Haystack Full of Needles

A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization
Alice Gunther
Hillside Education
Number of pages: 
156 pages
Grade / Age level: 

About five years ago, I met an amazing woman: a woman with now 6 girls and one boy, a home school mom steeped in the Catholic faith, a charitable and crafty woman. I “knew” this woman only through the Internet, and yet a real friendship grew and flourished.

That woman, Alice Gunther, just wrote a book as full of the Catholic faith, charity and craftiness as all her online writings. Imbued with the Holy Spirit and love of the Blessed Mother, this is a book that shares so willingly with others her own journey of family-based learning. Haystack Full of Needles is subtitled “A Catholic Home Educator’s Guide to Socialization”, but it is so much more than just about socializing.

It’s an adventure story.

Gunther takes the reader on her own adventure: an adventure from being an only child to raising six girls and one boy. This is an adventure where the heroine starts out as the self-professed greatest critic of the homeschool lifestyle and emerges as the queen of homeschool advocates. This is an adventure with the Catholic faith at the center and all the wonders of the world emanating from that core. This is an adventure with happily-ever-afters scattered abundantly throughout.

A fairy tale? Not at all.

Gunther shows how through prayer, friends and love for her own children she is able to give her family a full and rich education without the brick-and-mortar so often touted as the only answer. But more than that, Gunther shows that the children involved (and she uses more examples than her own beautiful children) not only thrive in this setting but desire to continue even through the “terrible teens”. And they survive as healthy, knowledgeable, faith-filled, loving young adults who socialize with one and all.

An interesting side theme in Gunter’s book: the need for socialization for the homeschool mother. This mom-time is as critical as the children’s socialization and education, but often gets overlooked in discussions of the “s” issue. Gunther credits a handful of close friends who not only helped her embrace the home educator’s vocation but also help her continue to plan activities and clubs for the dozens of families in their groups. These close associates help through the good times and the bad.

Gunther credits too, the loving support and guidance of her husband – spousal involvement and support are key ingredients for success in any home education adventure. Consistent, loving, active support by the spouse (usually the husband) keeps the adventure alive and the family priorities in focus.

Most importantly, a strong and active faith life for all in the family (but especially for the home-educator) reaps untold rewards and assistance along this path that is still considered “alternative”. Gunther recommends first socializing with God and His saints before venturing out too far with any activities.

The book is full of practical tips and suggestions for creating your own home education adventure with other families. And, as Gunther repeatedly points out, this can be one family or 20 families – the important point is to find things that you and your family love and create clubs or field trips, inviting others as desired.

For Gunther and her family, looking for other like-minded families is no longer like looking for a needle in a haystack – the haystack is full of needles! And each of those needles is such a bleesing for the Gunthers and the readers of this book.

Review Date: 
Reviewed by: