Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review- Homeschooling with Gentleness

    I love home schooling books.  I love them almost as much as I love desserts.  I find myself craving home schooling books like I crave chocolate.  Over the years, I have found a steady diet of successful home schooling stories is the healthiest way to sustain me through my crazy journey of educating my 5 children.  So when the cravings come, I satisfy them as best and as quickly as I can.  When I am feeling insecure about my teaching (or juggling) abilities, I rely on my home schooling books.  When I am in need of encouragement, I turn to my home schooling books.  When I want to be inspired, it is my home schooling books that inspire me most.  My shelves are full of them, yet each summer, when I have more time to read and am preparing for another school year, I always look out for new books to add to my home school library. 

    I ordered Homeschooling with Gentleness, after hearing author Suzie Andres’ name on more than one occasion, and was so excited to receive it in the mail. It was like anticipating a bite of birthday cake or an ice cream sundae.   When it arrived, I dove into it with gusto.  The book is organized into three parts.  As I read Part One entitled “Unschooling”, I was disappointed.  Instead of being inspiring or encouraging, Ms. Andres came across just as insecure and unsure of herself as I often felt, at certain parts, maybe even more so.  She referred so often to a Mr. John Holt and his writings, quoting him at length over and over again, I wondered if I should put her book down and read one of his instead.  She reminded the reader, often, that she was writing as much to reassure herself as to inform and inspire others.  Her need for reassurance showed.

    Part Two addressed the Catholic outlook on home schooling in general, and then, more specifically, an unschooling approach.  Her writing style still did not particularly appeal to me because she continued to write about what she was writing about, explaining herself over and over. However, her research seemed solid and her arguments appropriate.  Her confidence seemed a bit stronger as she shared her own family’s experiences. 

    Though Part Two is heralded as the “heart of the book” it was not until I reached Part Three that I felt I finally got a little of what I was hoping for.  It was as she wrote of “trusting in nature” and “trusting in God” that Ms. Andres’ passion finally shone through.  It was in Part Three that I began underlining line after line, feeling more excited to face my own home school again. 

    In the end, I found more of a kindred spirit than a mentor or expert in the pages of Homeschooling with Gentleness.  Overall the book was  a letdown, yet I saw enough enthusiasm and zeal in its last few pages to whet my appetite for more.  Strange as it may sound considering my disappointment, I am curious to check out Ms. Andres’s second book, A Little Way of Homeschooling

You can purchase this book here.  I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts and First Communion Gifts. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.
Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.


  1. Kari, Suzie's second book is totally different from her first. From what I hear, it is the most popular of the two books. Did you get a copy? I'd be interested to hear what you think!

    The question I always wanted answering was "What do unschoolers actually DO?" Maybe the second book addresses this in more detail.

  2. Sue- I have not had the chance to pick up Suzie's 2nd book yet but do really want to check it out. I have heard good things about it. I will try to remember to blog about it once I read it.
    What I wonder most about unschooling is how parents stay on top of it all and how they are disciplined enough to keep their kids on track. I think it really requires so much more commitment than just handing a child a workbook. I'll be curious to see if Suzie addresses both our questions in her 2nd book?!?!?

  3. Kari,
    I really enjoyed your review.
    Of course I wish you had enjoyed the book itself more - how sad to be anticipating that bite of cake and finding it...stale? too much frosting and not enough cake? But I could see why the book was not what you were looking for...and I agreed with much of what you said.

    You got it right: I wouldn't have minded you putting down my book for one of John Holt's. He might be the mentor you are looking for, although I am pleased to take for myself the role of "kindred spirit."

    I am like you in looking to books to buoy me up, but unlike you I find "experts" somewhat annoying. That is why I was simply myself in that book - a fellow homeschooling mom in need of reassurance. Yet I can see what you mean - a little of my insecurity can go a long way, and the reader looks for more.

    I have learned a lot since writing my first book, especially from Annie Dillard's "A Writing Life." As she beautifully explains, the reader doesn't need to go through everything the writer has experienced...the writer can have mercy on the reader by cutting out some of the process that got her to page 73.

    I agree, too, that Part III of my first book is more the heart of the matter. Trusting our children, and especially trusting God - these are the most important things I have to say.

    You'll be glad to find that in the new book, A Little Way of Homeschooling, I begin with St. Therese and Unschooling (as well as ending with her in the epilogue).

    In other words, I begin with the encouraging message that we can have confidence in God's tender love for us, and we can incorporate that dependence on Him, that knowledge that He is taking care of us, into our educational choices and everyday life with our children.

    I go on to write in Chapter 2 about how unschooling is not an ideology - which is one reason I will never call myself an expert, nor will I ever say "This is THE way..." Nope, I think there are lots of great ways to educate our children and ourselves. For my family, Catholic unschooling is the way that fits best, and so I continue to love writing about it.

    I hope you do get a chance to read "A Little Way of Homeschooling". There you will find many more voices than mine - I've included the experiences and words of twelve other Catholic women, as well as two of our husbands, St. Therese, and St. John Bosco.

    I must warn you that many of these other women share their struggles as well as their victories. But I think readers are bound to find their own kindred spirits among this amazingly gorgeous set of writers.

    I can't help but love my firstborn book, despite its shortcomings :) and I continue to stand by what I said there. The book lists, especially, capture my loves still.

    But do check out the new book - it's available at and at, as well as other online booksellers. It can also be ordered in any brick and mortar store...and thanks to my publisher's enthusiasm, "A Little Way of Homeschooling" is also available for ereaders - kindles, nooks, iPads, you name it.

    Thanks again Kari for the thoughtful review. I look forward to hearing your ideas on the new book once you get a chance to read it.

    with love,

  4. Suzie- I can't tell you how honored I am that the author of one of the books I reviewed took the time to read my review. Thank you for understanding that though I really wanted to love the book and write a glowing review, I had to be honest in my opinions. I really do see so much of my own struggles in your words. The desire for reassurance and approval were eerily familiar but, as I stated in my review, a fellow home schooler in the same place of insecurity and uncertainly was not what I expected or hoped for in a book on successfully implementing an unschooling approach to home education.
    Thank you for visiting my blog and respecting my opinions. If I read your 2nd book I will be sure to blog about it as well. God Bless, Kari



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