Books about Homeschooling

If at all possible,

I highly recommend that prospective homeschooling parents read several, if not all, of the following books on Catholic homeschooling. There are several reasons for this. Together they make up a wealth of information that will be invaluable to you. Secondly, even the various Catholic authors, who have a great deal of homeschooling experience, vary significantly in their ideas and methods. I certainly don't agree with everything I've read in each book! (Several of the books even recommend items that have been placed on the Red Flag List.) The different perspectives will give you a more complete picture of the possibilities of homeschooling - leaving you better informed to make decisions about your children's education.

A Catholic Homeschool Treasury

Book cover: 'A Catholic Homeschool Treasury'
Author(s): 
Rachel Mackson
Maureen Wittmann
Copyright: 
1999
Publisher: 
Ignatius Press
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

I haven't been able to read this entire book yet because (although I've had the book less than two weeks) I've already lent it out to a friend. At first it didn't look like much, but after reading a number of the essays, I've come to see why this book can be considered a real treasure. This is a collection of essays written by real homeschooling moms who share some of their experiences and the stories of how homeschooling has worked for their families. I thought it was nice just to hear ordinary moms explain how they adjusted a program to fit their needs, worked with their husband on determining how to balance structure and flexibility and how they've grown to see homeschooling as a wonderful way to develop a healthy, happy and holy family life and to encourage their children to really love learning for all the right reasons. So many families struggle with how to tailor homeschooling to their family's needs and to find the right balance between flexibility and structure, good academics and the joy of learning, etc. These essays provide a very valuable sense of the scope of possibilities available to Catholic homeschool families.

Due to the changing nature of the Internet world, the authors have provided a companion website where you can find current information on website addresses and other helpful info from the resource guide segment of their book.

A sequel, A Catholic Homeschool Companion, has been published by Sophia Institute Press.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

A Family Journal

A Homeschooling Mother's Companion
Book cover: 'A Family Journal: A Homeschooling Mother's Companion'
Author(s): 
Rita Munn
Copyright: 
2003
Publisher: 
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Binding: 
Spiralbound
Number of pages: 
156 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This book is a collection of thirty-six "journal entries" (one for each week of the school-year) - stories about the author's family life and homeschooling intertwined with scripture, recipes and her own reflections about life and God's love. (Neat, huh?) The stories are touching, funny, encouraging, sad, uplifting - just like life in this imperfect world (particularly with a family) really is. This makes the book so comforting to mothers who are always struggling with the realities of life and are so often presented with a perfect picture of an unattainable ideal that they are "supposed" to be working on. (No wonder so many of us feel inadequate.) Rita humbly shares her pictures of life in a way that gently encourages mothers to perservere in their vocation and grow closer to God and to their families. This book is a real gem that will be passed around to friends and laughed and cried over.

Rita Munn is a Catholic homeschool mother of ten. She is part of the Mom-to-Mom Connections team at Catholic Heritage Curricula.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
6-23-03
Reviewed by: 

Catholic Education: Homeward Bound

Book cover: 'Catholic Education: Homeward Bound'
Author(s): 
Kimberly Hahn
Mary Hasson
Copyright: 
1996
Publisher: 
Ignatius Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
400 pages
Review: 

I know a number of people who decided to homeschool based on the information provided in this book. The authors have done a very impressive job of outlining the positive benefits of homeschooling, in a non-threatening fashion. Because many of the reasons they give for homeschooling focus on practical and "natural law" reasoning they can be easier for some people to handle than arguments that focus on Church teaching (after all, you have to start somewhere =). The authors cover the benefits of having your children at home with you, concerns about the academic aspects of homeschooling, socialization, the role of the father, and spiritual advice for busy mothers. I was especially impressed with the nearly forty pages devoted to homeschooling highschoolers. Unlike other books which seem to treat all teens as rebels (which I have found disappointing as a former homeschooled-teen), Mrs. Hahn and Mrs. Hasson discuss ideas for making the most of the high school years through homeschooling. Also included in the teen section is a lot of information about homeschoolers preparing for and getting accepted into college.

Remember that you shouldn't treat any of the Catholic homeschool books as a perfect and complete guide. (This is why I recommend reading a number of them for the sake of balance.) This book has a bias toward putting together your own program and doesn't portray the benefits of using a structured program particularly well.

The resources section in this book is extensive, but is certainly not its strong point. Several of the resources used by the two authors are considered problematic by some Catholic homeschoolers. In terms of the lifespan of the Catholic Homeschool movement, this book is already quite old (published in 1996). We should be grateful that there are many more excellent choices, in terms of programs, books and other materials, for Catholic homeschoolers today than just a few years ago.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
2000
Reviewed by: 

Catholic Homeschooling

Book cover: 'Catholic Homeschooling'
Author(s): 
Mary Kay Clark
Copyright: 
1998
Publisher: 
TAN Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
448 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Note: This review is based on the 1993/1998 editions of this book. The book was rewritten in 2006 and that edition has not yet been reviewed.

