I have a list of books that homeschoolers have recommended to me, and I look forward to reading them, but I’m glad I started my research by reading The Homeschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith.
I think it’s a good book for any beginning homeschooler because it’s easy to read and it does a good job of balancing the pros and cons of homeschooling.
In the first chapter, Griffith summarizes the academic research done on homeschooling, and so far, there has not been any study that finds homeschooling is bad. She believes this is because for most families, if homeschooling does not work, they put their children back into school and no harm is done.
I’m going to insert my own observance here and say that for all the criticism that homeschoolers get, I believe that it is largely unfounded because for any homeschooled student who might be in a bad situation, there are plenty more students in a traditional school who are in equally bad positions. Unfortunately, it’s the negative, out-of-the-norm stories that usually make the news.
Griffith also emphasizes that homeschooling is different for each family and that parents need to find what method works best for their children. Though other homeschoolers may be full of advice or companies may swear by their curriculums, there is no single right way to do it.
In the third chapter, she briefly goes over different theories of learning, for example Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development, Charlotte Mason, and Holt and Unschooling. I found this interesting because I had little knowledge on any of this, and now I’m looking in other places to read about each theory in depth.
She also goes over the advantages and disadvantages of the different homeschooling styles such as School at Home, Eclectic Homeschooling and Unschooling. School at home is what it sounds like – parents follow a curriculum and have a structured day of learning just as students would do at school. Unschooling is the opposite extreme where parents allow a child’s interests to lead the learning. They act more as a resource for the child and provide numerous outlets for the child to explore.
Eclectic homeschooling is somewhere in the middle. Parents probably do not purchase a single curriculum but use various resources for the different subjects, piecing together a kind of curriculum of their own. The children may have to sit down and do certain lessons so that the parents can make sure they are learning the basics, but in other areas, the parents may let the kids follow their own interests.
Right now, eclectic homeschooling is what I’m planning to do. For me, there would be no point in homeschooling if I was simply going to do school at home. The reason I want to homeschool is so that my children can focus on the things they love. I will make sure they learn how to read, write and do math, but I will try to find ways of doing it so that they find it interesting.
The beauty of homeschooling, in my opinion, is that we can take numerous field trips, but we will also have plenty of time for my sons to play and use their imaginations. We won’t be constricted by anyone else’s schedule. Also, my sons will learn from everyday experiences, such as learning math from grocery shopping and cooking.
The Homeschooling Handbook is also valuable because it is filled with testimonies from various homeschooling families, and it proves how each family approaches homeschooling differently. Most importantly, as a beginner, it was good to hear this advice from seasoned homeschoolers and how they have handled difficult situations and made homeschooling work.
There is also a chapter each on legal issues, assisted homeschooling, money matters, evaluation and record keeping, special circumstances, and beyond homeschooling. There is a chapter each on the primary, middle and teen years, and most importantly, Griffith has listed every other website, magazine, newsletter, book or organization that homeschoolers can go for further information. There are four appendices in the back of the book that lists Homeschooling Resources, Homeschooling Organizations, Selected Learning Resources and Colleges That Have Accepted Homeschoolers.
I enjoyed this book so much that I immediately ordered Griffith’s other book, The Unschooling Handbook, and I read it too. I recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about unschooling.
Shelli Bond Pabis is a Winder resident and columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.