A Little Way of Homeschooling: Thirteen Families Discover Catholic Unschooling
by Suzie Andres (and others)
Publication date: 2011 Date read: 2013
Source: personal library, gifted to me by Willa Ryan
Recommended by: Willa Ryan, a contributing author to the book
My rating (out of 5): ★ ★ ★ ★
Suzie Andres and the other authors she’s compiled demonstrate both theoretically, practically, and philosophically that unschooling is compatible with a Christian (Catholic) faith and worldview. The book adeptly handles the issue of unschooling denying the fact of our sinful natures and being essentially a mode of neglectful homeschooling. The stories of the thirteen different families feature the spectrum of radical unschooling to unschooling as a mode within classical or other traditional approaches. The defense of unschooling is backed up not only through the stories given and a biblical perspective (and, of course, a lot of Holt), but also draws on Plato, St. Therese, Charlotte Mason, Don Bosco, Augustine, Aquinas, and Aristotle, and several popes.
The strong, unifying theme throughout the book is love.
This book is a compilation of personal essays, not only by homeschooling mothers, but also by a philosopher.
The homeschooling mothers whose stories make up the bulk of the book are not young and fresh, zealous with their newly discovered philosophy, but time-tested and experienced mothers nearing the ends of their journeys. These are women who have gone back and forth on the spectrum and who have the perspective to interpret their past and make recommendations based on the wisdom they’ve gathered. Not only that, but all of them can write well. It was a pleasure to read.
It is very much a very Catholic book, with the inspiration for the title and the “Way,” taken from a saint: St. Therese of Lisieux (curiously, the same saint Gretchen Rubin is enamored of). Yet, the bedrock of these women and their choices is their Christian faith. I am thoroughly Protestant, but I am frustrated by the Protestant (mostly non-denominational types) habit of taking whatever they want to do and sprinkling it with out-of-context single Bible verses to make it “biblical.” This book was fundamentally, philosophically, culturally, and seriously biblical (yes, despite the bits about saints and Mass and marriage being a sacrament). It is not a book by light-weights, yet it is also gracious and kind and gentle.
The driving force behind all the differing personal reflections and journeys is that education does not occur only in the didactic, teacher-and-student, highly organized and structured mode. A full life, including education, can be lived in the relational mode: mentoring, conversation, doing, imitating. A Little Way of Homeschooling can give you a vision for what a holistic life can look like, showing through personal stories that schedules and checkboxes are not necessary for real learning.
Be with the children. Really look at them. Enjoy spending time together, talking, investigating, reading, playing. If you can wait and see, you will discover that they learn so much, so often, in such entirely individual ways. (Suzie Andres)
One great vehicle to learning is conversation, something I believe is vastly underrated today. […] Conversation is really doing the same thing as narration, but in a more natural way. (Cindy Kelly)
Ours is not necessarily the didactic model of teaching, but the collegial one of sharing and learning together. (Leonie Westenberg)
Because for me, unschooling is simply the solution to the following equation: My kids + books and plans + discussion (-boxed curriculum) + flexibility (-a rigid definition of education) + willingness to abandon plans = Unschooling (Karen Edmisten)
Where I connect with unschooling is in the understanding that people of all ages learn best when they want to learn, are interested in the subject, and feel joy in the process, and that standard classroom educational methods are not necessarily, or even usually, the best ways to learn. (Melissa Wiley)
Unschooling, then, is the method of education which does not separate learning from the rest of the child’s life according to time, place, or persons. (Tony Andres)
Over time I realized that it takes loving vigilance to unschool. It works with the natural bent of the child, but the process is not always easy or simple. Unschooling is a form of education inspired and carried out in love, with the goal of Love. Love is vigilant, patient, and understanding, which means being attentive to my children’s unique personalities, working against the tendency to become lost in trivial tasks and unnecessary things, and trying to do as well as I can with every day God gives me. All of this takes attention and care and is far removed from laziness and complacency. (Willa Ryan)
Books to follow the bibliographic trail
Similar books I’ve written about
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