The Home School Source Book

On a quick trip to the library I decided to browse the homeschooling section. I’ve pretty much read everything our library has to offer on the subject and have been relying on inter-library loan for more. But I came across The Home School Source Book by Donn Reed this time around. I’m not sure if it was my first time coming across it on the shelf or I had just avoided taking the book home because it looked so worn and outdated. But I should have heeded the old adage about judging a book by its cover, for even though this book is worn and severely outdated I still found some gems in it.

I’m not sure when the first edition of this homeschool memoir/manual/catalog came out. The one provided at my library was the second edition, copyright 1994. In 1994 the oldest of Mr. Reed’s four children would have been 28. Therefore Mr. Reed and his wife were homeschooling their kids in the “pioneer days”. And according to him, he put together the first homeschooling review catalog.

For the most part, the Reeds chose to unschool their kids. They let their child’s own interests lead them to learning rather than sitting them down with textbooks and telling them what to learn and when to learn it (aka “school-at-home”). Unlike radical unschoolers, though, the Reeds were not adverse to strewing or requiring some structured learning if learning didn’t appear to be going on otherwise. Radical unschoolers would probably contend that kids are always learning something even if they don’t appear to be something particularly constructive, so parental intervention was unnecessary in the Reed household. But intervene Mr. and Mrs. Reed did at times. I loved the unconventional ways they found to do so, though, particularly their use of “Word of the Day” and “Quote of the Day” calendars. That’s a little idea I plan to file back for possible future usage.

Donn Reed also offered up a description for a concept I’ve been trying to define succinctly for awhile now. One of my social concerns about schools has been that the reason teenagers smoke, drink, and have sex is that they think they are emulating what adults do. In the absence of constant one-on-one interaction with and modeling by adults, kids develop a skewed idea of adult behavior and responsibilities which slaps them in the face later, usually upon graduation from college. Mr. Reed calls this “false sophistication”, which I think sums it up rather well.

I must admit that I chuckled when I got to the section about the usefulness of computers. “We’re willing to accept the benefits and beneficial possibilities of computers, but we’re not convinced that they will make any significant contributions to the world in any terms of real human progress. (p 266)” This was 1994, just a few years before the internet exploded into the mainstream and revolutionized the world and homeschooling. Now a homeschooling parent couldn’t imagine not having a computer available for the research and shopping capabilities. Then you have the efficacy of computer games as learning tools, word processing and artistic design capabilities, and the social connections opened up to homeschoolers. I want to get my hands on the third edition copyright 2002 to see if he had changed his mind.

I am not so sure, either, about his claim that he and his wife never “used any form of punishment” with their children, because “we know they have no natural desire to break or lie or cheat or steal”. Minor transgressions were viewed as “a mistake in judgment” that required sympathy and forgiveness (p 77).   If there is “bad” behavior they “talk about the problem, explaining why it is a problem, not expecting to reach a solutions that will cover all future problems, and then drop it” (p 78).  Some could argue that these respectful talks are punishment in and of themselves.  For my oldest they would be an invitation for her to continue to explain that her behavior was not bad and how we are just being cruel for suggesting otherwise.  In the Reed household, it seems that they  would accept her rationale.

In their opinion a child only misbehaves if the parent has done something wrong.  I do agree that a lack of discipline in children often reflects a lack of discipline in the parents…to a degree.  There are some kids, though, who will continue to defy and defy and defy no matter how consistent you are with them.  And he doesn’t explain how they handled a child who was willfully defiant, who refused to accept the natural consequences of wrong doing.  For instance, my two-year-old dumped crayons all over the floor on purpose and then refused to help clean them up.  I calmly explained to my two-year-old that since she dumped them out she needed to clean them up, but she still refused to do so.  It finally took some time-out from her fun to induce her to do what she should.  Furthermore, the Reed children never felt resentful or the need to retaliate after a rational talking to, unlike this same two-year-old who is very resentful that I won’t let her change her outfit three times a day or eat chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

Over-all their parenting method kind of reminds me of Tomato Staking, but even Tomato Stakers aren’t adverse to the occasional punishment including spanking.  If they started out as the most enlightened parents from day one I truly applaud them, but I don’t completely buy it, either.  Then again they were doing a variety of things on the homeschooling spectrum before they became trendy.  I agree with the Reeds in theory; they appear to be holding up an ideal for character training.  I am just not sure it is realistic unless you have the patience and discipline of a saint, at their most saint-like.

Unfortunately, I was unable to see how this form of discipline without punishment worked long-term for the Reed family.  I don’t know if the third edition includes an update on the family.  I couldn’t find much about Donn Reed on the internet at all other than an allusion to him having passed away.  I do recommend looking through the book if you come across it.  The catalog is kind of outdated in this day and age, but I enjoyed the memoir part of it.  I am a sucker for homeschooling memoirs.  Even if I completely disagree with another family’s method or purpose of homeschooling, I inevitably am inspired to look at my own family’s needs and goals in a new way.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Books, Homeschooling/Education, Parenting

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