Thursday, March 18, 2010

Books About Homeschooling: 2007

You can tell the life of a tree by its rings. You can tell the life of a beluga whale by its color. And you can tell this homeschooling mom's philosophical life by her reads.

In organizing our bookshelves, I could see, through my reading, the progression of these nearly four years of homeschooling from a school-at-home person to a more relaxed, eclectic unit-studies parent.

Here are my favorite picks in my own homeschooling journey.

Everyone always remembers their first love. "The Unofficial Guide to Homeschooling" was my first introduction into homeschooling. This book broke down the nuts and bolts of homeschooling; explained different styles; and made the journey seem less daunting and scary. It held my hand through those first knee-knocking months.
You need to know a little about something to know what questions to ask. Once I read more about homeschooling, I had to figure out more. At the advice of the helpful, encouraging gals at a favorite homeschooling board, I jumped in and started homeschooling with just good books and printable sheets from the Internet. Yet, I had questions, which "The Homeschooling Book of Answers" answered. The above book was read at the same time as the Q&A one. It helped me keep homeschooling in perspective. As a mother of a five-year-old, I was so obsessed with what I'd do and teach when my daughter was a junior in high school. This book helped me realize that I was just embarking on the first tiny step of the journey. And it was kindergarten. Not calculus.

"The Well-Trained Mind" has made a huge impact on my life. When I first read it, I wanted to take a look at the whole homeschooling experience, and this book set the road map for me of what subjects I wanted to cover for my children. The amount of details (from list of subjects in science to names of people in history to the titles of books for high school) is extraordinary. Well-written and organized, the book is a favorite here, mostly for its amazing lists.

The only problem that I have with the book (indeed, a huge drawback for me) is that it is very rigid in its sense of scheduling. The book seems to be very school-at-home with its schedules. This may work for many people, but not us. We are more creative and loose than this grueling schedule allows. The book, however, is a tremendous resource for what to study and focus on the chronology of history and science, I would recommend it.

This eccentric out-of-the-box thinker saved my sanity. "How Children Learn" broke the rigid boxes in my mind regarding education. I had been so much about workbooks, a set schedule, definite time tables for learning a subject, etc. Then, thanks to some good friends out there who love this man, I read him. Though we are not unschoolers or as radical as John Holt, the book helped me view the world as a classroom, children as seekers of education rather than "buckets to be filled" and taught me how to relax.

"A Mother's Rule of Life" is not a book about homeschooling, but it is about running the household. This book came into my life (a friend had an extra copy) about the time that I was thinking, "Well, it's all fine and good to be more relaxed with schooling, but who is going to run this house? How can I homeschool and do housework and find time for me?"

It provided a framework for running my life. She offered me a good way to view my life and to set a loose schedule for our living, but not something so constrained that I would fall back into the trap of over-organization.

The above book was lent to me by another homeschooling mom who overheard my comment about unit studies sounding like a great idea for us but that it also seemed like a lot of work. This book, despite its troubled spots (typos and rambling sentences), really helped me figure out how to put into practice all the homeschooling ideas that I had in my head. All those lists of classical education and the freedom and joy in Holt's philosophy were in constant battle. Each school of thought, in its purest form, was against the other.

However, in reading about unit studies, I realized that we could create our own style of homeschooling. Part of homeschooling's joy is its flexibility.

Finally, my lists and more relaxed beliefs about homeschooling and childrenmade peace with one another ... and indeed have thrived through unit studies.

This book added to my list of things to teach and learn, which had been mostly from "The Well-Trained Mind." "Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum" helped me round out the learning with my Catholic faith.

"Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home" is my favorite homeschooling book. Ever. It is the most beautiful, gentle guide to homeschooling from a Catholic perspective. This book, with its sweet, real-life examples of both the joy and difficulties of homeschooling, has been my companion guide for our educational journey.

The online
4Real Learning: Education in the Context of Real Life is the ultimate message board on how to put into practice the desire to teach the Catholic faith, live the liturgy and somehow balance the roles of wife and mother.

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