Friday, March 23, 2012

Are You a Listless Homeschooler?

Emily and I are currently attending the South East Homeschool Convention in Greenville, doing a little book shopping, of course, and helping friends to sell the precious books we love. I make this qualification because we do have a special passion for them.

When we attend these events, we meet all kinds of homeschool families with every variety of shapes and sizes and outlooks on their children's education. Those that come into the booth where we are selling are looking for books, but in recent years we have noted a different trend in the shoppers: they all have lists in  their hands. In years gone by we could ask, "what kind of books would you like today?' but now we find it necessary to ask, "which curriculum are you using." This is because they are only interested in the books  recommended by curriculum company X, Y, or Z.

In after conference hours, we rest our exhausted feet and backs over meals with fellow vendors and puzzle over this phenomenon. We ask ourselves what is happening and why. Many of us have been homeschooling for 25 to 35 years. We remember the early days when homeschooling was not common and we were odd ducks. We remember our reasons for homeschooling still: we did not want our children to have the predetermined curriculum of the public school and its accompanying agenda. We remember we were willing to think outside the box and wanted our children to grow up doing the same.

Today's parents still have good reasons for homeschooling their children. However, the homeschool materials available are ubiquitous and the picture is radically different from the pioneer days. Convention halls, and the internet, abound with a sea of choices. Is this why the mothers have a death grip on their lists, is it their lifeline to keep from drowning in options?

Obviously, with only particular titles in mind, we quickly run out of the current recommendations of  Curriculum Company X, Y, or Z. Weary moms turn and trudge away hoping to find that certain title at the
next booth. And there we stand, surrounded by thousands of living books, many of them far superior to the offerings of the latest and greatest popular program everyone is gravitating to. (In defense of these companies, let me acknowledge that the vast majority are the work of small family enterprises who are just trying to survive in this economy, and I commend them for their entrepaneurial pursuit because that is the fruit of the homeschooling lifestyle.) Their limitation is that they can only offer what is currently in print, and this is a great handicap. But, back in the supposed "good old days," we discovered the treasures the public libraries were casting out and they have done a grand job of educating our children. Without the access to many programs, our children grew up reading real books - only - and have topped the charts on tests and gotten into college and out into the world successfully (if these concrete qualifications are important to you). Many of these children are now homeschooling their own children. These old treasures have fostered ideas and "worldviews" that would be the envy of any beginning homeschool family. They are hard at work defending the faith and/or blessing the world with prosperous and quiet lives.

I am simply asking, in case you have a list in your hand of "must haves," that you stop to evaluate not only why you are educating your children at home, but how you are doing it and what you are using. I hate to even mention the materialistic benefit of shopping for your own list of books, but practically speaking, it is much more economical. If simplicity and success are your criteria, educating with living books is the high road. If you want children who are enthusiastic for life and learning and self-motivated, living books are definitely the high road.

If you are interested in emulating the courage of the first homeschool pioneers, here's the kind of list I would be shopping with:

1. A good Bible.
2. History books. Choose a time period for all your children and look for interesting and age appropriate treasures to highlight it:
a) A spine book that narrates the events of this time period - one you would read yourself.
b) a couple books detailing some particular event in your time period in more depth (don't know them? check the spine book)
c) One, or ten, biographies of people who lived in this time period.
d) A living geography book describing the people and customs of a particular part of the world.
3. Living math books - yes, there are some.

4. Living science and nature books on any topic your children might enjoy - options are endless.

5. Classic literature and/or works written during or about your history time period.

6. Art books - biography of an artist and pictures of his work.

7. Biography of composer and CD of his works (or use YouTube).

8. Poetry books, either an anthology or collection of a single poet.

9. Notebook paper, pencils, paints, drawing tablets.

10. Fun reading books for "recess".

Try it. It may bring the most delightful homeschool year you could dream of.

For the joy of reading,


1 comment:

  1. I am a listless homeschooler, and I very much wish I could visit the booth you were helping at!! Too bad I am all the way out in CA. There are so many wonderful books out there, but they can be hard to find. They certainly aren't at my library anymore... I am heartened to see more and more popping up as ebooks, though I miss the charming illustrations some books possessed in their printed form.