Archive for the ‘Christian Homeschooling’ category

HomeSchooling at the Speed of Life by Marilyn Rockett

December 27, 2008

Rockett, Marilyn. HomeSchooling at the Speed of Life: Balancing Home, School, and Family in the Real World. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2007. (PB: 9780805444858)

This book is much less about homeschooling per se than it is about maintaining one’s sanity while trying to take care of all the rest of what author Marilyn Rockett calls “the dailiness of life” while homeschooling. Nothing wrong with that. Most mothers struggle with balance on some level or another, and homeschooling mothers have some challenges other mothers they know might not—teaching long division, for instance, or fretting over their child’s seemingly inexplicable inability to learn how to read. Rockett comes from a Christian perspective, using her first chapter to connect God’s plans to orderliness in a family’s life. From there, she moves into chapters on dealing with clutter, dealing with paper, the importance of teaching children domestic skills, record keeping, and the like. Throughout, she includes quotes from the Bible as well as quotes from other writers. Chapters conclude with questions to help the reader discover areas of personal weakness and strategies for overcoming them as well as a few devotionals for inspiration. A CD-ROM that comes with the book includes numerous printable organizational aids.

Rockett is, without a doubt, a skilled and practiced organizer. She writes very specifically to Christian homeschooling mothers, but her advice is realistic and solid for anyone looking to get a little more organized. That said, the book is probably not going to connect with homeschooling fathers, non-Christian homeschoolers, and even some Christian homeschoolers who would prefer something with a lighter touch. It may, however, appeal to Christian mothers who aren’t homeschooling, since even non-homeschooling mothers still have plenty of school-related things to deal with on a daily basis. The book will appeal to the same audience that enjoys books by the likes of Carol Barnier and Christine M. Field. Recommended for mid-to-large library collections in communities with strong Christian homeschooling populations.


LEAH Annual Conference in Rochester, NY this May

March 17, 2008

For those of you in New York State, this year’s upstate LEAH Home Education Conference will be held May 29-31 right here in Rochester. LEAH (Loving Education at Home) is an organization that supports conservative Protestant homeschoolers in New York State through education, information, conferences, and the formation of local support groups. In the past, their annual conference has been held at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. I attended the conference a couple years ago, and it was most informative. I learned a lot about homeschooling from a conservative Protestant perspective, and the trade show proved to be a wonderful opportunity to find new materials for our homeschooling collection. I even saw some of our library patrons there. Even if you aren’t local to Rochester, there are probably some homeschooling gatherings going on somewhere near you, and attending them can be a wonderful learning experience.

Here are a couple links to get you started:

* 2008 Homeschool Calendar of Events on A to Z Home’s Cool Homeschooling

* Home Education Magazine‘s Homeschool Conferences Calendar

For the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittmann

January 6, 2008

For the Love of LiteratureWittmann, Maureen. For the Love of Literature: Teaching Core Subjects with Literature. La Grange, KY: Ecce Homo Press, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-9797609-9-7. (Available from Ecce Homo Press and Amazon.)

I know Maureen through cyberspace. I put her on my blogroll early in the process of researching and writing Helping Homeschoolers in the Library. I interviewed her here, and she’s also profiled in my book. One of the things I most enjoy about Maureen is that she is a READER who knows libraries and literature well. Among her many other activities, she moderates a Yahoo discussion group called Homeschool Library Connection that is devoted to encouraging homeschoolers to be proactive library users and gives excellent, realistic guidelines for homeschoolers who would like to submit titles for the library to consider purchasing.

Maureen’s passion for homeschooling, literature, libraries, and her faith are all on display in her new book, For the Love of Literature. The goal of the book is to provide homeschoolers who would like to incorporate literature–as Maureen and Charlotte Mason might say, “real books”–into their children’s studies. As such, the bulk of the book is devoted to literary guides broken down by subject: “Art and Music Appreciation,” “Math”, “History,” “Science,” and “Books about Books.” Each section includes books that can be tied into subject areas along with annotations and recommended age/grade levels. To make the guides even more useful, Maureen has organized the art and history sections chronologically, and she has subdivided the math and science sections by topic. Any youth services librarian who browses the lists will see a great number of library staples–for example, math books by Mitsumasa Anno, D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, biographies by Demi, and the Magic School Bus series. Librarians will also find less familiar books by some smaller, specialty Catholic presses–books about famous missionaries, for instance, and series about the saints.

