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By Heart: A Mother's Story of Children and Learning at Home Review by Heather Randall

By Kathleen Melin
Clover Valley Press
6286 Homestead Rd.
Duluth, MN 55804

By Heart: A Mother's Story of Children and Learning at Home is a unique memoir of a mother's adjustments to homeschooling. Unique in perspective and laced with dynamic personal experience, By Heart asks questions that are absent from other books addressing the decision to homeschool. It is the story of one family's journey through home schooling, their reasons for making the decision, and what they struggle with and learn along the way. 

This book is written for educators. It is applicable to homeschool families but doesn't segregate itself to one audience alone. There are many reasons people choose to educate their children. These reasons are not always founded in religious beliefs or a conviction that there is only one correct way to educate. Readers will be challenged to think outside the box. On either side of the homeschool vs. public school debate lingers a group of "in-between" families that seek to belong somewhere. They school at home, but they lack a political, religious, or cultural drive to do so. They do what they do because it works for their family, plain and simple. Readers of this book, regardless of their reasons for making the choice to homechool, will find a commonality in the author's words. 

I really got a lot out of reading this book. I loved the second chapter, in which the author shares how she overcomes her struggle of imitating a school in a home environment. With the big brown clock dictating every moment of their education, the day drags and her stress builds. The author is brilliant and honest as she shares the details of her struggle. The book also tackles the feelings of a non-Christian family trying to belong in a primarily Christian movement. I was challenged as I read her perspective of her local homeschool support group, and I understood where Christian home educators could stand to be a bit friendlier and less aggressive. Chapter seven was also fantastic! This very touching chapter addressed the flexibility of learning and the unexpected surprises we get when we wrongly assume that our children have "checked out" of their lessons. The chapter is poignant and very well written. 

I respected the author's approach at not isolating anyone. While I didn't always agree with her philosophy on life, I could respect her perspective because I felt she was trying to be fair. The downside of this book is that many of the people who need this book most may never pick it up. I fear that hard-core public school advocates may snub it for its "Learning at Home" approach. I also fear that the sensitive, hard-core, Christian homeschoolers may put the book down if they feel mocked by the author's personal views. The truth is we would all benefit from understanding other perspectives, regardless of whether we agree with them. 

I strongly recommend By Heart: A Mother's Story of Children and Learning at Home. I hope that readers of this book will be inspired to spark a new conversation in the homeschool community and make changes for the better. 

Product review by Heather Randall, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2010