Monday, October 24, 2011

Educating the WholeHearted Child (TOS Review)


The decision to homeschool is often (usually?) a daunting and scary one.  We all have thoughts like this:

Is this really what God wants me to do?  What if I mess up?  What if I don’t cover enough?  What if I focus on the unimportant things more than the important ones?  Related to that, what are the things that are important to me?  Is there a checklist somewhere?  How in the world am I going to teach high school chemistry? Where oh where is the FAQ on all-things-homeschooling?

Even veteran homeschoolers have these thoughts and wonder if they’re doing it “right”  or “good enough”.  We all have the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” worries. 

Help can be found in a book by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson) entitled Educating the Wholehearted Child.  While this is not an exhaustive “FAQ” on homeschooling, it’s pretty close.

Product details

Published by Apologia/WholeHeart, a division of the incredible Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. that offers homeschoolers so many phenomenal products, this book (a revised/expanded third edition) consists of 376 pages bursting with information, tips, advice, suggestions, etc.  Written by Clay and Sally Clarkson, who homeschooled each of their four children, each page overflows with wisdom and information. 

The book is divided into four main sections:  Home, Learning, Methods and Living.  Each section is further divided into 4-5 chapters (see the Table of Contents HERE).  Within these chapters you’ll find a huge variety of information – determining learning styles, what kinds of books to avoid (no titles, just generic types of books), a sampling of whole books providers, choosing a Bible translation, narration, study groups, role of the homeschooling father, keeping order in the home (love the “Laws of Home Thermodynamics,” i.e. “all things tend to disorder and disarray”), testing and grades, the 5 D’s (discipleship studies, disciplined studies, discussion studies, discovery studies and discretionary studies), and a multitude (and I do mean multitude) of other topics.

You can purchase the book from Apologia Educational Ministries for $22 HERE.

Disclaimer:  I have not yet even come close to reading this entire book.  At over 300 pages of “instruction,” plus another 35 pages of resources, this is not a book that can be read cover-to-cover without a significant expenditure of time (we are given an ample length of time for normal product reviews, but this book is extraordinary in its scope breadth of information).  I did the “pick and choose” method, seeking out the sections I was particularly interested in and quickly skimming through the rest.

What I like

The book is a one-stop-shop for homeschooling suggestions/ideas for nurturing the hearts, minds and souls of your children.   However, don’t peg this book as simply a “homeschooling” book – the principles in this book apply to all Christian families.  Even if you’re not a homeschooling family, this book will help you raise your children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), and your whole family will be better for it.

Love the resources in the back of the book:

Books for the Wholehearted Family, broken down into categories (children’s literature, poetry and art, history and biography, etc.).

Books for Wholehearted Learning, broken down into categories (home and parenting, young men and women, thinking and speaking, devotions and discipleship, etc.).

Forms for Wholehearted Learning – learning agenda, planner, task lists, reading records, etc.  I’m waiting (not-so-patiently) for versions of these forms to be loaded on the authors’ website.

God’s Word.  It is found abundantly throughout this book.  Love the scripture references found on most pages, along with quotes addressing the topic on those particular pages.

Love the “In Our Home” passages included on many pages – I enjoy seeing suggestions/ideas put into practice.

God used the book to remind me that my focus should be on raising disciples for Him and not so much the academic aspect.  One of the reasons we started homeschooling was so that we could instill our values and beliefs into our children, and not have their values/beliefs formed by the public school administration or their peers.  Often I worry about the girls getting “behind” in certain areas.  This book helped me get my primary focus back – they might be a tad behind in math, but they have a strong faith in Jesus Christ and have good character (at least most of the time!), which is evidence that we made the right choice for our family in choosing to homeschool.

I wish…

I longed for an index to look up particular topics.  The Table of Contents is bare-bones, simply listing the chapter names.

I wish I had read this book before I started homeschooling.  With so many homeschooling “how to” books out there, this book should be on the must read list for all homeschooling parents. 

Watch out for

Keep in mind that we’re only human.  While this book is a treasure trove of wonderful ideas and suggestions, I became a bit overwhelmed and started feeling like I was only doing about 10% of the things I should be doing (woulda, coulda, shoulda?).  Remember that we have to prayerfully seek what is right for our own homes, and even though someone else’s advice may seem smart and appropriate, it doesn’t always mean it’s right for our homes.  Read this book not as a “you should do this” list, but as a “consider and pray about doing this” list.  As you’re reading, dog-ear or tab the pages with suggestions/ideas that interest you or touch your heart.  If you have too many (I did), prioritize them into what you think is most important for this stage of your homeschooling life.  Make a “wish list” for the years to come.  Choose 2-3 to try to implement this year, and save the rest for later.

Make sure you’re not eating/drinking anything when you read the “Whole Book Fever” blurb on page 107.  I laughed out loud about the description of this “affliction” – evidently I’m infected with it, because I suffer from many of the symptoms.

Be sure to

View the Table of Contents HERE.

Check out a sample chapter (Chapter 1) HERE.   

Request a catalog HERE to see the other wonderful products that Apologia Educational Ministries offers.

Company contact info:

Apologia Educational Ministries
1106 Meridian Plaza Suite 220
Anderson, IN 46016 
Phone: (888)524-4724
Fax: (765)608-3290

Final thoughts

I think I avoided the prior printings of this book due to its sheer size and due to the fear of it making me feel inadequate.  While reading it I, at times, did feel like I haven’t done enough in our homeschooling environment, what I didn’t expect was the huge blessing that I received from reading it, nor did I expect to regain the feeling of God’s blessing over our homeschool.

Love, love, love this book.  I foresee it becoming even more dog-eared and flagged the more I read.  I suspect it will be on my beside table for months to come and, after that, it will likely become a beloved reference book.  Now that this review is done, I’m planning to pore over Chapter 3 (Shepherding Your Child’s Spirit to Long for God) and Chapter 4 (Shaping Your Child’s Heart to Live for God).  Then I’ll pray and see what section God wants me to read next.

Thoughts of my crew mates

To see other reviews of this product, click HERE. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


Disclaimer: As part of the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the product in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

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