Earlier this month, the older members of our family screened the Boston premiere of the first feature-length documentary on homeschooling, Class Dismissed. I had high hopes that it would be at least as engaging and inspiring as all the recent films covering the charter school movement like Waiting for Superman and The Lottery. I am happy to report that this new film exceeded my expectations in multiple categories.
Hosted by AHEM (Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts), this particular showing was special since the director of the film, Jeremy Stuart, was in attendance and took questions from the audience afterwards. The atmosphere in the theater was electric. I have not been this excited about the premiere of a new movie since the Hobbit came out, and I think just about everyone else there shared my excitement. Finally, someone who gets the homeschooling movement produced a quality presentation that we can all show others who may never have heard of it or experienced it firsthand.
I was so pleased with what the film did not do. It did not set out to demonize the standard approach to education in this country, such as what can be found in both public and private schools. As much as I applaud the efforts of education reformers in Waiting for Superman and The Lottery, I finished both of those movies with a bittersweet hope for the future. While the victories achieved in them were great, they were won at the expense of alienating many, and at the end of the day, it seemed like merely taking a horrible education experience and simply returning it to normal.
Class Dismissed follows the story of a family that was relatively well off. They were in a good school and doing relatively well at that school. Until their mother discovered the secret of going unplugged and taking her daughters’ learning experience from mediocre to great.
The path that this particular family took highlights the extreme diversity of learning approaches developed in the laboratory that is homeschool education. It also upends many of the stereotypes and myths that have been told about homeschoolers and those who choose the path of alternate educational approaches. This film is an excellent introduction for those out there that know very little about homeschooling and may not have the time to read a book about it.
The good news for those of us in the Boston area is that the film will come again for a second showing on Thursday, January 22, in Arlington. Yes, it will eventually be out in DVD, but I highly recommend seeing this in the theater with other educational innovators. It may just inspire you to start your own educational revolution and begin learning outside the box!