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There are all sorts of home educators, or home schoolers, as the author would be called in America. People home educate for a myriad of reasons, and use a myriad of techniques and resources. Some people don't do education at all - they call it unschooling and it is completely unstructured, and often coupled with a very unstructured form of parenting as well in which children are considered wholly autonomous. At the other end of the spectrum we have very strict families, often religious, who teach a strict classical curriculum - which can be good - or it can result in parents desperately striving to produce a genius, reducing a child to a product every bit as much as the factory like schools they have sought to escape - but of course they feel they produce a better product. You also have a few complete nut cases with very different political or religious views. But the vast majority of home educators don't really fit any of these groups. Most of us are far more moderate, middle of the road types, but it's the loopy loo's who get the most press.
Thankfully Rebecca Rupp represents what I would consider the "average home educator" - if there is such a beast. Her writing represents a balance between the extremes, and she comes across as a highly intelligent, well grounded, common sense mother and educator. She has taught 3 sons at home and has ample experience as a home educator, which she shares with the reader in this book.
Home Learning Year by Year describes a very structured approach to home education, but it still allows for quite a range of individuality, both in the styles and preferences of the parent doing the teaching, and in the child who will be learning. I especially like her approach to reading. She points out that her 3 sons learned to read at the ages of 5.5, 6 and 9. All were normal. Children learn at different ages, and she feels, as I do, the best way to teach reading is by surrounding children with truly good reading material. In fact a large amount of this author's educational philosophy could be summed up as "read to them". Read often, choose a wide variety of reading material and keep reading fun. She does mention phonics, but seems to focus on not getting to stressed out over reading and letting things come naturally. I also like the fact that Mrs. Rupp does not encourage a curriculum for nursery age children - she advises the reader to let life be their curriculum, surround them with good books, nature, and fun learning experiences.
But as laid back as this all sounds, the author presents an extremely detailed, structured, step by step plan to take children through a full 12 years of home education. This shows what basic skills children should be expected to learn at age age level, although again, pointing pout that these are averages and you should adjust this to suit your own child. She then suggests a wealth of books and resources to accomplish these milestones. One could, quite easily construct an entire 12 year curriculum using very little other than the books suggested by Mrs. Rupp - if they are still in print.
There are drawbacks to this book though, the biggest ones for me, being the fact that the book is American and dated although it was printed in 2000. Being an American book means that any references to laws do not apply here, and many of the resources are not available. It also means that her comprehensive list of books to teach American History is of very limited use to the average British home educator. Finally, American school grades do not really match British ones. America starts school with Kindergarten, which would cover ages 5-6. After this we have grades, and 1st grade ( ages 6 -7 ) pretty well matches with British year 1 - so for the most part - children here are about a year ahead of the American counterparts. But home educated children in the USA average 2 -3 years ahead of their peers. This book seems to focus more on what a home educated child would learn, so I would say most families here would be using this book at the ages and stages as the author used with her children. So a Year 1 student here, would use the kindergarten section, but this of course all varies from child to child.
This book is only 12 years old, but most of the computer games recommended will be ones the author used years before when here children were growing up. I have tracked down some of these, and they are brilliant --- if you can get them to play. Some will work on modern computers and some won't. Most of these appear to have been designed for Windows 3.11 or Windows 95. I can't say anything better has come out since, but it is just to chancy buying these and not knowing which will play.
Another area where I consider this book very dated is it's use of vast lists of sources to purchase books and educational material. I imagine at one time collecting all these materials could have been quite a task, but today all of these resources can be replaced with one word - Amazon. We no longer need to track down elusive mail order supplies - you can get everything from Amazon. Finally this book gives detailed descriptions of many of the very best books in children's literature. It's nice, and I have many of the books myself - but not as necessary today thanks to Amazon again or even dooyoo where we can read all about children's books and so order easily without being able to see the book first.
But despite it's flaws I would buy this book again. It's a bit dear at £8.48 new and nearly the same for used, but it has been worth it. We do not follow it religiously, but it is very useful to help me know if I am forgetting anything, or leaving anything out in my children's education. It gives me a general reference point to work from. But more than anything else, this book paid for itself it boosting my confidence. It helped me realise, "Yes, I can do this - and I can do a good job at this to boot".
For obvious reasons, a British family could not follow this book word for word. I don't think many of would want our children to have an excellent background in American History and none in their own. You will also find ordering specific maths books from the USA costly. But you could use this as very clear structure - just swapping over some British books for American ones. I prefer to use this as a more general guide, being sure to cover the main points but often taking our own way of getting to them. But of the specific books suggested here, which I have ordered for my son, ranging from children's literature like The Story of Ping to the Magic Schoolbus, I have loved all but one of the books we ended up with.
This book can be adapted to suit a very wide range of home educating families - from the fairly laid back to the very strict - but I can't see it being any use for unschooling. This is after all about provide home educators with a bit of structured. It certainly has it flaws, and I so wish there were a British version of this book available, but I do recommend it for anyone starting out with home education, or considering it very seriously. I expect if you have already been teaching your own for a number of years, you won't really need this as much. That said, I will be keeping it as long as I teach my own children, and go through from time to time.