Home-schoolers of all stripes find common ground in some good, old-fashioned books
But Elsie is no favorite among secular or liberal home-schoolers. They, too, have a backward-looking impulse, but they're more interested in the return-to-nature aspects of the olden days than in corseted Victoriana. Pat Farenga, who has written several books on "unschooling," a movement that rejects formal curricula and lets children decide what to study, used to run a home-schoolers' bookstore in Cambridge, Mass. He says that his store's best sellers always included Noah Blake's 1805 book, "The Diary of an Early American Boy"--which described old-fashioned crafts like nail-making and shingle-splitting. A more recent illustrated edition has been popular "because it has all these beautifully drawn pictures of how to do things before technology."
According to recent polls, nonreligious families now make up more than 40% of the home-schooling market. For much of this group, the reading list is determined by the "curriculum in a box" companies. The most famous of these are K12, founded by former Education Secretary William Bennett and popular with parents who want a heavy emphasis on "values," and Calvert, in Baltimore, which created the market in 1906, when it began mailing its lesson plans to the children of missionaries and diplomats.
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