Thursday, August 7, 2014

Book Review: A Little Way of Homeschooling

A Little Way of Homeschooling by Suzie Andres

This is Suzie Andres’s second book, building on Homeschooling with Gentleness. In the first book, she presented arguments supporting her belief that unschooling is one of many methods of homeschooling acceptable and appropriate for Catholic families and she described a little how that looked in her own family.

This book expands on the theme by presenting chapters by eight Catholic families that unschool and five Catholic families that incorporate some aspects of unschooling. Many of these families are large or deal with illness or disability, a nice complement to Suzie’s own small family of two boys so far apart that the first one was going off to college as the second one started school.

I do not have an unschooling personality. Even the thought of it makes me a little anxious. I like my year planned out in advance with readings for each day in nice neat (and very large) Excel spreadsheets. It’s good for me to read this sort of book to remind myself that planning to the exclusion of listening to my children could foster disenchantment with learning and faith. In the most extreme cases, it could damage our relationships with each other.

One of my favorite quotes is from Cindy Kelly (who writes on her blog here)
When I was a teenager and in college, I only knew one thing: how to play the game. I knew that if I got A’s and pleased professors, I would advance, and I did. I wish I had known that while it is fine to play the game, the game is not the goal. The goal is finding God’s will for me and my place in the world.
If our goal is seeking God and his will for our lives (and it is), then our homeschooling choices should point toward that goal.  To that end, I have been thinking even more carefully about what we’ll be doing next year.

One revelation I had while reading was the thought that textbooks are written to fit the traditional school year. Of course I knew that before, but I suddenly realized the math book had lessons for the whole year not because they were all appropriate for the student but because they had a certain number of days to fill. I don't want our lesson plans to be like that. So I wrote lesson plans but I will be discerning as we go whether the lessons we do each week are leading us to God or if there is something better we could be doing with our time. I have a lot of history on our schedule this year and we might spread the readings out more even if we don't finish it all. I don't have any grammar on our schedule this year, but First Son will be doing some more writing and I will try to teach him a little grammar as we go along. Or not. We'll see.

At the end, the author reminds us that the beautiful words we read are only a part of the women who wrote them:
We are just like you, wondering what in the world we will put together for dinner tonight. We are just like you, and not entirely sure of ourselves. We may write long books and thoughtful Internet posts proclaiming the goodness and freedom of unschooling; at the end of the day we still lie in bed exhausted and wonder if our children are learning what they should.
Much of the book describes following the Little Way of St. Therese and the example of St. John Bosco, a great teacher of orphan boys in the 1800s. These thoughts are most fitting for Catholics, though both of these saints have insights into human character that many non-Catholic educators would find interesting if not enlightening. For example, Don Bosco writes:
It is certainly easier to lose one’s temper than to be patient; threaten young people rather than reason with them. I would say that it better suits our lack of patience and our pride to punish those who resist us, rather than bear with them firmly and with kindness.
The booklists at the end are excellent, divided into categories on St. Therese, unschooling, Catholic homeschooling and general homeschooling, education, and more.

It was a joy to read this book and I highly recommend it. As a side note, Hillside Education did a wonderful job printing and binding this book. It's beautiful.


  1. Thanks for visiting my little blog and for sharing your experiences in the book!


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