Mary Kay Clark, who is the director of Seton Home Study has recently revised what was the first book published on Cathholic Homeschooling. It has quite a different flavor from Catholic Education: Homeward Bound and make a strong case for homeschooling from the perspective of Catholic teaching and Church documents. The author includes many practical ideas for running a busy household while homeschooling and finding creative ways of making a structured homeschool program flexible enough for your needs. Chapters include "How to Begin Catholic Home Schooling", "Home Schooling in the Large Family", "The Sacramental Life" and special chapters by other authors on topics such as "The Father's Role in Homeschooling", "Home Management in the Catholic Home Schooling Family" and "Home Schooling the Catholic LD Child." I particularly enjoyed the stories of the author's own homeschooling experiences with her seven boys and her practical ideas of making homeschooling work in the here and now by not expecting to be able to do everything perfectly (e.g. using paper plates and clearing out a lot of unnecessary clutter in the house).

Catholic Homeschooling fills and has filled an important role in the homeschool movement (particularly because it was simply the first book published on Catholic homeschooling) but, like all "advice" on homeschooling (including this website), should be used insofar as it is helpful to your family's needs rather than solely dictate how your family does everything (this, I believe, would be keeping with the author's intentions, particularly as she explains the role of Seton Home Study).

Out-of-date material:
"The only other comprehensive home study program for children which has accreditation is Home Study International, which is run by Seventh-Day Adventists." (p. 103) A number of Catholic homeschool programs as well as Protestant ones are now accredited if that's an important issue to you.

"If you want Catholic textbooks, you need to enroll in a Catholic home study school." (p. 100) This seems rather shockingly out-of-date even for the revision date of 1998. Many Catholic textbooks have been available from numerous sources (including TAN, Neumann Press, Seton Educational Media, Catholic Heritage Curricula, Emmanuel Books, Kolbe Academy, etc.) for a number of years without being enrolled in any school at all.

You'll have to keep in mind that this book is biased toward using a structured homeschool program (and the Seton Home Study program in particular) and doesn't portray the concept of "putting together your own program" particularly well.

The computer section is significantly outdated and not particularly useful - for example, it discussescomputer bulletin boards rather than the Internet, and was clearly not revised in the 1998 edition.

A few of the parenting ideas that are discussed might be viewed negatively by those of us practicing an "attachment parenting" philosophy. Also I know a number of very good Catholics who were turned off by the authors rather "authoritative" tone and were unwilling to even finish the book.

I'm not highly enthusiastic about every resource mentioned in the appendix (although most are great!) but Dr. Clark does recommend one publication that I have serious problems with - Catholic Family News.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
6-11-03
Reviewed by: 

Creating a Cooperative Learning Center

An Idea-Book for Homeschooling Families
Author(s): 
Katherine Houk
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
Longview Publishing
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Most homeschool families today are involved in some form of co-op. Indeed, for many, homeschool co-ops have made homeschooling much more feasible, providing classes taught by other parents and social time for children as well as for homeschool parents.

This "idea-book" can be very useful if you are contemplating forming a coop in your area. The author tells the story of their co-op in NY State and gives all of the nuts and bolts of the process. The chapters cover all of the stages of the creation and running of their co-op, with examples of all of their paperwork: initial surveys, academic offerings, bylaws. Almost half of the book is made of appendices with the letters and other paperwork not included in the chapters themselves. The books also has black and white illustrations of scenes from their learning center, and some field trips too.

The book is not written by a Catholic author, but I believe Catholics parents can find helpful ideas and resources they can adapt to their needs. If you are thinking of organizing a co-op, you may want to pick a copy of Creating a Cooperative Learning Center from your library.

Review Date: 
2-12-07
Reviewed by: 

Designing your Own Classical Curriculum

Book cover: 'Designing your Own Classical Curriculum'
Author(s): 
Laura Berquist
Copyright: 
1998
Publisher: 
Ignatius Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
265 pages
Review: 

DYOCC is quite a bit different from the other books on Catholic Homeschooling. Instead of simply discussing homeschooling, as the other books do, Mrs. Berquist outlines an entire homeschool curriculum you can use with your children or adjust to your liking. She includes suggestions for putting together your own curriculum and a grade by grade outline which includes recommended texts, sample weekly schedules, a number of study guides, lists of important dates and people, poetry suggestions and extensive lists of appropriate literature and history stories. I found her introduction very helpful in fine-tuning my educational goals for my children. Even parents who are happily using another curriculum will find this book a very valuable source of supplemental resources and tips for making homeschooling more interesting and more successful. Some homeschoolers consider her to be much stronger in the history, literature and religion areas and a little weaker on Science and Math. To learn more about the classical liberal arts curriculum as described in her book, you can also read Dorothy Sayers' "The Lost Tools of Learning."

