December 24, 2003
The boy who wrote Eragon was homeschooled!

Not heard of "Eragon"? You are about to, it would seem. And because of Eragon, it looks like homeschooling is about to get another big boost.

Meet the Paolinis of Montana:

For years, Kenneth and Talita – former members of a survivalist cult led by a woman called Ma Prophet – seem to have lived on a shoestring, with only occasional employment. Kenneth, the son of an Italian immigrant, used to be a photographer, but doesn't appear to have had much work lately.

He and his wife have devoted their lives to their children, schooling them at home and, until recently, rarely venturing outside their small community of Paradise Valley, Montana.

And one of those children, Christopher, has written a book. And it's not just any book:

The British edition appears early next month, but already it is a huge bestseller in America, where it has surged past the Harry Potter books. Almost half a million copies were sold in only two months, a screenplay is in the works and at least a dozen foreign-language editions are on the way.

The book, Eragon of course, began life self-published. But then:

Their big break came when the popular crime novelist Carl Hiaasen visited the area on a fishing trip with his young son, and the boy became immersed in a copy of Eragon. On the way home, Hiaasen asked his son why he couldn't put the book down. "It's great, Dad," came the reply, "better than Harry Potter."

To a novelist who has had his fair share of bestsellers, those words were magic. Hiaasen alerted his editors in New York, and the next thing the Paolinis knew, the prestigious publisher Knopf (a part of Random House) was offering them a contract.

This is one of the more educationally startling bits of the Telegraph story:

"I was only 15 when I started Eragon. I didn't know how to write. I just told everything in one gigantic burst, then spent another year revising it. …"

Talk about learning by doing.

If Christopher Paolini turns out to be the perfectly nice, well adjusted, civilised person which I fully expect him to turn out to be, then that will ram the homeschooling point with particular force, because the popular fear is that whereas when maths professors do it, that's okay, maybe, when people called things like "Ma Prophet" get mixed up in it, only bad things can result. But now, it seems, the result is … Eragon.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:55 PM
Category: BooksHome educationLearning by doingLiteracy