I received A Little Way of Homeschooling by Suzie Andres in my mailbox recently and was excited to recognize so many of my online friends included in this delightful tome of homeschooling encouragement (Karen, Lissa, Leonie, Faith, Willa and Maria to be exact). As I am always thrilled to see a new title published by Margot at Hillside Education, it was not surprising to me that this one would come off the presses with such welcome praises.
One of the elements that struck me initially about the book is that it was clearly inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux and that the author and some of the contributors have been touched profoundly by this "Little Saint". It is also evident that a compelling force behind why they chose homeschooling as their preferred method of learning with their families was based on faith and their ability to seek God's will in their lives. This resonates heavily with me as I am certain that learning outside of institutionalized education is what is God's will for our family.
To be sure, the book is focused on a particular style of homeschooling, that of Catholic Unschooling, which to many, is a foreign concept, but I urge you to sit back and relax with a nice cup of (insert beverage preference here) and read through all the wonderful stories of home education and adventures from these families.
All of the family's stories are vastly different and inspiring in their own way, and each one will have a different appeal to different readers, but the overall theme represented by each of the stories is not only a true love of God, but a real trust in Him to lead them in their journeys through life.
One thing that parallels with each of the families in the book are that they are not mainstream home educators and yet they ARE the mainstream for their own family, and isn't that to what God calls us? Suzie points out very clearly that God led her not only to homeschooling, but unschooling by virtue of His Word, and that she desires and needs to trust in Him completely. I believe that each of the women who shared their stories feels the same way and that unschooling isn't necessarily something they chose per se, but rather, that it chose them.
Personally, our family flip-flops between times of academic intensity to times of studying lulls, which in no way means that none of us are lacking in learning, we're just on another focus, usually correlating with the liturgical seasons. Our natural rhythms and breaks in academia follow the busyness of our days or weeks when learning is either at a full tilt or slowing to ease in other interests. Many would call this relaxed, but I doubt it would qualify as unschooling, certainly not in the radical sense. It's just what makes sense in our family.
Many elements of home education can seem unschooly, especially when a particular child has a serious interest in a certain subject. This happens frequently with us, usually in conjunction with some era of history that one may be currently reading, or an extreme interest in computer technology and games, Legos, movies and musicals of the 1940's, etc. We are also heavily immersed in music and dance lessons (not to mention baseball, ahem) hence, some other activities or academics may take a back seat for a while to let natural talents and intersts flow. It's helpful if parents can embrace these natural inclinations and times of excitement to delve deeply into something with their children, rather than fight against it. This is a dream come true in my opinion, to let the children excel at what they love doing best. Who wouldn't want to learn this way?
I know that my husband's and my school experiences were monumentally different than what our children are doing right now and that is a good thing :) We will probably never be the poster family for Unschooling, but I know we are the poster-family for OUR family and that is what God chooses for us! I am so glad to know so many people who have embraced "A Little Way of Homeschooling" in their own way and I am blessed to have read all their stories of encouragement and learning, and especially Suzie's dream to put it all together. Thank You all!!