Saturday, April 22, 2006

Review: The Catholic Homeschool Companion

The Catholic Homeschool Companion, edited by Maureen Wittmann & Rachel Mackson
2005, Sophia Institute Press, 482 pp. softcover, Catholic

Since I have been homeschooling since the 1980s, 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 now 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, unit studies, the special needs, homeschool co-ops and much more.

Looking at the Chapter headings gives you a sense of 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 parents. Because of the layout of the book, the reader can pick and choose the topic of interest. 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 will not agree with every word nor try 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 consider whether it will work for you. The answer is that every family is unique. 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. . .”

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