Saturday, October 22, 2011

Educating the WholeHearted Child

I was so delighted when I learned that I had been selected to review Educating the WholeHearted Child! And when it arrived at my door, I was not disappointed! This is one instance where I wanted to judge a book by its cover! I knew this would be a great book!

So, I received this wonderful book -- it has a wealth of information in it... it is a book that should be pored over, pondered, savored, read at length and re-read... We were given this incredible encyclopedia of home schooling, and we were given about a month to get an opinion of it and tell our friends. ...::sigh:: There is so much to this book I haven't had a chance to check out yet. (It has 376 pages!) I feel like I have gone to a Dutch Smorgasbord, walked in the door, and immediately had to pick and choose what I would sample, because there was no way I could get to everything!

So, what I am saying is that I am giving you my opinion, but so far I have dabbled only in the smallest part of this wonderful book, ...but that will have to do.

Clay and Sally Clarkson are a parents of four adult children whom they home schooled all the way. They are both authors of books to help home schoolers. Clay Clarkson wrote Educating the WholeHearted Child with his wife Sally's assistance, and it was published by Apologia Ministries. Together they are clearly a plethora of information!

So to get started, I opened Educating the WholeHearted Child to the Table of Contents to decide where to start. So much to read; so little time! The main content of the book is broken into four sections, which are further subdivided into chapters. Before these sections there is a sizeable Preface and Introduction, and following these sections there is a Post Script and an extensive section of Resources.

SECTION 1, HOME, looked like information I would save for later. I am not just starting out, and my son is not even at the beginning, so much of the material in Section 1 looked like material I would have wanted to read 20 years ago, or at least 7 years ago, when I was starting out with my son. I will certainly go back and look at it, but didn't have time to read it for this review. But guess what? You can read Chapter 1 if you want to... give it a click!

SECTION 2, LEARNING would have been a great place for me to start, because it explains the entire concept of Clarkson's "WholeHearted Learning" perspective. I did not start there, though, because chapter titles in Section 3 were calling me. So, like Section 1, I will go back and read Section 2 later.

SECTION 3, METHODS was definitely intriguing to me, as the titles were right where I am in my homeschooling. I skipped Chapter 10 -- The Study of the Bible, since between Awanas and regular readings we kinda have our system in place on that one. So I started the book in Chapter 11 -- The Study of the Basics, and dove in head first with a highlighter in hand.

So, I've been reading and reading. But now my review is due, and I still feel I've barely scratched the surface! Even so, this is what I can tell you...

This book is a vast storehouse of information. It is worth every penny of its price. It is a book I will return to again and again. I can't wait, even now, to get back to it and read more.

Things that I have liked loved while reading this book:
• a refreshing of my spirit for the task we have undertaken and for what lies ahead;
• reassurance that I am doing well in certain areas;
• encouragement and ideas on how to do differently in areas where I am not doing so well;
• new ideas to inject breaths of fresh air into our homeschool.

Now, here's what I noticed on the downside... Clay Clarkson writes in a way that can come across sounding as if he knows what is right, and therefore his way is the way you should do things. (He doesn't say this outright, but his writing style leaves me with that feeling.) There are some areas where, even if his methods are the best, not all of us can implement them.

One reason some of his opinions might be written as they are, rubbing me the wrong way, could be because I am acutely aware of the way variations in state homeschooling laws have an affect on the freedom (lack thereof) that some of us have to do things the way he suggests.

What I am referring to, specifically here, is this: the Clarksons live in Colorado. I used to live in Colorado. The homeschooling law in Colorado is wonderful and freeing. You are required to register to state that you are homeschooling (I can't remember, it might be every year that you inform the state...), promise that you will homeschool an average of at least 4 hours a day for 180 school days, and starting in Grade 3 your children will take standardized testing every other year. That's it. That's all they require.

I no longer live in Colorado. I now live in a state where I will be reviewed once or twice a year either by my local county school's representative, or I can pay and be reviewed by an approved private school. Either way, I am required to demonstrate that my child received “[R]egular, thorough instruction" in Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts [which then means I have to show teaching in Grammar, Spelling, Handwriting, Vocabulary, Writing (as in compositions)], Art, Music, Physical Education, and Health. Then, because my private oversight is through a Christian school, I need to keep documentation of what we do for Bible training. So, all this documentation needs to be well kept, constantly organized, reduced, and prepared (usually in the form of a portfolio) to present for review once or twice a year. And documenting on my daily lesson planner, for instance, that child gave oral narration of the reading assignment will not cut it for this portfolio (depending on the age of the child and the bent of the particular reviewer) -- I have to have a paper trail. In other words, if there is oral narration, I myself then need to write up the narration so that there is documentation that the child did the work.

So, I am reigning myself in here -- it would be soooooo easy to get off on a tangent and start complaining about the laws in the state where I live, but I will stop now and try to just be thankful that they are better here now than they used to be, and to be thankful that it is legal to homeschool here at all.

Back to the review. So, some of the great ideas and methods that Clay Clarkson was writing were immediately being rewritten in my head to translate into more work, if I were to implement them, due to my need to comply with state laws in a documented way.

And some of his opinions I just disagreed with. One example would be a section he wrote about Spelling. He made certain comments that just irked me in the area of teaching Spelling. And I think all that this really amounts to, as I think about it, is that he has certain ideas about Spelling that he has become convinced of over his years of homeschooling, and I have certain ideas about the subject that I have developed over the years, and we just disagree. For example, he said, in answer to the question, "Should I continue teaching phonics in order to teach spelling?"

“The bigger question, of course, is whether of not your child should be required to learn and master all the phonics rules for their own sake. The purpose of phonics is to teach reading, so if your child is reading well, it’s perfectly alright to put aside the phonics, even if you never made it through all the rules. When your children are writing easily and well at around nine or ten years old, you can review the rules of phonics with them then, but only if they are helpful. Phonics will not magically turn your child into a good speller. If misspelling patterns emerge in your child’s writing that reflect phonics rules, then study those rules with them if that makes sense.” Where this didn't work for me was with a child with a Learning Disability, and in this instance the methods I was using would have worked in conjunction with the LD program that child went through, however she and I had both become discouraged and had given up on it at that point.

This is an example where I just plain disagree. I consider phonics and Spelling to be very seriously entwined, and I teach Spelling through the phonics of the phonograms. I also find that the better the child knows the "phonics rules" (which I consider the Spelling Rules), the better he will be able to read and spell.

Summary: This book is definitely worth it. There is an enormous storehouse of information and inspiration here, that makes reading it clearly worth it, even if you need to take certain sections of it with a grain of salt. As with just about any resource, educational, inspirational, spiritual, or otherwise: take what works for you, and just read past what you don't agree with or which doesn't work for you. The good of this book way out-weighs any objections, and I can't wait to get back into it and read more, more, more. This is a book that can be used either to read slowly, savor, take notes, and ponder, or to pick up, quick, for, "I wonder how or what I should have Janie memorize... This book is a serious support for the Christian parent, in general, and especially for the Christian homeschooling parent. I love this book! From me it gets two thumbs up!

Summary information:
• Product name: Educating the WholeHearted Child.
• Author(s): Clay Clarkson, with Sally Clarkson
• Product price: $22.00
• Available from: Apologia Bookstore
• Publisher: Apologia Educational Ministries
• Additional resources available from publisher: Science curriculum; worldview resources; resources for parents; tools for parents; online Apologia Academy; and inspirational Apologia Live Conferences.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no other compensation (other than the book), and this page contains my honest opinions.

This has been a TOS Homeschool Crew Review.

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