“Class Dismissed”, in case you’ve somehow missed hearing about it, is a new documentary film by producers Jeremy Stuart and Dustin Woodard that follows one family’s journey from schooling to homeschooling. I was privileged to be interviewed for the film, and attended the New York premiere this past Sunday. The film surpassed all my expectations, and since seeing it, surrounded mostly by members of the NY homeschooling community, I’ve been thinking about the prospective audience for this documentary.
In other words, who should see “Class Dismissed”?
The short answer?
But who is “everyone”? After much thought I’d break it down to three groups.
The first group: Those who are already successfully homeschooling, unschooling, world-schooling or otherwise self-directing their learning. These are the people like me and my kids who sit in the theater and smile and nod and delight in seeing a film that so eloquently supports the path we are already on. We are the cheerleaders for the film and we (should) promote it wherever we can.
The second group: Those who are somewhere in the process but not yet 100% sure that this will work for them. This could be a family who is considering homeschooling but worries how they’ll manage it, or a family in the deschooling phase, worried that their kids are doing “nothing. It could be a family who can’t seem to find a rhythm that works for them, and is considering alternative schooling options, or it could be a family who is committed to homeschooling and recognizes that their kids are flourishing but are still prone to days of anxiety and panic about ‘falling behind’.
The third group: Every family with kids in school who has ever been frustrated by the school system – by the emphasis on testing, the one size fits all approach to learning, the fact that kids have no rights in school. Every family who has ever had a kid bullied or a kid who can’t sit still in class and is told they might need to be put on a drug in order to perform as expected. Every family whose kid hates school or comes to believe he or she is stupid in one or more subjects. Every family whose kid gets good grades but who is stressed out all the time and puts enormous pressure on themselves to do all the right things, get into the right schools and never, ever, fail.
That’s pretty much everyone, right?
You see, the family in “Class Dismissed” does not decide to leave school and then sail off into the sunset to learn happily ever after. The parents struggle with the decision; they meet with the principal at their school (considered one of the best public schools in California) to try and find a way to make school work for their girls. When they finally take the girls out, they try to recreate school at home. When that doesn’t work, they meet with a homeschool counselor and agree to deschool. They meet with families who pursue a more classical, structured homeschool curriculum. They try an independent charter school. Over the two years covered in the film, they do it all before settling into a more self-directed approach. I believe that every person in the three groups I mentioned above will recognize aspects of their own family in the one featured in this film.
Up until now, the only movies that have addressed the issues that so many families face are “Waiting for Superman” and “Race to Nowhere”. Unfortunately, as Jeremy pointed out during the Q&A of Sunday’s NY screening, those films never look outside the school box. “Class Dismissed” shows that there is another way; that the best answers for kids might lie outside of the classroom – in a world full of opportunity and learning – if only we dare to find them.
I encourage all of you to see the film. Luckily you don’t have to wait for it to come to a theater near you; you can purchase a screener pack on the website and host screenings in your community right away. Bring your friends and ask them to bring theirs. Especially if they are homeschoolers. Most especially if they aren’t.
“Class Dismissed” is for everyone.