Homeschooling father Jeremy Stuart produced and directed the movie Class Dismissed to show the many and varied educational alternatives to typical classroom education that exist in the 21st century. The film began its first public screenings in 2014 on the West Coast and it has been shown to enthusiastic audiences across the country ever since. Class Dismissed has also garnered recognition in many publications and at several film festivals.
The film follows a family in California who moved to the LA suburb of El Segundo because of its highly touted public school system. Despite this reputation, the family’s two daughters, 13 and 11, become increasingly frustrated with the school grind and less and less interested in learning, The oldest finally begs to be homeschooled. Viewers follow the family’s hesitant progress from trying to address the problem within the educational system, to venturing into the unknown of homeschooling. At one point, the girls go back into a local independent charter school because of concerns that they are not keeping up and need more structure and social contact. After six months, however, mom Rachel pulls her daughters back home because it was “just school again” and the oversight by the Education Specialist seemed more like that of an overlord.
Eventually, the family and the daughters relax and gain confidence in their ability to learn and progress on their own. At one point 13-year-old Ana seriously considers returning to high school to continue her studies in marine biology. The parents are now at a point where they are very concerned about public education and encourage her to fully research and consider her decision. When she finally makes her choice, she does so with the assurance that her personal “momentum” will not be “crushed”.
Interspersed with the family’s story are brief comments from such leaders in the homeschooling/unschooling/self-directed learning communities as Pat Farenga, Blake Boles, Diane Flynn Keith, and Dale Stephens. The history of compulsory education in the United States is touched on, as well as the history of the homeschooling movement.
The film is heavily weighted towards homeschooling/unschooling educational options, but two different representatives of the public education system that were involved with the family declined to be interviewed, so the makers were unable to add their views for balance.
Although the mom of the family is able to stay at home full-time, the issue of working parents and homeschooling is addressed by a brief interview with a single mom. Of course, the “socialization question” is also confronted – by homeschooled kids themselves. One big issue that is not mentioned is the Common Core State Standards curriculum, which is being increasingly resisted by parents both in and out of the public school system. Another area of concern for parents that is not covered is that of homeschooling special needs children.
Class Dismissed shows a family’s struggles, triumphs, and worries. They are not homeschooling because of religious convictions, and must find their own reasons to keep going down the admittedly challenging road of self’directed education. Along the way, they realize that their choice has brought important benefits to them individually and as a family. Each has rediscovered the joy of learning.
This film is the first full-length documentary about homeschooling and other educational alternatives. The material is presented in an enjoyable and interesting manner. It is obviously a labor of love by a group of deeply concerned people who have worked hard to produce a quality addition to the resources available on alternatives to traditional methods of education. It is available for purchase or to rent. A guide to hosting a public screening is also available for those interested in bringing the film to their area. This film is definitely worth watching as well as worth sharing with those who are considering other educational options for their children.