Only very rarely do I poke my head out from kid lit land to share a book title with you that is especially for grown-ups. And, I don't think I've ever done it with a book that I myself am still in the middle of. I tend to be a cautious reviewer. That being said, I am so inspired by Lori Pickert's book, Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners that I really wanted to share it with you sooner rather than later. Like from the very moment that I picked it up and started to read.
Now, I'm not a homeschooler, I just sometimes play one on the internet. As regular readers probably already know, my daughter goes to a tiny private school with an emphasis on integrating the outdoor environment into a fairly rigorous classical education. No computers, lots of hiking. But the fact that Mariam is in school has never prevented me from taking an active approach to her education at home. We read, we do projects, Dan is even doing a homeschool Latin course with her. And, depending on our situation come residency time, there is a strong possibility that I will find myself a more official homeschooler in the future. In the meantime, I dabble. As, I think, all parents do. So, I do occasionally read up on homeschooling issues, techniques and ideas and honestly, I don't generally come across anything that rocks my socks. It's not (no offense to anyone intended) the most innovative stuff overall.
Which is why I find Lori's book to be such a revelation. It is simple in its approach, and many of the ideas are of the sort that are so sensible and reasonable you might well think that you should have thought of them on your own. And perhaps you will have. But for me, I honestly got a little teary-eyed reading this book because the clarity of Lori's presentation is such that I realized immediately some things that I think I really, really needed to have brought to my attention. For example, I was only about twenty pages in when I suddenly felt my stomach drop at the realization that the reason that Mariam often resists my ideas about projects or writing prompts or things to investigate is obviously because they are my ideas. Without even meaning to, I have been overdirecting our creative and educational activities around here for as long as I can remember and honestly, I'm both mortified and a little sad. Thank goodness that Alphabet Glue seems to be a notable exception; I guess that putting together activities that are broad enough to work for everyone left them open ended enough for Mariam to be able to engage with them more freely.
But still, going forward I plan to take a very different approach to helping Mariam to identify the projects that she wants to tackle and to letting her undertake them. I had to laugh as I read aloud to her the section of Lori's book about children becoming suspicious of adults investigating their current interests looking for areas of study or project ideas. Lori mentioned that many children worry that adults will ask what they really want to learn about and then ruin their favorite subjects by making that learning an adult-driven (and probably mess-free) process. Mariam nodded her head solemnly as I read that paragraph to her. Oy.
As I said, I'm only part way through Lori's book. But I am already more then willing to push it across the virtual coffee table at all of you. Get a copy and read it. The chapters that I've read so far have made me realize any number of important things, but perhaps the most salient among them is this: this isn't just a homeschooling book. It is a guide to parenting.