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Homeschooling with Gentleness

A Catholic Discovers Unschooling
Book cover: 'Homeschooling with Gentleness: A Catholic Discovers Unschooling'
Author(s): 
Suzie Andres
Copyright: 
2004
Publisher: 
Little Way Books/Christendom College Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
132 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Foreward by Ralph McInerny

This is a "February book". You know---one of those books you need to read when the dark gray days of February stretch out as endlessly as the school year, when it seems that no one has accomplished anything despite your unwavering effort, and when you realize that you still have fifteen years to go before your youngest graduates from homeschooling. Reading Homeschooling with Gentleness will reassure you that your work has not been in vain and that your children are likely learning much more than it appears at this moment.

Because "unschooling" has been used to describe many different things, Suzie Andres begins by defining her terms. She tells of her family's journey to an unschooling lifestyle and shows us what it looks like in her home with a young teen and an infant. This picture is rounded out through the use of many anecdotes and quotations from educational experts and unschooling supporters. Following this, she provides a careful analysis of Catholic thought and teaching that support the decision of a Catholic family to adopt unschooling in their homeschool. She quotes encyclicals and the works of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in her analysis. Finally, Mrs. Andres provides "Helps Along the Way" that apply equally well to any homeschooling family. These helps include discussions on learning to trust nature, learning to trust God, and how books are necessary in the home. The appendices are lengthy and offer booklists for both parents and children as well as details on suppliers for the recommended books.

The author's words from her introductory chapter summarize her views by saying:

"In articulating my own solution to the question of how to homeschool, I offer an alternative method to both the popular classical curriculum model of homeschooling, and the textbook or 'school at home' model. But please understand that I am proposing and defending as Catholic one particular way, among many."

I am not philosophically an unschooler, but as a long-time homeschooling mother-of-many, I have had seasons that probably looked like unschooling. I have always been interested in reading about the many approaches to educating my children at home and gleaning what gems I can apply to our situation. Homeschooling with Gentleness provides many treasures for Catholic homeschoolers, no matter what their favorite method of home education.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
4-21-05
Reviewed by: 

The Catholic Homeschool Companion

Book cover: 'The Catholic Homeschool Companion'
Author(s): 
Maureen Wittmann
Rachel Mackson
Copyright: 
2005
Publisher: 
Sophia Institute Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
482 pages
Review: 

Since I have been homeschooling since the Paleozoic era of the 1980's, there are times when I feel like I've heard it all before. Not with the Catholic Homeschool Companion. Almost every article offered me a fresh perspective, reaffirmed a belief I already had, inspired me with encouragement, or taught me something new.

Veteran homeschoolers Maureen Wittmann and Rachel Mackson have brought together in one book the real experts: Parents who have experienced what works best for them. They have practiced what they preach. If you are looking for a "how-to-manual" or a one-size fits all curriculum, you have come to the wrong place.

The book is a true representation of the homeschool community in which every family has their own particular way of homeschooling. It reflects a rich diversity of homeschool styles, covering a wide range of topics. There are even articles written from the student's point of view. In other words, the articles reflect points of view from across the spectrum of learning situations: structured learning to unit studies; the special needs child to the typical learner, families sharing a co-op homeschool to homeschooling only your own family.

By looking at just the Chapter headings you can see why this book is a whopping 482 pages: Core Subjects, Enrichments Subjects, High School, Homeschooling Styles and Strategies, Children with Special Needs, Homeschooling in Unique Circumstances, the Father's Perspective, Finding Inspiration, Homeschooling Community and Support, Home Management, Homeschool Students and Graduates, and Appendices with lists of resources and authors' biographies.

Under each category, four or more authors explore the topic from their perspective. Under Core Subjects, for example, you are not going to find an exhaustive treatment of the topic, covering every school subject, but a personal experience on what worked best for that family regarding a particular subject whether it is phonics, math, or grammar. Marcia Neill, for example, discusses "History as God's Plan."

Even though the book is rather thick, it is a great book to "snack" on. As we all know, time is precious for busy moms. Because of the layout of the book, the reader can pick and choose the topic of interest to him or her. That is right; there are articles of interest to dad as well. Since the essays are short, it is a great book to grab when you have only a few minutes to read.

Since I have my own way of doing things, I may not agree with every word or find it practical or probable to implement every suggestion. I can still benefit greatly from this book by gleaning from the experts their experience and apply what works best for my homeschool situation.

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of someone else's success and not understand why it won't work for you. The answer is that every family is unique. You need to find out what works best for your family. That is one of the great beauties of this book. Every family shares their gifts. Pull up a chair, and sit back and relax while others share their insights. With all the possibilities presented in the Catholic Homeschool Companion, you are bound to find (as the subtitle says) ". . .tips, tricks, and techniques to make your homeschool a happier, holier, and more productive learning environment. . ."

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
4-22-06
Reviewed by: