The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling

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Think homeschooling is only for a handful of eccentrics on either end of the political spectrum? Think again. Today in America, two million primary- and secondary-school students are homeschooled. Growing at a rate of 10 percent annually, homeschooling represents the most dramatic change in American education since the invention of the mimeograph—and the story has only just begun.

In The Year of Learning Dangerously, popular blogger, author, and former child actor Quinn Cummings...

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The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling

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Think homeschooling is only for a handful of eccentrics on either end of the political spectrum? Think again. Today in America, two million primary- and secondary-school students are homeschooled. Growing at a rate of 10 percent annually, homeschooling represents the most dramatic change in American education since the invention of the mimeograph—and the story has only just begun.

In The Year of Learning Dangerously, popular blogger, author, and former child actor Quinn Cummings recounts her family’s decision to wade into the unfamiliar waters of homeschooling—despite a chronic lack of discipline, some major gaps in academic knowledge, and a serious case of math aversion. (That description refers to Quinn.)

Trying out the latest trends, attending key conferences (incognito, of course), and recounting the highlights and lowlights along the way, Quinn takes her daughter’s education into her own hands, for better and for worse. Part memoir, part social commentary, and part how-not-to guide, The Year of Learning Dangerously will make you laugh and make you think. And it may or may not have a quiz at the end. OK, there isn’t a quiz. Probably.


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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Not your typical education book (for starters, it's funny)...Cummings remains inquisitive, thoughtful, and a little unsure of herself in a refreshingly humble way—precisely the qualities a parent should look for in a teacher."


"Light and witty...I can vouch for much of what this endearingly self-deprecating writer has to say."
—Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Wall Street Journal

"The Year of Learning Dangerously recounts Quinn Cummings's hilarious crusade to find the best educational path for her daughter. Reading her outrageously entertaining observations not only makes me want to homeschool my (nonexistent) children, but it also makes me want to be Quinn's best friend. A must-read."
—Jen Lancaster, author of Bitter Is the New Black and Jeneration X

“A hilarious, friendly companion to charm and entertain parents and educators, whether they homeschool or not. Honest and direct, Cummings is willing to tell all of her experiences: not just the happy sunshine moments, but the brutal realities of educating and raising children.” —Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine

"If you think homeschooling is crazy, this book might just change your mind. If, after you've read it, you think Quinn Cummings is crazy, you might be correct. Lucky for us, she's the kind of crazy that manages to be insightful and hilarious all at once."
—Alice Bradley, co-author of Let's Panic About Babies!

"In The Year of Learning Dangerously, Quinn Cummings dares to go where few parents have gone before. Her adventures in homeschooling are fascinating, loving and most of all hilarious. This book is a great gift to parents and the people that wonder what make them tick. I loved it."
—Julie Klam, New York Times bestselling author of You Had Me at Woof

Publishers Weekly
Cummings’s witty memoir records her family’s homeschooling experience and offers a critique of “mainstream” homeschoolers. A blogger and former child actor, Cummings (Notes from the Underwire) pulled her daughter, Alice, from the public school system after feeling that Alice wasn’t meeting her potential, worried that increased homework loads would leave Alice “less free time to follow a sudden curiosity.” The family sets off on a haphazard homeschooling plan for Alice’s sixth-grade year, dabbling in various methodologies ranging from hyperstructured online charter school approaches to active avoidance of structure before finding some middle ground with live, online classes taught by credentialed teachers. After recognizing and dismissing common concerns about socialization, Cummings launches into a brief history of compulsory education and the birth of modern homeschooling. She then walks through various subsets of homeschoolers and their approaches—from the “unschoolers” to Christian fundamentalists. In an effort to find her niche within the homeschooling world, Cummings attends meetings and conferences with homeschoolers ranging from the most liberal to religiously motivated conservatives (this latter group being the founders of the modern homeschooling movement). Her own story, and that of her daughter, occasionally feels overshadowed by her larger critique of the movement, but Cummings’s self-deprecating humor and parental earnestness makes for an enjoyable journey. Agent: Kate Garrick, DeFiore and Company. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Cummings (Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life) and her partner, Daniel, were frustrated when their daughter Alice had difficulties in public school. After much thought and debate, they decided to homeschool her. Most of the burden fell on Cummings, whose insecurities often had her second-guessing their decision. Cummings discovered various homeschooling methods—online charter schools, Radical Unschooling, the Fundamentalists, Gothardites. She enrolled Alice in an online course, only to abandon it six weeks later, and went to conferences to check out other homeschooling groups. In the end, they stuck with Cummings's original curriculum, and Alice flourished both personally and academically in the process. VERDICT Professional educators may dismiss this as fluff. But along with her wit, Cummings offers concrete proposals for the future of education. Her book should have wide appeal and is likely to give readers a more positive view of homeschooling.—Terry A. Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS
Kirkus Reviews
A mother's candid and humorous account of the exploits of homeschooling her child. When her daughter, Alice, continually balked at learning long division at public school, math-phobic Cummings (Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life, 2009) decided she didn't want Alice to grow up fearing numbers. The author realized she needed to try a different approach to education, and homeschooling became the solution. Almost instantly, Cummings was confronted with doubts about her ability to successfully teach Alice, especially math, and the fear that Alice would not develop socially without daily interaction with other children. To combat her insecurities, Cummings delved into some homeschooling variations, including unschooling (letting the child's interests dictate the curriculum), a belief system where "the first priority of homeschooling is not giving our children the skills required to succeed in society but protecting our children from the corrupting influence of that society," and following the teachings of Dr. Bill Gothard, an extremely Bible-based format of learning. Not content just to research these variations online, the author went undercover, complete with proper attire and wig, to homeschooling conventions to witness and experience these styles of learning firsthand. She provides practical advice on how not to homeschool as well as entertaining commentary on the multiple styles available. Ultimately, Cummings and Alice survived their year together, with both child and parent learning from the other. With the future of all education in flux, the author foresees children adopting multiple methods of learning to remain successful in the years ahead. An amusing and informative memoir about an alternative approach to education.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399537745
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/6/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 703,261
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Quinn Cummings is an Oscar-nominated actress (The Goodbye Girl, Family), and the critically acclaimed author of the memoir Notes from the Underwire. She writes the popular blog The QC Report, and her work has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Los Angeles Magazine, and Newsweek. She lives in Los Angeles with her partner and daughter.

