“unschool when you can, teach when you must”

Review of Homeschool Teacher by Kate Laird

November Book Review

reviews1When Kate Laird contacted me to ask if I would review her book Homeschool Teacher, her email said, “of all the homeschooling communities I’ve seen online and in real life, SEA Homeschoolers is the one that most closely resembles my approach and where I feel I’ve found my “tribe.” I’m sure there are going to be elements of the book that you disagree with, but I hope you find it a book you wished you’d read when you began homeschooling. Like you, I read the Well Trained Mind early on, and perhaps more than you, let it overwhelm my schooling style too much for too long. I hope my readers will feel the book is a conversation — and that they will find things they hadn’t thought of and want to implement, and also things they hadn’t thought of, and while they may not agree with me, will find a stance of their own now that they’ve questioned the ideas and issues.” I was intrigued by Laird’s email enough to agree to review her book.

Laird’s email intrigued me. Her book wowed me. By page 3, while still reading the introduction, I was writing notes in the book’s margin. I am impressed with how well researched Homeschool Teacher is. Laird recommends Homeschool Teacher for grades K-8, ages 4 to 14. I found advice that was useful for my 16-year-old. It is obvious Laird put a great deal of time into this project. This is not a dry research oriented book on education either. Laird has an engaging writing style. In addition to the information about education, she weaves through the story of what it’s like to homeschool two young children while sailing the world with her husband. That story would be a fascinating book all by itself!

Nov 2016 Book ReviewHomeschool Teacher does not recommend a specific teaching methodology. It gives practical, research-oriented advice about how children learn, while covering some of the trials and tribulations Laird went through working with her two daughters who access information differently from each other. The book begins with several chapters covering issues about how people learn and best teaching practices. After that, chapter by chapter, Laird goes through the specifics of working with kids on the various disciplines. In case you’re wondering, Laird recommends a secular approach to academics. It was much to my surprise when I read the chapter about science that she quoted me on the topic of the problems with using neutral science. The last section of the book covers classroom management and other logistical information such as teaching using various standards and ordering supplies. There is also a chapter on a topic that Laird is very familiar with, traveling families.

I recommend Homeschool Teacher unequivocally. It is filled with sound advice and learning practices. There were reassurances that “you have got this”, which is something even a veteran homeschooler likes to hear. Laird does all of this while weaving in the cool adventure that is her family’s lifestyle.  As Laird herself will tell you, you won’t agree with everything in her book, or maybe you will. There is enough practical and important information in this book to make it an essential book to have in the bookshelf of any homeschooling parent. My only complaint about this book is that I didn’t read it until Sean was 16 years old.

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Kate Laird graduated from Harvard with a degree in history, a good set of study skills, and a 100-ton captain’s license. Her first teaching job began seven days after graduation, tutoring three children on a sailboat crossing the Pacific. That “year off” turned into twenty-five, as she worked on boats around the world, sometimes pausing to write about it.

In the middle, she taught for another two years at the University of New Hampshire, while earning an MA in English, but then didn’t think much more about education until it came time to teach her two daughters. The last twelve years have been devoted to their educations, as the family worked and traveled on the edges of civilization from Greenland to Antarctica, Tierra del Fuego to New Zealand, through the South Pacific to Japan and now in Alaska. You can find her online at www.katelairdbooks.com