belongs to you , not to schools and government administrators. It's a function of human wonder and curiosity and love for the world."

"[Learning] happens at home. It happens when children are read bedtime stories, and in dinner-table conversations, and on family vacations... We're all 'homeschooling,' all the time ".

"Interests are not arbitrary or capricious. They are intrinsically related to a child's special, irreplaceable vision and gifts."

"[School] doesn't have to define who your child or your family are. It doesn't have to be the only, or even the main, source of your child's education."

"School can be a poor master but a good servant."

     After an inspiring set of chapters that lay out the Guerrilla Learning philosophy, Llewellyn and Silver introduce "Five Keys to Guerrilla Learning:" Opportunity, Timing, Interest, Freedom, and Support. They spend a chapter on each one, developing the ideas and issues that surround each key and providing activity ideas and resources for further reading. For example, in the chapter on the Opportunity key, the authors discuss different sources of educational opportunity, and then provide activity suggestions related to reading, writing, arts, math, and several other subjects. The activity ideas are general (not step-by-step, cook-book type) and few are new, but there are some surprising twists. To me, the five keys seem a little muddy as categories, and are more like a rhetorical device to organize the presentation. You find yourself thinking, "Now, would that fall under Support or Opportunity?"
     Although some of the ideas may seem a little oversimplified (as in, "that would never work with my kids"), there are delicious finds in every chapter. Big Learning parents won't want to miss this eminently practical field guide to learning-related opportunities and strategies.

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