In addition to the literature guides, Maureen has chapters devoted to using the library, building a home library, the value of reading aloud, information about teaching from a classical or Charlotte Mason perspective, and how to create unit studies. She encourages homeschoolers to get to know libraries with a summary of the Dewey Decimal System and information about what one can and can’t expect from a public library. She acknowledges, for example, that libraries can’t get titles that are out of print and that librarians will be most interested in purchasing materials they know will circulate. She talks about how the library ELF can help homeschoolers keep track of heavy borrowing and how LibraryThing can help homeschoolers organize and track their own libraries at home.

This book will be useful to libraries for a lot of reasons. Catholic homeschoolers are one of the fastest-growing segments of the homeschooling population, and there aren’t a great number of books that address their particular homeschooling needs. This is also a book that will prove useful beyond its originally intended audience. Teachers and librarians at parochial schools may find it useful when looking for materials to supplement their institutional curriculums. Open-minded homeschoolers of many faiths will find useful titles within these pages, and this is a book librarians can use to identify alternate selections from a homeschooling perspective when patrons are looking for books that the library can’t provide. Because Maureen made an effort to include titles that were in print when the book went to press, it can also serve as a collection development tool. Highly recommended.

Jesus Camp

March 4, 2007

I finally watched the Academy Award nominated documentary Jesus Camp a couple weeks ago. Aside from the fact that the film was up for an Oscar, I was interested in it because I’d heard that a couple of the children featured are homeschooled. Overall, the film was a touch overlong and doesn’t say much about homeschooling, but it does give some — I thought respectful — insight into the lives and beliefs of some conservative Protestants. It didn’t win the Oscar, but I thought it was well worth watching. Consider it recommended.

The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Raymond and Dorothy Moore

January 16, 2007

Moore, Raymond, and Dorothy Moore. The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook: A Creative and Stress-Free Approach to Homeschooling. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994.

Researchers and educators Raymond and Dorothy Moore played an important part in popularizing homeschooling in the 1970s and ‘80s, particularly among conservative Protestants. Their star has faded in the homeschooling world, but their contribution to the movement is important, so I’ve been looking to see which of their many books I’d recommend for homeschooling collections. Their most recent, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook: A Creative and Stress-Free Approach to Homeschooling (1994), turned out to be the winner.

This book, a revision of their Home School Burnout, is one of the only Moore titles still in print. The book is packed with information, covering most of the philosophies and ideas the Moores developed in other books. It serves as a defense of homeschooling as well as an explanation of the “Moore Formula,” which emphasizes teaching children through study, manual labor, and service in the home and community. Like John Holt, the Moores assert that institutionalized schooling damages young children, and while they don’t advocate total unschooling, they do warn parents to delay formal instruction until their children are 8-10 years old. The Moores’ strong Christian faith permeates the book and their ideas, but, at the same time, it welcomes and encourages those of other faiths or even no faith to give homeschooling a try. The Moores’ writing is wordy and lacks spark, making the book a little less user-friendly than other titles, but, at the same time, the authors come across as extremely well-intentioned, well-informed, and likable. Smaller collections may want to skip this in favor of more practical, user-friendly titles, but larger collections will want this representation of the Moores’ work.

Creative Communications by Sandra Garant

January 14, 2007

“Most of us should be able to find enough reasonable motivation to write or use other communication skills every day. We all have responsibilities we need to remember, relationships we want to keep, problems we ought to resolve, interests we would like to explore, and celebrations in which we enjoy participating. These are meaningful and therefore motivating opportunities for writing, speaking, and drawing.”
-Sandra Garant in Creative Communications: Thirty Writing, Speaking, and Drawing Projects for Homeschoolers

This book is written with Catholic homeschoolers in mind, but it contains ideas that have applications far beyond its intended audience. I first read about Creative Communications in Cathy Duffy’s 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. I had a little trouble getting a copy for the library’s collection, but I’m glad I went through the extra effort. Garant’s philosophy is that the best way to teach writing is through emphasizing writing’s practical everyday uses: making lists, sending letters, designing signs, and the like. She encourages creativity and shows how activities like storytelling and scrapbooking build writing skills. The book is divided into five sections: “Writing Games,” “Pre-writing Activities,” “Short Projects for Ready Writers,” “Advanced Projects for Real Writers,” and “Additional Information.” While Garant’s Catholic faith is evident in some of the activities and examples, her activities would be useful to any number of homeschoolers, classroom teachers, and parents who want to encourage writing – no matter what their faith. Even though some readers will be turned off by the Catholic perspective, many more will either welcome it or look past it. Garant’s straightforward and concise writing style makes the book user-friendly and unintimidating. As a librarian, I love Garant’s frequent suggestions for using public libraries. She suggests getting materials there more than once (even providing call number sections one might want to browse to find particular types of books), and she suggests a number of projects homeschoolers might do in conjunction with their local libraries, such as presenting programs and creating displays. Because the book is geared toward a niche market, it might be best-suited for larger collections, although a little extra promotion will surely have it circulating beyond Catholic homeschoolers.

