HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Anyone Can Homeschool: How to Find What Works for You
Authors: Terry Dorian and Zan Peters Tyler
Publisher: Huntington House Publishers, 1996
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading Level: for parentss
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Dorian, Terry, and Tyler, Zan Peters. Anyone Can Homeschool: How to Find What Works for You (published in 1996 by Huntington House Publishers, P. O. Box 53788, Lafayette, LA 70505.). A few years ago I joined an e-mail list for home-schooling support group leaders in Ohio. Someone regularly forwarded to that list home-schooling items from Crosswalk.com, for which Zan Tyler was the editor of the homeschooling department. I liked what I read, so when I was able to get online, I went to their website and subscribed for myself. Mrs. Tyler’s first name always intrigued me because in all my life I have known only one other person by the name of Zan.
Mrs. Tyler wrote and posted an article on Crosswalk.com entitled “Should I Home School Again Next Year?” regarding the agonizing decision which some homeschooling parents face each year about whether to continue home schooling or to put their children back into a classroom situation. She asked for “input from �real’ homeschooling parents” on the subject. Therefore, I responded by suggesting some things that help us keep focused on our commitment to continue home schooling from year to year. It is interesting how things happen. The very day that I received the article and sent my response, I went home for lunch to find that some books which I had ordered from Mott Media’s Home-schooling Book Club had arrived. Most of them were curriculum-related, but one was a general book on home schooling entitled Anyone Can Homeschool: How to Find What Works for You that I thought sounded interesting. I had read the information about the book in the catalogue before I ordered it but did not make the connection until I actually picked up the book and saw the authors’ names on the cover: Terry Dorian, Ph.D., and � you guessed it � Zan Peters Tyler!
It is in two parts. Part I (Introduction and Chapters 1-4) are by Zan Tyler, who is founder and president of South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools (SCAIHS). Chapter 1 is entitled “Why Would I Want to Homeschool?” Mrs. Tyler points to several benefits of home-schooling which serve as worthy motivation for deciding to home school. I will cite three, which she mentions with appropriate quotes. One is “Strengthening the Family Unit.” She writes,
Building family unity and maintaining the integrity of the family is a worthy motivation for home schooling. Twentieth-century Americans have lost the value that was once placed on intimacy in the home. We put our six-week-old babies into daycare centers. Our children go from elementary school to af-ter-school programs. Is it any wonder that by the time they are teen-agers they are disenfranchised from the adult world? We put our elderly parents in nursing homes. The home has ceased to be the center for care-giving as we have relegated our responsibilities to nurture to various institutions and to the state�. Home schooling enables us to strengthen the family unit by restoring its dignity (p. 31).
Another is “The Gift of Time.” She writes, The gift of time God gave me with my sons during the first year of home schooling was precious. A deciding factor in our decision to continue home schooling was the chunk of time school takes children from the home�. Are we being selfish by safeguarding the time we have with our children? John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, reminds us in the foreword of Government Nannies that “kindergarten was created to be, and was quietly celebrated as, a gentle way to break the monopoly influence of mothers on their own children” (p. 33). I find that a little scary!
Still another is “Hidden Treasures.” She writes, Home-schooling is like that. We begin for one reason and are delightfully surprised at the other benefits we find along the way. I was terrified of the �socialization’ issue when I began home schooling. Now my husband and I both agree that if we had only one reason to choose home schooling it would be socialization (p. 34).
Chapter two answers the question, “Is There Any Evidence Homeschooling Works?” We all now know the answer to that one! Chapter three discusses the subject, “Is Homeschooling Legal?” The Tylers began home schooling in 1984, back in “the dark ages” when most government agencies considered the idea of home schooling to be illegal � and according to many state laws, it was! The chapter chronicles some of the efforts that she and others put forth to make home schooling legal in South Carolina, with threats of imprisonment, legislative fights, and court suits. Those of us who are home schooling today, with the benefit of more accommodative state laws and the literal explosion of home-schooling materials available to us, owe a deep debt of gratitude to those early pioneers who sacrificed so much to pave the way for us.
