Thisbe lived in a home with many great teachers. There was her father John who was great at fixing things and knew tons about stars and planets, her mother Barbara who loved the theater and wrote her own plays, her older sister Melanie who was into music and fashion and her older brother JJ who taught her how to play basketball and ride a dirt bike. Then there was her dog Casper and her cat Aurora who were just fun to watch and play with. Thisbe’s family had so much to learn from each other that it never made sense to spend any time after school doing homework. Thisbe’s father not only told his three children that they did not have to do any homework, he actually encouraged them not to. This turned out to cause many problems for Thisbe at school. She became the target of bullying. The strange thing was, the bullying seemed to be started by the teachers. They made Thisbe’s classmates think that she was getting away with something that they couldn’t. Some began treating her badly. When nasty things started to be written about Thisbe and her family on the Internet Thisbe’s father had enough, and took Thisbe out of school.
Getting ready to leave the house early each morning would be something new for Jason because Jason never went to regular school. He was homeschooled. For as long as he could remember, Jason seemed to know more than other boys and girls his age. This made him feel different. Adults sometimes said that different was good, but it didn’t feel that way. He wanted to have lots of friends and be well liked. But when Jason talked to other children about things he was interested in they either said he was showing off, or just being boring. He sometimes talked to his parents about going to the public school most of the neighborhood kids went to. But it was all too frightening. One day, Jason’s father announced that he found the answer. “How would you like to try something new, Jason,” he asked. He told him about the Harrier Young Adult Business Program and they decided to give it a try.
As Paul laid in bed early that first day, he saw in his mind’s eye snapshots of his friends Jared and August clowning around in the hallways of Benton Academy. He pictured the sun coming up over the campus. When he opened his eyes he remembered that that life was over. Why did my father have to lose his job? he asked himself. It wasn’t until his father lost his job that he even knew that Benton Academy cost as much money as it did. But then Paul thought about some of the famous men he had learned about the year before, men like Paul Revere and Thomas Paine. What would they do is this situation? he wondered. They would overcome, of course, and maybe he could too. Maybe this would just be temporary anyway. By next year Dad will have a new and better job and I can go back to Benton. He imagined returning after a year off, how he would be greeted by his friends and teachers and coaches. It would be like George Washington riding back after the battle of Trenton.
Karina was awake and almost ready to go before her mother and father had even made it out of bed. She didn’t know whether she was going to school or work. It was both or neither. Karina wasn’t sure but she was excited to find out. Just to have some place to go felt great. Karina had been what her parents called “unschooled.” They believed that learning should be self-directed. In other words, it was up to her to figure out what she wanted to learn and how. But how could she know? Karina worried that she wasn’t learning what she needed to. She worried that she wasn’t working hard enough. Sometimes she just worried about nothing at all. She also felt guilty. Why should she get to sit at home while the other kids have to go out in the rain and snow and do things they don’t want to. Don’t people have to sometimes do things they don’t want to? Isn’t that part of life? It especially bothered Karina when people joked about unschooling meaning sitting in pajamas and playing video games. Karina never touched a video game a day in her life. But in a way what they were saying was right. It was just too easy. Whatever Harrier turns out to be, as least she now has a routine. A reason to leave the house and do something, and let others worry about what.
As as a child growing up in a small city in China, there were three things to do, study, continue to study, and study some more. And if you were really ambitious you can try studying while you sleep. Ai Wen didn’t like to memorize what her teachers said and wrote, but she did it anyway because her parents told her it was the only way to get into a good college. Her grades were good but not perfect. When she scored 92 on a math exam her mother lectured her. “If you want to make it out of Benxi you need to do better.” Ai Wen studied harder. When she got an 86 on the next test she felt disheartened. She began studying less and drawing instead. Her grades got worse. Worried about her future, her mother and father decided to accept an offer from Ai Wen’s Aunt Lan Lan for Ai Wen to live with her in America.