Monday, October 20, 2014

‘Class Dismissed – The Movie’ (Film Review)

Last Wednesday I drove out to Laemmle's NoHo 7 Cinema for the premiere screening of the long-awaited Class Dismissed - The Movie (2014). Aided in part by donations through an Indiegogo campaign, filmmakers Jeremy Stuart and Dustin Woodard joined forces to create this independent documentary exploring some of the whys and hows of contemporary homeschooling. They found a family that was on the cusp of giving up the public school system, and started filming.

If you decide to attend one of the upcoming screenings, be forewarned. This is the type of film where the audience’s pre-approval and enthusiasm can make up for whatever is lacking in content and quality. As an indie film, it’s a bit rough around the edges, but I thought that they did a great job overall, including a variety of voices and mentioning some of the problems – as well as the benefits – of independent schooling.

Given the time constraint, the film covers a lot, but someone will always be asking why such-and-such was left out. However, I think it was appropriate to focus primarily on the methods the featured family were trying. What do I wish they’d covered more? Well, while court battles and police visits are largely a thing of the past, it would’ve been nice for them to address the legalities of unschooling in California. I had a more “structure” curriculum, so I’m curious as to how families fare when they don’t.

Also, I would’ve liked some discussion about potential problems with the children’s futures. It might be nice to spend your day crafting and volunteering at the local aquarium, but there’s a lot of things employers expect you to get that generally comes from a classroom. Perhaps unintentionally, the film gives the impression that you can learn everything on the (unpaid) job. This is a major pitfall in the homeschooling mentality, and it’s resulted in too many adults who realized too late that they’d wasted their developmental years on what their parents mistakenly thought would prepare them for good careers. I had to learn the painful lesson that volunteer and “real world” experience are complements – not substitutes – for credentials and degrees. I hope these girls don’t have too.