Thursday, April 8, 2010

Help, Lord, I'm Getting Ready to Start Homeschooling My High Schooler - E-Book Review

One of the ways I enjoy being creative is by writing. But, alas (poor Yorick!) -- my life generally affords little opportunity for such a focused, don't-interrupt-my-thoughts kind of activity. However, when I saw a facebook posting from my favourite homeschooling magazine looking for product reviewers, I thought I might just throw my hat in the ring. After all, I use homeschooling resources all the time, so why not have a good reason to write every once in a while -- and help others while I'm at it? Oh, and getting to try new stuff sounded good, too:)

As part of the “try-out” process for The Old Schoolhouse' Magazine's Homeschool Review Crew recruitment (try saying that five times fast!!!), I received a copy of Help, Lord, I’m Getting Ready to Start Homeschooling My High Schooler! to review. Given that my oldest children are a 12 year-old daughter and an 11 year-old son, this e-book, published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, is rather timely. I am gearing up for that leg of my homeschooling journey, and I am in need of the Lord’s help in the matter!

Help, Lord, . . . , one of the many e-books that can be downloaded from The Schoolhouse Store, costs $12.45. This initially struck me as a little steep for a book that I can't stack neatly on my night table (more about the cost later); but I do so enjoy the immediate gratification of receiving a new book at the click of my mouse. I’m not a huge fan of reading books on the computer, so I needed to have a hard copy in which I could highlight ideas that caught my eye, and scribble marginal notes. And, while the landscape orientation of the pages irked me, I have to say that this collection of thirteen testimonials of moms who have “been-there-done-that” and survived to tell the story gave me lots to jot about.

The first chapter was a good start for me because author Regenia Spoerndle expresses an (albeit reluctant) openness to her daughter choosing to attend public high school. Public education is not presented as anathema, but rather a viable option, though one less favoured personally by the author. I have a daughter who feels strongly, at this point, that she’d like to attend a public high school, so it is encouraging for me to hear a mom relate that God sometimes leads in directions we have hitherto avoided for various reasons, and that such a choice is not a homeschooling “failure” or “cop-out.”

In another chapter, among other things, Ladonna Beals introduces us to a treatment I’d never heard of for dyslexia and other learning challenges: upper cervical care – something I’m anxious to explore on behalf of two of my own children. I wish she had provided some specific references to resources so that we could easily explore this treatment option, but I understand that it is not the purpose of her writing to give detailed specifics.

Nor is it the purpose of any of the authors in this book. Instead of providing comprehensive information for the reader, each chapter simply has a personal story of real-life successes and failures of homeschooling families, and those failures are as enlightening and encouraging as the successes. A brief biography is given of each author, sometimes with contact information, as well as other resources available by that person. There is neither an overload nor a lack of information offered.

Rather than summarizing each chapter, let me give you a list of the key ideas that struck me as I read these testimonies:

• Post-secondary education is not for everyone, and that’s OK!
• A life-style of learning is more important than formal schooling.
• Character is more important than academics.
• Freedom to choose learning paths is not only an advantage of homeschooling, but a key to our children’s educational success.
• Independent learners are prepared for post-secondary education regardless of the content they’ve studied.
• God shapes and prepares our children for His work in His kingdom. That fact relieves some of the pressure we put on ourselves to provide the “perfect” education!
• Having our child’s heart is critical to successful homeschooling, and parenting in general.
• The benefits of homeschooling go far beyond academics.
• Setting goals is important.
• We need to think outside the box of “education” and be creative! Learning can take so many forms, and we should not undervalue any opportunities that our children have to learn and grow mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. (That's actually hard for me. As someone trained in the field of education, I find it hard to let go of the need to fill our days with "schoolish" activities and simply value the myriad of real-life learning opportunities that are presented to us each day.)

While several authors give specific pointers about what to do while homeschooling high school students, Help, Lord, . . . is not a “how to” book. Rather, it is a book of encouragement for those fearful of stepping out in faith. And if I could sum up the foundational concept of the book, it would be just that: FAITH. Virtually every writer in the book emphasizes the fact that to truly succeed at homeschooling through high school, we must have faith that God will lead us and our children, and we must TRUST His leading. This idea is one that both veteran and novice homeschoolers alike need to be reminded of time and time again.

Now, do I think the book is worth the price? Well, it’s hard to put a price tag on blessings – and this was, indeed, a blessing to me, as I suspect it would be to most moms sailing on the same ship of anticipation and agonizing uncertainty that I’m adrift upon. (Don’t get me wrong – many a dad would enjoy it, too!) Given the added benefit of an introduction by well-known homeschooling writer Amanda Bennett, an epilogue by my favourite TOS writer, Deborah Wuehler, and an extensive list of recommended resources, at less than a dollar per chapter, I’d say it is money well-spent!

(Please note: I am not paid to write this review; I am only asked to give an honest opinion in return for the opportunity to try the product.)

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