Literary Guide for Jonathan Bean’s “This is My House, This is My School”
Jonathan Bean’s This is My Home, This is My School introduces young readers to the idea of self-directed learning. Centered around a somewhat chaotic household and its many inhabitants, the story points out that, for the homeschooled narrator, home and school are one and the same – making home a place for living and a place for learning. Based on the author/illustrator’s childhood, the book helps readers see the ways in which a family can use their everyday experiences to support the acquisition of almost any kind of knowledge.
Beginning with pages that repeat the story’s title, the book follows the narrator through a quick tour of his home, wherein it is learned that his siblings are his classmates, his mom is his teacher (and dad the substitute), his kitchen is his cafeteria, his back yard is his playground, his family van is his school bus, and all of the rooms of his home (as well as the outdoor spaces nearby) serve as his classrooms. Readers see family members (students!) engaged in a wide variety of activities during the tour, from traditional “school-style” activities like computer research and worksheets to less structured activities like basement science experiments, cooking projects, family music jams, treehouse building, and stream exploration.
The characters in the story are clearly quite happy and content with their lives, and appear to have a good amount of freedom during their days. The book’s end pages reveal, however, that there’s some structure within the chaos: lesson plans for each family member show that math, grammar, vocabulary, literature, history, and science are all being actively studied according to plan through a mixture of reading, working from curriculum, and exploring. It’s the activities that take place in addition to the planned learning that really make the characters’ experiences unique amongst a landscape of traditionally schooled children: they have the space to play, explore, pursue their own interests, and answer their own questions. The characters – much like Jonathan Bean’s true siblings and homeschooled and unschooled children all over the world – are able to learn in the ways that best fit them.
The reading level of the book is moderately low, and the story can be accessed by readers who are as young as kindergarten age. Though the text is not very complex, the subject matter and illustrations make it engaging for older readers, allowing the book to appeal to a wide audience. Readers as old as 10 can find powerful meaning amongst the concise language and illuminating images that accompany it, and families of all shapes and sizes can learn about the way they learn by examining the somewhat-fictionalized life of others.
By using the critical thinking questions, mini-lesson, and extension activities detailed in the accompanying literature guide, families can explore the concept of homeschooling together, and can also begin to reflect on the ways in which they learn themselves outside of a traditional context. To further explore homeschooling through literature with older readers, see our literature guide for Lucy Frank’s The Homeschool Liberation League.
- Download Literary Guide for This is My Home, This is My School.