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Finding Joy: A Christian's Journey to an Unschooled Life Review by Diane Knecht

Julie Polanco

Finding Joy: A Christian’s Journey to an Unschooled Life, was written by Julie Polanco and actually started out as a journal that eventually turned into a book. This softcover edition comes in at a short read of 121 pages. Finding Joy is published through Lulu and currently retails for $15.27. Even though this is a short read, don’t let that fool you. Much information is packed into this little book.

Our family has always toyed with the idea of joining many other homeschooling families across the world that chose to unschool their children. Finding Joy is a good starting place for families like me that are looking for good solid information about unschooling; especially Christian families that are worried about what the Bible says about teaching our children in this fashion. This book is sectioned into two parts with the first section dispelling myths and the second about how to implement this method of learning into your home. Each headed section is followed by insightful study guide type questions. The way this book is laid out would make it perfect for a book club selection, homeschool support group, or just to read on your own for information and encouragement. Finding Joy is also a wonderful book to read for families that are struggling with their current methods of teaching at home and are looking for something to try that is completely different. Many of the author’s theories are from her readings of various authors that many homeschoolers are familiar with, such as: John Holt, Mary Hood, Oliver DeMille, Grace Llewellyn, Charlotte Mason, and Raymond Moore.

The author shares thoughts and insights for unschooling children under 8 years old and 8-12 year olds. I was a bit disappointed that this book did not include a section on unschooling high school aged children which is the age our family is currently teaching at home. The reader will find many lists and how-to’s in the respect of pointing you in a direction of unschooling while acknowledging the fact that it will look different in each individual home. Ms. Polanco spends ample amount of time discussing some of the big concerns like motivation, excellence, grades, and structure. Several different studies of research are referenced throughout the book. I did appreciate her opinions and insights that she gained from some of the research concerning younger children’s learning frames or habits before moving on into “schoolish” subjects.

She includes real suggestions on types of activities to use for each subject, such as: Nature, Science, History, Geography, Math, Reading, Music and Art. Some of my favorite sections of the book dealt with service to the community and entrepreneurship. The author speaks a lot on focusing on learning subjects or time periods and developing a real connection to those subjects as opposed to moving rapidly through a textbook or curriculum and learning to much at once that cannot be digested and remembered long term. One of my favorite quotes from this book is, “If we put Biblical character training and knowledge of and passion for Jesus at the center of our lives, God will add all the other training to it in his own timing.” I very much appreciated the author’s thoughts on God creating families not schools and that we should strive to reach our children’s hearts. When Ms. Polanco wrote about activities your child does through the day that might not be viewed as school work but is your child practicing for their future life and career, well that just plan stopped me in my tracks and really touched my heart.

The reader will find many scripture references throughout the book that the author uses to validate the point of Christian unschooling. I felt while reading this book that the author had definitely cloaked her writings in prayer and had studied these Bible references very thoroughly. The study guide questions are thought provoking and made me dig deep into my own personal beliefs and preconceptions about unschooling, as well as my own homeschooling methods. In the back of the book you will find a resource list, instructions and examples for record keeping when unschooling, and a getting started section. I also found quite helpful the portion of the book that illustrated examples of different types of learners and how to approach them in their learning experiences. I would have enjoyed seeing more day to day or real world examples of how unschooling played out in the author’s life with her children.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is a great book to read for encouragement and edification. If a parent worries they are not “homeschooling” correctly, this book will set you straight about what is really important. After reading this book for a second time I plan on handing it off to a friend that would appreciate this style of learning.

Product Review by Diane Knecht, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July, 2014