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Haystack Full of Needles, A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization Perfect Paperback – July 14, 2008
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What makes Haystack Full of Needles so compelling is that it is much more than an explosion of the myth that homeschoolers lack proper socialization it is a vivid, lively, and detailed account of how homeschooling families can build community and friendship. The perfect blend of personal narrative and practical advice, Haystack Full of Needles is an inspiring heartwarming chronicle of the growth of a lively homeschooling community. At first, readers will wish they could live in Alice s neck of the woods and be a part of all the marvelous events she describes, but by the book s end, they ll be overflowing with excitement to put Alice s ideas into practice in their own homes, parishes, and homeschooling communities. --Melissa Wiley, author of The Martha Years series and The Charlotte Years series
Haystack Full of Needles calls itself A Catholic Home Educator s guide to Socialization but in reality it is much more than that. This book is exactly what we need in our modern world where so many have lost all sense of the value of community. Gunther speaks from a mother s heart, recognizing the human need for community and for social support, especially among Catholic homeschooling families where feelings of isolation and not fitting in can be demoralizing and discouraging. Danielle Bean, Senior Editor of Faith & Family (FaithandFamilyMag.com) --Danielle Bean, Senior Editor of Faith and Family Magazine (FaithandFamilyMag.com)
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What makes Haystack Full of Needles so compelling is that it is much more than an explosion of the myth that homeschoolers lack "proper socialization"--it is a vivid, lively, and detailed account of how homeschooling families can build community and friendship. The perfect blend of personal narrative and practical advice, Haystack Full of Needles is an inspiring heartwarming chronicle of the growth of a lively homeschooling community. At first, readers will wish they could live in Alice's neck of the woods and be a part of all the marvelous events she describes, but by the book's end, they'll be overflowing with excitement to put Alice's ideas to practice in their own homes, parishes, and homeschooling communities.
Ask a mother who home educates her children, ask which question she encounters most frequently and she will undoubtedly respond, "What about socialization?" In the decade since I began teaching my three daughters at home, this question has remained, even as other questions like, "Is that legal?" and "are you qualified to teach?" have vanished due to the increasing prominence of home instruction.
Now, thanks to the experience and literary gifts of home educator and author, Alice Gunther we have not only an eloquent answer to this question, but an inspiring guide on how to help our children find friendship and acceptance outside the domestic church. "A Haystack Full of Needles" is the book we have been waiting for, the book we may give as a gift to questioning family members, but one we will also keep close as we seek opportunities to help our children develop socially.
Alice, like so many of our family members had concerns about a home educating mother's ability to meet her children's need for social interaction. She takes us back to the days when she thought home educators were doing the impossible, to her early attempts at finding companions for herself and her young daughters, to the successful support group she is a the center of on Long Island. She inspires the mother who feels alone in her decision to home educate with her fond anecdotes and down to earth suggestions on how to find other Catholic home educating families, how to build community, how to run a successful social event, and how to support one another in good times and bad.
" Home-educating mothers share a unique cultural experience. We understand one another, and a large part of "socialization" should be geared toward nurturing friendship for mothers who choose this narrow, but incredibly rewarding, path"
Haystack is far more engaging than a dry how-to manual, however. Alice, whose childhood involved many trips to family in the Emerald Isle has inherited the legendary Irish facility with language gives her prose a poetic lilt which leads to such picturesque images as,
"The truth is homeschooling groups are not founded--they trickle together gradually, like a barrel filling up with rain. Still, there are ways we can help the process along, fastening the hoops around the staves of the barrel, lest we lose a precious drop."
The secret to the success of Alice's home schooling groups is her heartfelt compassion for the struggles of the home educating mother and her natural generosity in reaching out to meet their needs. "Socialization for homeschoolers is every bit as much about friendship for mothers as it is for the children. Many best friends have been made around the kitchen table"
Haystack includes an impressive array of Alice's social involvements, nature study groups, Shakespearean plays, creative crafts woven into celebrations of the liturgical year, but the greatest strength of this book lies in the fact that no one in the community is overlooked, not even the special needs child who is shy to become involved in a group activity. Alice has tips for getting these children involved and making them feel loved, "One trick I have is to pull out something especially fun, like a game or interesting little novelty. Not only does this entertain the child who happens to be alone--it also attracts others to be his companions." She describes the pains she has taken to teach her children the art of making the newcomer to the group feel welcome in her home, and that explains why at some of her Little Flower meetings, her lawn is filled with hundreds of happy participants.
Many people wonder if home educating is possible through high school. Alice admits that though many high school age boys attend school; home education social groups nurture the teenage soul as well.
"When I think about home schooled teenagers, the image that presents itself in my mind is that of a rose freshly blooming. Those little children who once played in our house or crafted at our table are fine young men and women now, and they are a joy to behold. How many mothers of teenagers are able to say that they love all their children's friends? Yet this is what I can say wholeheartedly, and I believe that these vivid roses are even more beautiful when arranged together in a bouquet."
That is why I recommend Haystack for all mothers seeking a sense of community in a fast-paced world in which children fail to savor the sweetness of childhood in their headlong rush to emulate questionable role models. Alice Gunther in her distinctly poetic manner, reminds us of the riches of a childhood fully lived in the loving embrace of the Body of Christ. The advice she offers in Haystack, is valuable even if your children are in school you are seeking ways to find like-minded friends for your family. She explains her balanced view of home educating here,
" As I mention this, let me be clear in saying that I do not think families who are not called to home educate are any less faithful or blessed by God. Yet, I do think, for whatever reason, God calls some of us to serve him in this specific way--not a more exalted way--but a different and necessary one."
I agree with my friend Alice that communities like the Immaculate Heart of Mary group which we enjoy on Long Island may just be the seedbed of the New Springtime of Evangelization which our dear Pope John Paul II predicted. One innocent child spending a pleasant afternoon among friends in the garden, one family sharing the joy of the Faith with another, young families are rediscovering Christian community and renewing the Body of Christ.
I think it will be the definitive book on the subject. A marvelous book!
Practical as well as theoretical, Haystack Full of Needles helps new homeschooling parents to begin a group; helps answer the question--what are the essential parts of a gathering?- (coffee being one of them), and what kinds of things to talk about.
But Haystack is not just for new homeschoolers. I am a veteran, and found many good and practical common sense suggestions to put immediately to use in my own group.
Valuable, practical, filled with common sense, useful, uplifting and encouraging, I hope all homeschooling parents will read this book.