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Table of Contents

Breathless 1

School. Daze 3

Tribes 19

Magical History Tour 33

Unchartered Territory 49

Joy Story 57

Le Math 87

Veni, Vidi... 101

The Fourth R 107

Rhymes with Orange 113

Go, Team 131

Cabin Fever 137

The Perils of Sensual Reading 147

Oh, What a Night 179

Mapquest 193

Graduation 205

Parent/Teacher Conference 213

Acknowledgments 225

Further Reading 227

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    When my oldest two children were younger I went through a time w

    When my oldest two children were younger I went through a time when I wanted to homeschool. I loved the idea of it and of being able to keep them with me. Planning field trips and learning at their pace, being able to use their interests to make learning personal and meaningful, but my husband wasn't in favor of the idea and then we had two more children and now I think it would be really hard to be working with all four of them on my own for all their educational needs. One of the things that really struck me when I started this is how different it must be to just have one child.

    Cummings does a great job of making her book entertaining while relating her year homeschooling her daughter and the research she did into the different groups who are homeschooling in America. The history of homeschooling and even how it is handled in different countries. I am not sure I would have wanted to disguise myself in order to attend conferences for fundamentalist groups of homeschoolers, but she made it fun and entertaining while still managing to teach something along the way. If all history books and lessons could be done in such an entertaining fashion I think students of all ages would learn more!

    I found myself loving this book. I picked it up off the shelf at the library when the title jumped out at me. Sometimes I find the best books that way. I may or may not have seen a review of it in a magazine, but it just looked like a book I wanted to read. I found it interesting how she dealt with teaching subjects that she herself wasn't the best at (which had been one of my concerns when I was thinking about homeschooling myself six years ago). It will be interesting to see if she writes any more books on this subject.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    In The Year of Learning Dangerously, Quinn Cummings chronicles h

    In The Year of Learning Dangerously, Quinn Cummings chronicles her family's decision to take her daughter out of public school and homeschool for a year. It starts off great. Cummings addresses her reasons for choosing to homeschool, as well as some of the concerns parents (and other people) have. I especially appreciated her comebacks to the tired "what about socialization?" questions and comments.

    There are plenty of witty moments, ones all of us who homeschool can relate to. But shortly after the opening few chapters, I started to have mixed feelings about the book.

    What bothered me is this: While exploring some of the different homeschooling styles, she seemed to purposefully seek out minority fringe groups rather than looking into what typical homeschoolers do. For example, the entire unschooling chapter was about radical unschoolers… at a convention, no less. Why cover radical unschooling but not unschooling, which is far more common?

    She also had a tendency to gloss or even skip over points in order to be clever and funny. Her overview of classical education was more of a caricature than reality. She couldn't finish reading The Well Trained Mind to see the big picture? Okay, fair enough; it is a massive text. But why not visit the Well-Trained Mind message forum instead? Or seek out local classical homeschoolers and ask what they do on a normal day?

    It seemed as if she was looking for the most outrageous examples of homeschooling approaches. What was the overall point of doing so? Shock value? It certainly doesn't seem like she bothered trying for a fair representation of typical homeschoolers. (And the group I'm in is a very eclectic bunch - we have members who are unschoolers, religious, secular, Charlotte Mason, classical, Montessori, child-led, relaxed, and everything in between.)

    The Year of Learning Dangerously did even out toward the end. The prom and graduation chapters were very sweet, and I hope that C ends up feeling the way those graduates did about their education. I'm glad Cummings mentioned that plenty of us homeschool not for extreme religious reasons or out of fear of the government or society. I liked her optimism in the final chapters, and I'm glad she found a style that works for her family.

    I would have enjoyed this far more if, for the majority of the book, Cummings had spent less time poking fun at extremist fringe groups and more time observing typical examples of various homeschooling styles. I think she would have gotten a lot more out of the experience, and it would have made for a more timeless, useful book. The fact that this is a memoir, her experience, is probably what saved the read for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2013

    Love it

    I love everything Quinn Cummings writes even though I don't have kids and will therefore never homeschool anyone. Also, read her hilarious blog.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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