In early October, a friend shared a blog post that caught my attention. I read the piece with great interest and soon discovered that the blog's author, Alexandra Swann, is a homeschool graduate with a rather remarkable story. Among other endeavors, she has published several works of fiction over the years, but what immediately intrigued me was her memoir, NO REGRETS: How Homeschooling Earned Me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen. Curious, I went straight from her blog to Amazon to search for the book. And, once there, I found that Alexandra's mother, Joyce Swann, has written a memoir of her own, LOOKING BACKWARD: My Twenty-Five Years as a Homeschooling Mother. As a homeschooling mother myself, I couldn't resist purchasing the set.
I first tackled NO REGRETS, which Alexandra originally wrote in 1989, in between the time she'd earned her master's degree and when she began teaching history at a community college when she was 18. And I was hooked immediately. I found it hard to put down this book which documented what life was like for a large family - Alexandra is one of 10 siblings - to homeschool at the dawn of the "modern homeschooling era," when it was illegal in some states and frowned upon by nearly everyone.
Alexandra details every step along the way - from her parents' initial decision to homeschool, to finding curriculum (no easy task in those days!) and managing the children's accelerated studies, to the culmination of the journey that earned Alexandra a master's degree from Cal State when she was just 16 years old. Along the way, we also learn that each of Alexandra's siblings has followed a virtually identical path, with the youngest two earning their master's degrees in May, 2000 - 25 years after Alexandra began learning to read at her mother's knee. And we read that the family remained committed to the task despite significant adversity, including several years when Mr. Swann was either unemployed or underemployed and more than one major health crisis among family members.
As if I were not inspired enough by Alexandra's take on things, I then dove into Joyce's view in LOOKING BACKWARD of her 25 years of service to her children. In this combination memoir/handbook, Joyce shares her perspective on the children's journeys and on the difficulties the family endured, which made me marvel all the more at Alexandra's story. She also shares a bit about testifying in trials that resulted in the legalization of homeschooling in Texas and elsewhere and gives practical advice from which any homeschool mom will benefit even now, whether she has one child or a dozen and regardless of which methods or materials she chooses to use.
It might seem intimidating to read about a family with such obvious academic talent, but don't worry. Neither book even hints that other families must follow the Swann family's particular journey; Alexandra and Joyce simply recount their story without ever suggesting that it's proscriptive. I never felt pressured to accelerate my own children's progress or to switch to the programs the Swanns used. Instead, learning of the family's deep commitment to God's plan for them simply encouraged and empowered me to continue on the path He has given to my family.
I was so inspired by this sweet success story that I contacted Alexandra personally, and she graciously sent three copies of each book for a giveaway to my readers. I offer them together, as one truly compliments the other. Plus, since Alexandra has shared with me that she and her mother remain extremely close to this day - indeed, they work together in Alexandra's mortgage company and have written other books together - it seemed only fitting.
So, do you want a glimpse into the life of a homeschool family that helped make possible what we enjoy today? Then take a moment to enter for a chance to win one copy of each book: