Life

Book Review

Always Learning Books asked me to write a review of a new book in their catalogue – The Homeschooling Trail…A Journey of Faith.

I think this is a book that will speak to many, and so I am sharing the review….

“The Homeschooling Trail…a Journey of Faith” by Michele Hastings

“We don’t adhere to any particular curriculum or scope and sequence – our homeschooling recipe is an eclectic blend of styles and theories. Mary Griffith, author of “The Homeschooling Handbook” refers to eclectics as ‘balancing exploration with basics.’ As much as possible, we allow our boys to follow their interests, as we consider any interest of educational benefit.”

And thus author and homeschooling mother, Michele Hasting, describes her homeschool. After reading her journey, a description of one year in their “unschooled” life, I feel it is an apt description. It also probably describes the homeschooling journey of many others – and is precisely why the book is a satisfying read. We see ourselves, our doubts, our experiences in Hastings’ description of her homeschool.

Hastings is a Christian homeschooling mother of two sons. Both Hastings and her husband are drawn to the unschooling end of the homeschooling spectrum. They believe that children, growing up in a loving and responsive home, will reach their full potential as adults.

This is, however, not another book about picture perfect homeschoolers. Instead, the author invites us to “be a fly on our wall for a realistic day-by-day glimpse of homeschooling life”, including sports, video games, chores and some angst over covering academic basics.

Michele Hastings reminds us that ordinary people, living ordinary lives, can homeschool. Indeed, can provide a learning atmosphere for children surrounded by ideas and learning and growth, even in the midst of financial and other concerns.

The intimate details of Hastings life are strangely reassuring – we see that others have “good” days and “could be better” days; we see the importance of free time and exploration in the growth of children; we see the individual differences between siblings and how unschooling can address these differences.

Most of all, the book is about trust. Trusting children to learn. Trusting ourselves as parents and as mothers – our intuition and our personalities are important in our homeschooling adventure. And, for Hastings, the importance of trust in God – she quotes Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

Hastings discusses her research into homeschooling and the resultant belief that it important to pay attention to not only a child’s individual learning style but to his/her timetable for growth. She incorporates activities into a daily “table-time”, where she and the boys work on reading, writing, and mathematics. The children are fee to choose the aspect of these skills that they may wish to tackle that day, and to accomplish such work in ways that make sense to them, and at their individual pace.

In addition to table-time, the family works together on chores and then the bulk of the day is free – typically her children choose to attend homeschool activities, to play sport, to play with friends, watch television, play computer games….

Doesn’t this describe the homeschool day of many families? Even in our differences there are similarities and this theme of familiar companionship along the journey of homeschooling/unschooling makes the book an easy and enjoyable read.

I left it in the book box by my bed and read a bit here and there – the book is easy to pick up, read and digest; it made me smile in parts, grimace in others and wryly commiserate at some points.

Upon finishing the book, I felt sadness at parting with Hastings and her family – the sharing of their life throughout a year of homeschooling made them seem like friends. I also felt renewed and refreshed as I continue my own homeschooling trail. This book is a good companion for the trail.

Leonie Westenberg
February 2007

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