Interview with Maureen Wittmann, Part 7

January 8, 2007

Adrienne: One last question for you. How did you get into writing about homeschooling?

Maureen: It just kind of happened.

As a kid, I wanted to be an investigative reporter. However, I was told by more than one school counselor to get my head out of the clouds and get real. They never read anything I’d written – that didn’t matter. What mattered to them was that there were more graduates with journalism degrees than there were jobs. My career took a completely different route and writing got sidetracked.

(As a side note: Four years ago I started a teen writing club for this reason. The club is designed to help high school students who want to make writing their life’s work. I believe in encouraging children to explore their dreams and to strive for excellence.)

In the 80’s I volunteered to publish a bimonthly newsletter for a nonprofit organization. My only qualification was that I owned a home computer – not very common in those days. I learned a lot and enjoyed it immensely.

When I started formal homeschooling, I began to think about how I could apply my desktop publishing experience and my writing skills to help the homeschooling community. I asked my friend Rachel Mackson if she would like to publish a homeschool newsletter with me. Rachel very wisely pointed out that a newsletter requires a regular commitment. With small children there would always be the possibility of a wrench thrown into our publishing schedule. Rachel suggested writing a book together instead as it would be a one-time commitment.

There was one problem. Being new to homeschooling, I was uncomfortable telling other parents how to homeschool. I suggested we put together a compendium instead. It was a perfect match. Rachel set to work recruiting friends to write for us, while I worked at editing. At first, we self-published A Catholic Homeschool Treasury. It was a lot of hard work that bore few fruits. When Ignatius Press picked up the book we were ecstatic!

However, putting together a book isn’t even half the work. An author must work hard to promote her book if anyone is going to read it. One way to do that is to get speaking engagements. I humbled myself and wrote to organizers to ask if I could speak at their conferences. Another way to market your book is to get articles published in periodicals popular with your reading audience. I began sending queries to various homeschooling and Catholic magazines. It wasn’t long before I was getting published.

It’s been nine years since that first book went to print and, I have to say, writing for the homeschool market has been a great blessing. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with other writers and editors, to meet homeschoolers from all over the country, and to learn a great deal about my vocation as a homeschooling mother.

Adrienne: Before I let you go, would you like to tell us a little about your forthcoming book? I, for one, am very excited about it.

Maureen: I’m excited too! For the Love of Literature is many years in the making and I’m so happy to have it with the publisher. (It’ll still be a few months before it’s available.) It’s a book designed to help parents use literature in their homeschools. Though it could be used by any homeschooling parent, it does have a Catholic ethos to it since I’m Catholic.

When I began homeschooling, I decided early on to concentrate heavily on real books, using textbooks and workbooks only as supplemental material. Over the years, I kept track of the books I used, making notes on what worked and what didn’t. It wasn’t long before I had a pretty extensive reading list.

I pulled the list together into a booklet to accompany a conference talk I give on teaching core subjects through literature. I was surprised how popular the booklet became even though I didn’t promote it. I gave one to my friend, and writing mentor, Mike Aquilina and he encouraged me to pull it into a full blown book. (Mike wrote the Foreword.) Then Joan Stromberg, Ecce Homo publisher, approached me at a conference and suggested I write it for Ecce Homo. How could I resist?

The reading list in For the Love of Literature contains just over 950 books. Each book has a short description and is coded for reading level. The books are broken down by subject matter (music, art, science, math, and history). I tried to arrange the list so it would be easy to use by a parent teaching children of all ages.

I include chapters on using the library (your favorite chapter Adrienne!), the art of reading aloud, classical education, Charlotte Mason, literary unit studies, and more.

It’s my hope that homeschoolers will take my book and make it their book. I hope they will continue to write the book long after the publisher has put it into their hands. They should highlight the titles already on their bookshelves, make notes next to favorites, red line titles they don’t like, and write in new titles.

The making of this book has been a labor of love and it is my gift to the homeschooling community.