There is a rather old saying (dating back to at least the 1600s) that goes: “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” … in other words, that to test the validity of a thing, you have to experience it. Now, we could go round and round about the truth in this saying, but let’s suffice to say that, at least in certain situations, I wholly subscribe to the idea that I need to be shown something works to believe that it indeed does work.

One setting where this is particularly true is in different methods of homeschooling. That’s what I love about this new book on Catholic unschooling, edited by Suzie Andres and published by my favorite publisher, Hillside Education (who also publish two of my books). A Little Way of Homeschooling proves the benefits and workability of unschooling. Further, this little gem proves that unschooling is possible in a Catholic home. It goes even further and proves that not only is it doable in a Catholic home, it is often the “right thing” to do!

What Andres has done is compiled the experiences of thirteen families (including her own), all Catholics and all unschoolers. As Mike Aquilina points out in his well-written foreword, unschooling is NOT an ideology:

nor does unschooling mean “no work”. Some people dismiss it as laziness, because they think it requires less work. But that’s not the case. It requires parents to be actively engaged in conversation and in relationship with each child, knowing each child’s interests and cultivating those interests — and sharing those interests …

Unschooling is not about not parenting, not educating, not doing … far from it according to the experiences of the families throughout this book! In this volume you’ll meet:

  • the family who tried unschooling, went back to formal, text-book based schooling, and then decided no, unschooling worked much better for their children (within that essay, you’ll read a bit about my brother who has surely changed his mind about the importance of technology in the home school!)
  • the family with seven boys who merged CM-style ideals within an unschooling atmosphere, ensuring that each day was filled with living Catholicism
  • the family who spends valuable time volunteering and assisting others … time that is also valuable learning time
  • the family where the mom is a former teacher who found that unschooling brought her to a deeper spiritual life where she realized that she didn’t need to perform, that “God places before us exactly what we need, and the lets us think we discovered it. Isn’t it just like Him to unschool us in a deeply personal relationship?”
  • the reluctant unschooler who realized that living was learning and unschooling followed the pattern of each day for her children and the family to grow closer to God and to each other
  • the family that applies subjects to real life — cooking math, construction problems and other real life situations
  • the family who is active with other formal-homeschoolers and “traditionally” schooled children and walks the fine line between building community and understanding that God asks different things of each of us and each family must discern for themselves what God would have
  • the family where the mom does plan but then allows the day, the week, the whole curriculum to adjust and be truly organic
  • the family where homeschooling is defined as “natural learning” … with sometimes structure and sometimes just living life
  • the family whose homeschool is best described as “eclectic” where both parents are equally involved in the learning process, where all experiences are embraced as chances for learning
  • the family who unschools but with a heavy classical bent … strewing the necessary resources about so that even the dusty tomes become well-thumbed, well-loved family tomes

This book will give you encouragement … will prove to you that unschooling can be Catholic, can be a legitimate form of educating. It’s not easy … it’s not the lazy way out … it’s work and most especially, it’s loving! It’s loving our kids and understanding where they are on their earth’s journey. It’s adapting to each person, each situation and being open enough to allow the learning to seep in regardless of the how.

I’m not a true unschooler … but I do envy those who can “let go and let God”. I’ve known many of these families online for years — some I’ve met in real life. This book gives you glimpses into the homes these friends, and I can attest that they’re not sugar-coating their experiences. Not everything works perfectly. But whenever they open their hearts to God’s will, all works for the good.

I highly recommend this book … especially to those who don’t understand unschooling or think it’s not do-able if you are Catholic. Andres does a fabulous job of synthesizing Church teachings and proving the pudding! Well done!

DISCLAIMER: I rec’d a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. That said, my comments above are my true and honest reaction to this work.

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