Thursday, December 29, 2011

Beginners Guide to Homeschooling: Books to Kick-Start Your Dreams of Homeschooling.

In September of 2008, Zarf -- having completed kindergarten at the local public school -- was to start grade 1. Klaxon was only four but, according to the British Columbia school act, ready to attend kindergarten for almost 20 hours per week.  But instead of trudging off to school for 181 instructional days, Mr Wrath and I kept them at home.

Prior to that day, I did a great deal of reading and researching and fretting about the options and alternatives available to us. Don't get me wrong. Mr Wrath was definitely involved in the process. But while we divide the household chores and parenting duties equally and according to skill, not sex, the bulk of homeschooling is done by or instigated by me.  It was me who trawled websites, checked out library books, and asked casual acquaintances if I could visit their homes and see homeschooling in action.

I sat down yesterday to write up a list of resources for a friend who's considering homeschooling her young sons. "This might make a good blog post," I thought to myself and start brainstorming topics. Turns out it's going to make for a good SERIES of blog posts. Today I'm going to start with...

Books to Kick-Start
(or Kill) 
Your Dreams of Homeschooling.

My three favourite homeschool books:

Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, by David Guterson
I'd always been intrigued by homeschooling, but this book helped affirm my beliefs. More importantly, it convinced Mr Wrath that homeschooling was feasible for our family.

The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, by Dr Raymond and Dorothy Moore.
"Chill out, you're doing fine" is the theme for this book. I find it very comforting even though I'm not a follower of Moore's formula (unschool until age 8 to 12, then start more formal lessons).

The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education At Home, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
Full of timelines and resources for classical education (personally, I wouldn't know a Latin declensions if it bit me on my gluteus maximus), it also has practical tips about scheduling lessons and timelines of skill development.

Books that I consulted and found helpful but don't recommend purchasing:

The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas: 500+ Fun and Creative Learning Activities, by Linda Dobson
Part of making the mental shift to homeschooling is recognizing moments for subversive learning. This book is great for showing how to find and exploits these possibilities.

Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling by Mary Pride.
Disclaimer: Mary Pride is an anti-feminist, Quiverfull pioneer and her books are -- in my opinion -- propaganda for her ultra-conservative, political agenda. However, this particular title has great bare-bones descriptions of homeschooling educational philosophies (ie, unschooling, Classical, Charlotte Manson, eclectic, Montessori, Moore Formula, Reggio Emelia, unit studies, Waldorf and school-at-home).

So You're Thinking About Homeschooling: Fifteen Families Show How You Can Do It, by Lisa Welchel
I hummed "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the Facts of Life" the whole time I read this slim, pleasant book by the woman who played Blair Warner. This is a collection of a fictional accounts of different ways families incorporate homeschooling into their lives, with an emphasis on Christian education options. There's not a lot of meat here, but the book includes a list of resources about the homeschool theories was useful for finding more weighty treatments.

Books not explicitly about homeschooling, but worth a read to shore up opinions about formal education, and gender roles:

Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence, by Rosalind Wiseman
Whenever someone brings up the "But what about socialization?" question, I think of this book and know that schools don't ensure a child is conversant in social niceties. Quiet frankly, I sometimes marvel that children emerge from 12 years of school with even the remotest notion of how to interact with other humans.

Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads: Dealing with the Parents, Teachers, Coaches, and Counselors Who Can Make--or Break--Your Child's Future, by Rosalind Wiseman
 A great exploration of how adults are a huge factor in the shit storm that is today's formal school system.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, by Peggy Orenstein 
This book should be read by all parents, not just those with daughters. We will all reap the ill-affects of multi-national corporations teaching little girls that beauty trumps intelligence and stuff is better than substance.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Are we parenting with our eyes wide shut?

Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences, by Leonard Sax
Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax
These books killed my long held belief that nurture trumps nature. But acknowledging the differences between the sexes does not mean we can't strive for equality between the boys and girls.

The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do, by Peg Tyre
I read this book in 2009, and when I talked about it afterward people scoffed. Then last year the Globe & Mail ran a six-part series called Failing Boys that exposed how the Canadian education system's gender bias neglects boys.

The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child, by John Mighton
We use literacy rates as a measure for a nations' educational success, but numeracy is just as important. Mighton is also the creator of the math curriculum we use with our sons.

"Are there any books about homeschooling in Canada?," you might now be wondering. As far as I can tell: no.  But there are some online resources: 

The aforementioned friend recommended a paper by the Canadian-based think-tank, the Fraser Institute. Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream (2nd Edition) is an excellent information resource that explores how homeschooling in Canada politically, culturally and historically differs from and parallels the American experience. For more background, A History of the Modern Canadian Homeschooling/Unschooling Movement is also worth a read.

• • • •

Next up in my Beginner's Guide to Homeschooling will be tips about picking grade-appropriate, Canadian curriculum (that's fancy talk for books) that will keep your kids on track with their peers at local schools.

• • • •

Any books that helped you when you were considering homeschooling?  Please post your suggestions in the comment section of this post.


  1. I think it's great that you post homeschooling articles. If I were going to homeschool, I would certainly trust your guidance. I'm glad it has worked out for you guys, it seems like you have fun doing it - which I think is half the battle.

  2. I'm not a homeschooler, but I think that last category of books is very important for anyone!

  3. So many great links and books to get out of the library...thanks. I have read some of them already and am always looking for other great reads.

    With two girls in mainstream elementary school, I can assure you that many, MANY kids will finish school with little or no social skills. And, a lot of the skills they do have will set the stage for a bunch of adults who are entitled bullies who feel the rest of the universe owes them.

    Rant over.

  4. My favorite book is the John Holt/Pat Farenga book, Teach Your Own. That was the first book that made me think, "I can do this."

    And this is a great series idea! Can't wait to read more.

  5. @Omaha Mama -- thanks for the nice words. We do have fun, but I will confess that math lessons are all too often punctuated by tears. From me.

    @Nicole -- those are great books. I wish more parents read them.

    @Jenifer -- It's hard not to get depressed when I look at my sons' peers. What are we in for in the next two decades as these children hit adulthood?

    @FOM -- I hemmed and hawed about adding John Holt books. They're great and he's been instrumental in the homeschooling movement, but it seemed wrong since...erm...I haven't read any of his stuff. That's a shameful confession, isn't it?

  6. I LOVE this tag: