We all must admit that homeschooling is not right for every family, but for illustrator and author Jonathan Bean, he cannot imagine growing up any other way.
“There are so many positive things I can see that my experience in homeschooling has led to from what my sisters and I are doing now, as well as our outlook on life,” said Bean, who recognizes he may have felt the same way about another education choice if his life had followed a different “fork in the road”. “Looking back, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”
Bean has illustrated 11 books for other authors, and authored and illustrated four books of his own. His recent book, This is My Home, This is My School, depicts a homeschool family that have experiences similar to those of his own family that chose home education. Bean grew up in Pennsylvania in the 80s when homeschooling was relatively new and an uncharted education option. Both of his parents played a huge role in the homeschool education of his sisters and him.
“There were not a lot of support systems like there are now, so my parents had to play a very significant role in my education,” said Bean. “Both of them are college educated, my mom in elementary education and my dad as a chemist. Between the two of them, we had great teachers. When we got to the higher levels of math, chemistry and biology, my dad was very helpful.
Bean grew up the second child with three sisters, just like the family in his book. His parents still live in the house that was built in the book Building Our House. It is there that homeschooling took place and memories were made.
“My mom was very organized. We had a certain amount of work we had to get done every day. She had her daily schedule, but the timing of when we got things done was up to us,” said Bean. “If I wanted to get up at 6 am. in the morning and start work by 7 a.m., to finish everything by 11 a.m., I could. That would leave the rest of the day for me to do what I wanted.”
It was during that free time Bean, who refers to himself as a maker of things, found time to experiment, do his own projects inventing or creating things and drawing. He also learned to manage his time, which has been beneficial when it comes to his work schedule and meeting deadlines.
“I learned about scheduling my own time, being self-motivated and buckling down if I wanted to get all of my work done,” said Bean.
Another benefit of homeschooling Bean shared was “learning how to learn.”
“This is not taking anything away from how my mom or dad taught me,” said Bean. “They were great instructors and teachers, but all four of us children learned how to learn, teach ourselves and how to figure something out if we wanted to know more about it… That is a skill that has incredible value.”
Bean and his siblings all graduated from Messiah College, where he now teaches a course in illustration. He believes he was prepared academically for his transition into college. Bean graduated in 2001 from Messiah College with a BA and in 2005 from the School of Visual Arts in New York City with a Masters in Fine Arts in illustration. He has worked as a freelance illustrator and writer since 2005. More opportunities are available to him, because he is the full package; illustrator and writer. That is something he credits all the way back to his junior year in college.
“I sent out some work and a pretty well-known editor wrote a nice note back to me, not asking me to illustrate anything, but simply said why don’t you try writing and illustrating. I had never really thought seriously about that before, but it was the perfect piece of advice,” said Bean. “It began teaching me more about how to make a story, how to create a story and what I had to think about to bring everything together.
Bean never anticipated another picture book about his family after Building Our House was published, but he had planned to write a story about a homeschool family. After the positive response to This is My Home, This is My School, he thought it would then be odd to tell the homeschool story from the point of view of a totally different family.
This is My Home, This is My School continues with stories directly related to things that happened while Bean was growing up and being homeschooled. He admits that some things are exaggerated for the sake of the story, but says that most of the story is directly based on things that happened.
“I’ve had fun with telling the stories,” said Bean. “My mom was a little upset about the cafeteria lady, because she would not have handled it like that as a mother. That is not characteristic of her, but I thought it was a funny point in the book and enjoyed writing about the incident. Kids love that part of the book.”
Another theme he shares in the book is that anywhere can be a classroom. There is a page with a collage of different learning places, one of which is in the basement. Bean shared another unique homeschooling experience that was inspiration for the story.
“We had this sand pile outside of the house where we played. I don’t know what the experiment was, but
we were doing chemistry and mixing things together,” said Bean. “We ended up creating this terrible smelling vapor. Maybe we were trying to create the vapor, but all I remember is that it was bubbling and popping and burning our noses. We ended up calling our dad at work to find out if we should be worried about what we did. He, being a chemist, assured us we were okay.”
The freedom to be creative and learn on his own are reasons Bean appreciates his homeschool experience. It continues to be a freedom he enjoys through his writing and illustrating.
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©2016 HomeLife Academy. Article by Jennifer Smeltser. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the publisher http://homelifeacademy.com/.