Chapter 4, “How Can I Build a Support Network,” mentions several sources of encouragement and help for homeschoolers, including husbands and wives, extended family, local support groups, state organizations, and national organizations, as well as church and community. She does make one comment that I think is especially needful, as in the recent past I have seen people in one segment of the home-schooling community hurl accusations and anathemas at people in another segment.
Some states have two or more state organizations due to the different nature of the groups. Where this is the case, it is extremely important that these groups lay aside their differences when it comes to legislative issues. The home-schooling community is not large enough or powerful enough to support differ-ent legislative agendas on the state level � that is the kiss of death for both groups. Remember Lincoln’s words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I encourage everyone to join your state organization. Usually the dues are minimal, and they need your support to be effective (p. 94).
Part Two (Chapters 5-8 and Conclusion) are by Terry Dorian, who, in addition to being a home-school mother, is a certified reading specialist, holding a master’s degree in Reading and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Public Address. Chapter 5 deals with that ever-present question, “What about Socialization?” She gives an excellent, Biblical-based description of what socialization really is and says,
The opportunities which our children have to interact with other children in home-school support groups, play groups, church groups, and through community service and numerous other activities are important; however, those activities in and of themselves will not make our children socially competent. Only as we disciple them in Christ and allow them to benefit from biblical role modeling, will their lives exemplify positive, principled sociability (p. 123).
Chapter 6, “Choosing the Right Curriculum,” discusses four educational philosophies which have af-fected home-schooling methods and materials: essentialism (traditional subject-centered textbooks), perennialism (Charlotte Mason’s Living Books), progressivism (unit studies), and existentialism (John Holt’s “unschooling”). Mrs. Dorian’s style of writing is a bit more technical, and thus somewhat more complex, than Mrs. Tyler’s. It may be in recognition of this possibility that she asks, “Do we really need to understand educational philosophy in order to train our children? Perhaps not” (p. 160). However, for those who are interested in this subject, the material is fascinating reading, if a little dry.
For example, regarding existentialism she wrote, John Holt, the well-known educator who is considered the father of “unschooling,” “free” and “invited” learning, has written what many of us consider to be classic works in the areas of home-schooling and educational reform�. John Holt’s books were the first home-schooling books that I read. I read them during my master’s program in reading. I recommend them to Christians who are rooted and grounded in God’s Word. To those who are not rooted and grounded in the Word, I recommend nothing except Colossians 3:6-9�. Many of John Holt’s ideas are inconsistent with biblical principles, but if we walk by the Spirit we can learn much from this gentle man who loved teaching children (pp. 153-154).
Though the author says that she clearly identifies with perennialism, she advocates an eclectic approach, saying, By expressing why I believe that I have gleaned the best from each educational philosophy, I hope to encourage readers to exercise that same freedom as they choose methods and materials which are consis-tent with their beliefs and goals (pp. 137-138).
Because some in the homeschooling movement seem to delight in criticizing those of us who, for reasons that we feel are important to us, choose to follow a fairly traditional method in our home schooling, I especially appreciate the following comment. “It is arrogant and ignorant to imagine that people who do not use certain methods or materials are destined to miss out on anything we might imagine (p. 149). The chapter ends with a suggested library for “Finding What Works for You.”
Chapter 7, “Finding the Will to Organize Our Time and Material Possessions,” and Chapter 8, “Overcoming Fear of Failure,” are both primarily motivational in nature. There are five appendices at the end of the book with various home-schooling materials arranged by topic�instructional methods, national conventions, legal services, support organizations, and student resources.
As with anything written by human beings, there may be occasional statements with which one might disagree if he comes with a different theological or doctrinal position from that of the authors. But the general emphasis on seeking to follow God’s will in our homeschooling choices is something that all Bible believers can appreciate. There is much good information in this book, both to encourage us who are home schooling in our endeavors, and to share with that doubtful relative or friend in hopes of providing some enlightenment on the subject.