What I Read This Summer: Homeschool Professional Development

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This summer, I spent a lot of time with my nose buried in books. My children are finally at an age where they can play independently—even if only for ten minutes at a time—and thanks to that, I’ve been able to sneak in a good amount of reading while they’re awake. Of course, with a new baby on the way, I had lots of motivation to read as well. I expect to be just a little busy in these next few months, so I’ve had my library card working overtime.

Here’s what I managed to read before we welcomed the newest member of our family last week:

Homeschool and Parenting Books

The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart

I have long admired Julie Bogart’s passion for “enchanted education” and the generous and experienced perspective that she offers in the homeschooling community, so naturally, I ordered her new book, The Brave Learner, as soon as it was released. It didn’t disappoint. This book has inspirational ideas for every kind of homeschooler, from classical to unschooler, and Julie’s constant reminders to choose what works for your family are a refreshing take in a homeschooling world where philosophical “purity” can be overemphasized. If you’ve been feeling like you need permission to listen to your own parental instincts in educating your kids, this is the book for you.

The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education by Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain

I picked up this book on the recommendation of Dr. Christopher Perrin, who I met at the HEAV conference last year. If you’ve been thinking about educating your children in the Christian classical tradition, this is the book that I would suggest you read first, before moving onto any volumes that are more focused on methodology, such as Susan Wise Bauer’s Well-Trained Mind or Leigh Bortin’s The Core (note that these books don’t present the exact same model of classical education). Clark and Jain’s book will help you understand the history of this tradition that they call “grounded in piety and governed by theology” and will also give you a vision for educating your children to be “fully integrated human beings” characterized by a right relationship with God, knowledge, and others. This isn’t an easy read, but it is a supremely worthwhile one.

The Price of Privilege by Madeleine Levine

While this book is not directed at homeschoolers, it has a message that I believe will resonate with many homeschooling families: when it comes to our kids, we must value connection over achievement. For those of us parenting kids in hyper-competitive areas—like DC, where we live—it is especially important to be reminded of this. I have definitely been tempted to compare my kids’ schedules to that of their peers and wonder if we’re doing enough, but The Price of Privilege reminded me that I can’t measure my kids’ success (or, my own!) solely by their academic and extracurricular achievements. Reading Levine’s book strengthened my commitment to focus on relationship and character development as key principles of our homeschooling philosophy.

Math Education

Arithmetic for Parents: A Book for Grown-Ups about Children’s Mathematics by Ron Aharoni

For those of us who remember math class primarily as tedious worksheets (and frustration), Ahoroni’s book is like a healing balm, as it shows us how to capture the beauty and wonder of elementary mathematics. Moreover, it spends a good amount of time on how math should be learned—which is especially helpful to homeschool moms who might want to know how to choose between all of the different math curricula on the market. For myself, after reading this book, I was reassured in our family’s choice to use RightStart Math, as it follows all of Aharoni’s recommendations.

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley

Okay, so I didn’t flunk algebra, but I did scrape my way through high school math only by the skin of my teeth—and only with massive amounts of tutoring support and incredibly patient teachers (and classmates). Looking back, I think that I would have done better in math had I understood how to learn it—and a book like Barbara Oakley’s would have been a huge help to me! Since I want to give my kids a better math foundation than I had, I’ve appreciated her strategies for building a growth mindset in math—and they’re tips that I’m already using.

Art Education

Our first-born is a talented visual artist, so it was important for me to read a few books this summer that would help me encourage him in this area. This is not a natural strength for me, but I’m excited to learn more so that I can better support his creative development.

The Annotated Mona Lisa by Carol Strickland

This reference book provides a birds-eye overview of art history throughout the centuries, but is also a really enjoyable read! I sped through our library’s copy in a single night and then immediately ordered my own used copy on Amazon. I’m pairing it with these Usborne art cards for our morning art appreciation time

How To Talk to Children About Art by Françoise Barbe-Gall

True to its title, this is an excellent primer on how to help kids (including little kids!) engage with visual art. The first half of the book provides an outline of how to look at a piece of art, and the second examines key works (from different time periods and countries) and provides conversation starters for each. I like Barbe-Gall includes suggestions for how children at different developmental stages might experience a piece of art, since, of course, a five-year-old will “see” Van Gogh’s “Bedroom” differently than a 13-year-old. I would highly recommend this book for homeschooling families who are interested in practicing picture study or preparing to visit an art museum—it’s something that the whole crew can enjoy.

What did you read this summer? I’m always looking to add to my TBR stack—so please share your recommendations!