Home Education Magazine
September-October 2000 Issue
Homeschooling Books - Lillian Jones
The Home School Source Book, Third Edition, by Jean and Donn Reed
Two years ago, I began a review with a note of personal nostalgia, relating what a friend said when I told her what fun I was having rereading The Home School Source Book. "Kind of like going home!" she mused. The Home School Source Book had been a favorite among the first homeschooling books many of us read. At the time of the review, a few years after we lost Donn to an untimely death, his wife Jean Reed was just gearing up to tackle a revision. The revision is now finished, the book is still great fun to read--and it still feels kind of like going home.
The Home School Source Book describes itself as "A comprehensive catalog & directory of learning materials that are challenging, constructive, and fun; with commentaries, notes, & essays about Liberal Arts education at home, from birth through adulthood." It includes thousands of individual items and sources of materials, and includes lots of meaty essays, valuable insights, critiques, and reviews by the Reeds, who provided their own four kids with a liberal arts education at home.
Most of Donn's delightful writing remains--always thought-provoking, often outrageous, and inspiring plenty of laugh-out-loud opportunities with his irreverent humor. I've always enjoyed Donn's thoughtful commentaries, even when disagreeing with them. His sincerity and integrity are clear, and he contributes a unique way of spurring us to reexamine important issues.
Even so, it's really a fresh, new book. Resources have been updated, many new materials have been added, new chapters have been written--and Jean's own wise perspectives and contributions have been interspersed throughout. Donn would love what she's done. This book continues to be a delight to pick up and read--and is now a more complete resource than ever.
The Reeds' love of life, learning, and children is obvious in the relating of their experiences, providing useful insights. From one of Donn's candid essays: "Later, when we began using school readers, we made the mistake of also using the tests of 'comprehension and retention' which invariably followed each story. We still hadn't learned to reject the methods of the 'experts.' Luckily, we soon realized that our kids' lessening interest in reading was the direct result of having to answer dumb questions about their reading, but it took us longer than it should have. We should have known better."
As before, much of the unique fun and value of The Home School Source Book is that it makes no attempt to please any outside critic, and no attempt to be politically correct. Jean is no less opinionated than Donn was--and even managed to fit in a delightful debate with him in the chapter on Computers. The passage starts with the tongue-in-cheek remark: "I know it's highly unjust to take advantage of his inability to respond, but I now have the last word and I intend to make the most of the situation!" She has also added sound advice and a number of helpful computer resources to the chapter.
Donn started Brook Farm Books back in the early 80s to go along with the book, offering a kind of consolidated ordering service. Although Brook Farm Books carries most of the resources from The Home School Source Book, lots of the materials must be ordered from other sources, and contact information is included. There's even a wonderful new chapter called Resources For Living With Chronic or Terminal Illness, Death and Dying, in which Jean offers to provide materials at cost for those who can't afford them.
It would take this whole column to tell about all the fascinating materials listed in this book. You name it: homeschooling, education, math, cultural literacy, writing, history, biography, geography, literature, science, current events, government, global awareness, free learning aids, philosophy and world religions, parenting, business & economics, art & activities, music, languages, computers, television & movies, high school and college, every imaginable life skill, and more. Resources include books, kits, toys, videos, tapes, catalogs, magazines, and many other resources. This new edition also includes helpful website listings throughout.
Every subject has been expanded--some enormously. Jean is a musician, and her touch is quite evident in the Music section, with seasoned advice and plenty of resources. For example, Jean shares this bit of helpful reassurance: "Speaking from my experience, I would not, as a parent be discouraged if a child started and stopped music lessons or changed instruments over a period of years. Many people try various instruments before they find the one that's right for them and many adults who had music lessons as a child and stopped playing, start playing again."
The Art & Activities section has also been expanded and updated, packed with wonderfully fun books and creative materials, most of which I have never seen anywhere else. In addition to Donn's very helpful Reading, Writing, & Spelling essays, a new section, Learning the English Language, adds more listings of books, materials, and games on those subjects. The Math and Science sections are enlarged and include an impressive array of hands-on materials.
A new section is Resources for the Early Years, with a nice selection of books and materials, many of which are quite inexpensive. Jean opens it with heartfelt advice: "I hope you will keep in mind that early learning activities should be enjoyable for your child. Don't be in a rush to teach him anything. With time and patience on your part, a child who is slow in starting any of these activities will undoubtedly catch up. If your child isn't inclined to use these books when you first get them for him, be assured that he is busy developing other skills. Rushing your child into early reading or math before cognitive brain development has occurred will only create frustration, resistance, and other problems."
An interesting new section is on Ecology, listing resources that range from a book on art made from recycled and natural materials to a student conservation association that sets teens up with volunteer jobs in national parks. This fits well with the Global Awareness section, which has been expanded. Donn comments "...we occupy this planet with billions of other beings and life-forms, with whom we share the responsibility of preserving the health of the earth and its creatures. To do so, we need at least basic information about our fellow human beings, and about both the good and bad directions our species seems to be going..."
Life Skills is a terrific new chapter that includes resources from auto repairs to simple living, to conflict resolution, gardening, travel opportunities, and more. As with all the other sections of the book, this one has a rich and unusual body of material. Jean has also added a helpful new Special Education section.
Those who enjoy browsing through unique catalogs will be delighted and entertained with The Home School Source Book, Third Edition, by Jean and Donn Reed--and they will also find stimulating ideas to challenge and expand their thinking about homeschooling.
Ordering information: $29.95 plus $3 postage. All payments in US funds: Brook Farm Books, PO Box 246, Bridgewater ME 04735 or Brook Farm Books, Box 101, Glassville NB E7L 4T4. Toll-free orders: 1-877-375-4680. Email email@example.com
(c) 2000 Lillian Jones
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September-October 2000 Issue
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