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Home Education Magazine

May-June 2002 - Articles and Columns

Homeschooling Books - Elizabeth McCullough

Elizabeth reviews four homeschooling books:
Homeschooling the Child With ADD or Other Special Needs
Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves
Real Life Homeschooling
Homeschooling on a Shoestring

Homeschooling is often described as a journey, because this wonderful metaphor captures so much of the experience: the pitfalls, the pleasures, the blazed trails and the off-road adventures. These four new books explore the homeschooler's figurative journey - and the literal kind, too!

Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves

Alison McKee's newest book, Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves (Bittersweet House, 2002, ISBN 0-9657806-2-7, $18.00), is a memoir of her voyage of transformation from schoolteacher to unschooling parent. Discouraged by her teaching experiences in the early 1980s, McKee was inspired to teach her own children at home by John Holt's work. She soon discovered that "learning really was a natural part of the growth and development of all children." Not that there weren't days of doubt, when she questioned what, when, and how her children "should" be learning, but McKee successfully confronted and resolved her doubts through her determination to let her children show her the way through unschooling. McKee's introspection and honesty are reminiscent of another of her inspirations, the now classic Better Than School, by Nancy Wallace.

Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves also includes listings of useful and unusual learning resources, suggestions regarding support groups and volunteer activities, and information about the college admissions process for homeschoolers.

Real Life Homeschooling

When Alison McKee set out on her journey, she had never met another homeschooler. Today, after twenty years, it is much more likely that curious parents already know or have heard of someone who is homeschooling. And yet, after reading about or meeting one or two homeschooling families, how many of those parents may still think, "That's fine for them, but it would never work for us"?

To get a real feel for the possibilities of homeschooling, it would be ideal if newcomers could meet, say, twenty-one homeschooling families, diverse in location, family size, income, and philosophy. That's where Rhonda Barfield steps in, with Real Life Homeschooling: The Stories of 21 Families Who Teach Their Children at Home (Pocket Books, 2002, ISBN 0-7434-4229-6, $21.50). Each family profiled describes how they came to homeschooling, what a typical day is like, what challenges they have overcome, where they find inspiration, how they deal with burnout. One family homeschools on an island in the Pacific; another lives and learns in Alaska. Families who emphasize scholastic achievement are represented, as well as those who concentrate on religious training, the arts, or a family trade, or who must accommodate a child's or parent's special needs.

Real Life Homeschooling succeeds in portraying homeschooling as remarkably adaptable and flexible. Yet, there is a certain sameness to many of the profiles. Some of this is because all the approaches to home education tend to share certain values, such as an emphasis on children's unique strengths, or the importance of character development. In addition, most of the families profiled, despite their outward differences, share a conservative, Christian worldview and homeschooling philosophy. In the vast majority of families the mother adopts the role of teacher in the home and is the parent primarily responsible for implementing lesson plans and maintaining schedules, with the father supplementing and supporting her.

That said, this book provides more than enough contrasting situations to open the reader's eyes to the possibilities of homeschooling, while highlighting the dedication to parenting and engagement with real life that homeschoolers share.

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Homeschooling the Child With ADD or Other Special Needs

Parents of children with learning differences face daunting obstacles in their educational journey. Persuaded that public school is the best placement for their child, they are often reduced to looking on helplessly as the student is shuttled from one ineffective program, therapy, or teacher to another. Parents who try to advocate for their children are sometimes met with condescension and resistance from school personnel and experts. It's not surprising, then, that these mothers and fathers are turning to homeschooling in increasing numbers; what may be surprising is how successful and rewarding the experience of homeschooling a special needs child can be.

Homeschooling the Child With ADD (or Other Special Needs), by Lenore Colacion Hayes (Prima Publishing, 2002, ISBN 076153569-1, $16.95) begins with an honest and even-handed look at the theories and controversies surrounding learning differences. Hayes stresses that parents must be their own best "experts," and provides a wealth of resources to aid parents.

Hayes makes a strong case for the appropriateness of homeschooling children with almost any learning problem, from mild learning differences to severe disabilities, and backs her case with her own experience as well as first person accounts from others. Advantages of homeschooling include the opportunity for one-on-one instruction, the ability to create a personalized course of study, and most importantly, the flexibility to try anything that works and abandon anything that doesn't. Hayes realistically addresses problems such as burnout and isolation, and lists practical steps for finding or forming the necessary support network to meet the needs of everyone in the family.

Parents of children with learning differences need support and encouragement in their homeschooling journey. Hayes says to these parents, "You possess the ability, knowledge, determination, and love to direct your child's future.... You need only grasp opportunity in one hand, your child in the other, and never look back."

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Homeschooling on a Shoestring

With summer fast approaching, many of us dream of hitting the road, but the thought of traveling with children may cause us to think again. Maybe when we have more money saved, or when work lets up, or when the kids are older and better behaved - maybe then we'll take that trip we've dreamed of. Educational Travel on a Shoestring (Shaw Books, 2002, ISBN 087788204-5, $14.99) advises: "Don't wait until 'someday' to travel."

Authors Judith Allee and Melissa Morgan, who previously collaborated on Homeschooling on a Shoestring, offer creative advice for getting the best deals on food, transportation, and lodging, as well as tips on keeping the family entertained on the road, and for finding educational opportunities anywhere and everywhere. From practical money-saving advice to offbeat, unusual destinations, they have it covered. Readers will learn how to be tourists in their own towns, as well as how to chuck the nine-to-five and travel full time.

The authors include a resource guide that, for a fee, is also downloadable in a searchable, interactive format. The book is slightly marred by a poor index, so it may take some searching to find specific information. On the other hand, while you're leafing through, you just might run across some great vacation ideas you would never have considered otherwise. 2002 Elizabeth McCullough

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May-June 2002 - Articles and Columns

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