Criticism for the public school system in the United States is nothing new; kids of all skill levels are slipping through the cracks at every age and in every city. Rather than attempting to change the system or point out it's failures, Jonathon Mooney and David Cole have created a practical guide to help kids jump through the necessary hoops to achieve whatever larger, postschool goals they may have. While much of the material is written for kids who've received the label LD or ADHD, many of the suggestions can be just as helpful for those who've been labeled "gifted," or any other student who feels frustrated with the daily routine of standard education.
The introduction (personal histories of the authors) is great reading for parents of LD or ADHD kids, and much of it has a humorous tone that makes it equally appropriate (and approachable) for discouraged adolescents. From the terror of weekly spelling tests to the few inspiring teachers and tutors the two encountered, the tales are equal parts entertaining, poignant, and encouraging to others who may well be experiencing quite similar events. There's little discussion of what methods are right or wrong--ultimately, both authors take a fundamentally pragmatic view, and it's "right" if it worked. A steady focus on study skills fills the majority of the book, and Mooney and Cole take what are generally pretty familiar stands on note-taking and test preparation and break them down into easily digestible concepts. With different methods for different types of learners (visual thinkers are encouraged to use maps and brightly colored markers), students will find plenty of help in creating notebooks, focusing their attention, and even appropriate ways of conducting the infamous all-nighter. Including information on how to recover lost class notebooks, how to make the most of a syllabus, and "The Seven Habits of Highly Disorganized People," Learning Outside the Lines provides students with plenty of tools to further each reader's personal idea of success. --Jill Lightner