Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fundamentals of Homeschooling: Notes on Successful Family Living

Every once in a while, a book resonates with what I believe from page one, making me wish that I had been able to write the book myself. On the first page of Ann Lahrson-Fisher's Fundamentals of Homeschooling she says, “Homeschooling success builds on this simple foundation: living a satisfying learning lifestyle.” Those five words—living a satisfying learning lifestyle—summed up my deepest hopes and dreams for how my children would grow up, even before we started homeschooling.

The book is divided into six parts (Play, Conversations, Togetherness, Growing Up, The Big Picture, and Subjects), each beginning with a “Keynote” describing some big ideas about that concept and followed by several easy to read chapters about some specific topics within that concept. Each chapter can be read in isolation, so a tour of the table of contents can take you to your current hot-button topics. However, I feel the book is best read one part at a time, because of the way the author links the topics together.

In Part One: Play, the author gives an overview of the value of play and then goes on to describe a number of ways that we can manipulate our home environment to encourage play that supports a learning lifestyle. There are several lists of toys, games, and learning materials, and a whole chapter is devoted to modifying games to meet the needs of different ages and temperaments.

Part Two describes how “family chitchat” can become a vehicle for learning. Some
examples may seem familiar or simply intuitive, others are fresh and new. Several
chapters are devoted to both language arts and math. The last chapter of the section talks about how conversation can be used for everything from teaching self control to learning how to handle mistakes.

These first one hundred and thirty pages make this book worthwhile for even the family whose children are attending public school, because they describe a set of skills and opportunities that all families can take advantage of. Because of this, I've given this book as a gift even to friends who aren't homeschooling.

Beginning with Part Three, Togetherness, the book discusses many issues specific to
homeschoolers. Chapters describe everything from homeschooling styles to yearly planning to handling criticism to homeschooling with a baby on your lap.

Part Four is about the end of the homeschooling journey, as children grow up and become adults. It gives many suggestions about how homeschooling families might approach this rite of passage into adulthood.

Part Five explores some tools that homeschoolers use to enhance learning such as field trips, learning clubs, and apprenticeships.

Part Six includes a chapter for each of nine subject areas, with some big ideas about homeschooling each, followed by a list of selected resources for that subject area.

Although each idea in Fundamentals of Homeschooling may be explored more deeply in
other books, Lahrson-Fisher neatly sums up the most important points about each in an easy to digest text that reads like a letter from a good friend. I've found comfort in this book more than once because I always come away with the feeling that “I can do this.” I appreciate her emphasis on the family and learning to live comfortably together as we take the learning journey.

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