Haystack Full of Needles
A Catholic Home Educator’s Guide to Socialization
by Alice Gunther
I had never heard of Alice Gunther. But the subtitle intrigued me.
The foreword was written by Laura Berquist. But I’m not big on reading the ‘latest, greatest’ book on any topic when it is still hot off the press. I prefer to wait until the fervor has died down and pick it up at the local library.
Chances of my local library ever having a copy of this book: extremely low.
So, I ended up ordering three copies before the book was published. I always pass along books I like to my friends, but for some reason, I thought this might make a good ‘gift’ book for other Catholic homeschooling moms.
After reading it, I am even more firmly of this belief – especially if you want to put some of the author’s suggestions into practice in your own homeschool community.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I had a vague impression from reading various online reviews that it would be useful to read and have in my library. A friend thought it would be full of practical advice on homeschooling activities to celebrate Catholic events and activities with other home educators. Perhaps the book would offer answers to the “socialization” question that homeschoolers often get. Haystack was these things, yet trying to sum it up with just that would be untrue.
Mrs. Gunther tells many stories of her own throughout the book – her journey to homeschooling, finding fellow hikers on the road less traveled, and highlights or summaries of her and her children’s favorite activities. These are enjoyable in themselves, but they are by no means the “meat” of the book.
The author points out that there are two different types of “socialization” that people wonder about – 1) “learning to relate to others” and 2) “having friends, fun, and a satisfying social life.” She deals mostly with the latter with many practical suggestions for finding other home educators, planning activities, attending events, adjusting for different age groups or genders, and a lot more.
After reading the book, one of my gift recipients admitted to being disappointed. She was disappointed that she doesn’t live near the author. Would we be able to implement any of Mrs. Gunther’s recommendations with such a small group of Catholic homeschoolers in our area? (We number only four families in our little community.) Looking closely, there are very few suggested activities that we would not be able to do, albeit on a small scale. We lack only the time and energy of the moms to organize them.
One emphasis of the author is on the pattern of three elements which have made for enjoyable activities: coffee, prayer, and simplicity. She also suggests planning things in six week chunks to make them more manageable.
The aspect of the book that I personally enjoyed the most was her comforting look back at her oldest two children – as they were when first starting out and now, so many years later. She leaves this book to inspire, reassure, and guide home educating parents on their own journey. Use it as a map, a compass, or a field guide, depending on where you are on the road less traveled.
While I plan to loan my copy out to other Catholic and non-Catholic home educators and friends, I am glad I bought it. With enough prayer, courage, and energy, I will attempt to implement one or two of the author’s suggestions in my own little neck of the woods. I would encourage you to buy, beg, or borrow this book. It is worth the read . . . and the re-read!