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The Growing Homeschool Review by Dawn Peterson

Integrating Babies and Toddlers into Your Already Busy Schedule
Cynthia Carrier

The Growing Homeschool, written by a mother of six children, is a practical guide on how to manage homeschooling with babies and toddlers. The chapters are as follows:

  • Majoring in the Majors
  • Scheduling to Promote Integration
  • Integrating Little Ones into the Curriculum
  • Getting Practical: Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
  • And the Survey Says
  • The Values of Children
  • A Closing Encouragement
  • Just for Husbands
  • Appendix of Resources

While we often think of "balance" as our goal in managing little ones while keeping up with the responsibilities of homeschooling, Cynthia Carrier believes the key is "integration" instead. While balance is important, it requires more give and take and is often a temporary way to manage things. Carrier says that integration brings things or people together, making them more "fluid" and meeting several objectives at the same time. She feels we need to look at the concept of "balance" as managing things, but to view "integration" as managing relationships and people, particularly as it relates the homeschool family.

In the chapter, The Values of Children, Carrier does a wonderful job of expressing many of the ways in which God uses a new baby (and toddlers too) to help us grow in such areas as love, faithfulness, wisdom, self-control, humility, diligence, and generosity, among others. She expands on each of these fruits, encouraging us to see the amazing blessing God gives us through little ones, and how we can encourage our older children towards these fruits as well.

On page 107, Carrier writes, "While academics are important and not to be ignored or undervalued, they are comparatively easy to "do," even when a new baby is welcomed into the family. At this point, though, I am sure it is more than obvious that for us, our vital priority is that our children grow in faith and Christlikeness. Character training and who they are "being" can't be sacrificed on the altar of academic success and all the "doings" that we pursue. Particularly as we welcome a baby into our family, we look for ways that God would use this child to help us all grow in His image."

Throughout the book you will find advice on how to manage your time, a list of activities that toddlers and preschoolers can do while schooling your older children, establishing a routine, keeping spiritual development as the main focus of the homeschool, tips on chores and much more.

Because much of the wisdom within the books pages flow out of the personal experiences, goals, and views of the author, it needs to be noted that not all of it will fit every homeschooler or homeschooling style. For instance, because the author uses primarily textbooks and workbooks in her homeschool and encourages independent learning from early ages, this helps free up her time to the extent that she is more able to attend to a new baby and its many needs. The author discusses the benefits of self teaching and shared an example of how she encouraged her third grader to use the teacher's manual for help in understanding a math concept. This worked well for them, as the child not only learned the concept, but also gained the skill of knowing how to teach the material himself. This proved helpful when he was able to instruct his little brother who encountered the math problem later on. If your children are not largely self sufficient in their learning (and you are not wanting to pursue that goal due to your children's young ages, special needs, learning styles, your own preferred schooling method, etc.), you likely won't find this suggestion useful. There is also a strong reliance on using a schedule/routine for an infant, which some mom's may not prefer to do. Unless your homeschooling goals and family structure is similar to the authors in many areas, or you aren't looking to make changes to these, then the full benefit of her time management advice will be difficult to apply in your family.

Overall, I appreciated many of the ideas in this book, and will implement several of them when we start our sixth year of homeschooling in the fall (with my three year old in the mix).

The Growing Homeschool is a helpful resource for any mom desiring to know how to better integrate her little ones into the homeschool, and to pursue more harmony to their days.

-Product review by: Dawn Peterson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2008.