Saturday, December 20, 2008

Book Review: Heart of Wisdom Approach

As I mentioned earlier this week, after contemplating it for a LONG time, I finally bought the Heart of Wisdom Approach e-book while it was on sale. The concept of making a point to incorporate the Bible into all aspects of our schooling (and life, for that matter) appealed greatly to me, but I couldn't decide, from the book's description or the free excerpt if this book would give practical help or just give reasons why I SHOULD incorporate the Bible into all aspects of our day (I didn't need convincing, just wanted practical tips).

So, after reading (or skimming) 500+ pages, here's my review. . .

I don't think I'd be willing to pay the regular price for this book, but while it's on sale, I think the ebook is worth it. This book is definitely written from the perspective of someone who started out homeschooling older children, using a "school at home" approach, and this book is her journey away from that approach. For someone who is starting out homeschooling from day one and leans more toward unschooling, there was lots that didn't apply (she assumes that her audience is also coming from a school at home mind-set).

I did throughly enjoy the explainations of Hebrew vs Greek educational approaches and how it all came down through history. . . it was eye opening to me to see how much pagan/heathen influences there are in the American educaiton model, even as used in Christian schools, and by many homeschoolers. I really wish that section were available online for free so that everyone could read it & at least use the information to evaluate how their child is being educated, be it homeschool, Christian school or public school.

There IS also alot of the practical applications that I was hoping for. She is, to a certain extent "selling" her other products (the Heart of Wisdom Unit Studies) throughout, but provides information to implement the general idea of the approach w/o using the HOW units. As with most things I'll be using the parts that work for us, not following it "to the letter". The overall feel of the book is that it applies more to older kids, and when she refers to teaching younger kids it's in the context of teaching them IN ADDITION to the older kids (in keeping with the fact that she started homeschooling when her kids were older, but did have additional kids that she homeschooled all the way through) so with my oldest kids being not quite 6, there's adaptions needed IMO. I don't think it would be advantageous for us to attempt to read through the Bible in a year at this point, I think the girls would find it burdensome to sit and listen for that long each day & it would have the effect of dampening their enthusiasm for religious things, not encouraging it. The unit studies also, while "marketed" as a 4 year program that is repeated 3 times for grades 1-12 and can be used w/ multiple ages, seem to be truely targeted at 4th grade and up. I can see how pieces of the unit studies could be "dumbed down" (hate that term) for youngers in a family situation that included kids 4th grade and up, but to utilitize the unit studies for JUST littles doesn't seem like a good plan. So, for now I will implement pieces of the Bible study suggestions from the book and also impliment more of the Hebrew education model (though this is less of an issue w/ our relaxed eclectic style than I feel it would be for someone with a more structured homeschool approach, especially a school at home &/or "classic education" style). Once the girls are at more of a 4th grade level I'll re-evaluate & if the budget allows, I'd like to get the history units and use at least to some extent (I didn't get a good feel for how much time per day is expected & such w/ these unit studies) I would guess that we will either pick & choose how much of it we use or spread it out over a longer timeframe). The concept of learning ancient history & middle ages history from a Christian perspective (focusing on the Hebrews and later, Christians, throughout history) appeals greatly to me. Once we've used those, we can decide about the American history units, I feel more confident that we can, and do, incorporate the Christian influences into those studies on our own.

The science units, again, we'll re-evaluate when the girls are older. The approach advocates studying science in creation order, but I don't see any real benefit in that specific order, if we use the science units (which again, the appeal is that it teaches science from a creationist world view instead of evolution) I'd expect us to pick and choose based on the girls' interest.

I should also mention that with both the science and history units, it appears that these aren't true unit studies as I would define them. Language arts are incorporated into all topics (Bible, History & Science) but the history & science units are to be used simultaneously (so there isn't science in the history units or history in the science units) and she recommends using separate math & spelling curriculums as well. So, these aren't true unit studies that incorporate all school subjects into one. This is one reason I anticipate picking & choosing from them &/or spreading them out over more time as we also enjoy other studies.

In conclusion. If you're interested in seeing how the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans have influenced education throughout history, including today, it's definitely worth the sale price for that information alone. It also includes very comprehensive lists of resources for everything from teaching Bible to all ages, to history & science, etc. (I just skimmed the lists for now & will re-visit them as needed). If you are coming from a school setting &/or are currently using a "school at home" approach to homeschooling, and would like to examine how this compares/contrasts with the schooling philosophies of the Hebrews (as directed by God in the old testament) and also the "teaching style" of Jesus, Paul and the apostles) this book is very valuable from that standpoint (if you're a more eclectic homeschooler, it might also be valuable as a resource to answer those Christian relatives who think you ought to be using a more classical approach). All that said, I don't think I'd recommend paying full price for this book.

Rough Notes:

First part of the book focuses on quieting the homeschool parent's (or potential homeschool parent's) fears about homeschooling. The assumption seems to be that most, if not all, homeschool parents feel inadequate to teach their children "as well" as schools do, and this addresses that from various angles. I freely admit that I skimmed (at best) this section, since I feel confident in my decision to homeschool our children and these "fears" aren't my fears.

Another assumption I noticed throughout the book was that the reader was currently using a very structured "school at home" approach to homeschooling. As an eclectic homeschooler leaning toward unschooling, there are aspects of this approach that are much more structured/rigid than I'm comfortable with. A schedule that has "schoolwork" from 9-noon and 1-2 is much more sitting and staring at books than I feel is good for kids, even if there are crafts and such as part of that schoolwork. Additionally, while there is much emphasis on finding your child's interests and exciting them about the topic, it's all within the context of "here's what we're going to learn about today/this week/this year" and then encouraging their interests within that framework. I cringe at the lack of flexibility to notice that my child is interested in horses and focusing our "science" time on horses for awhile regardless of what I'd PLANNED on doing for science right then. So, as with any curriculum/approach, I'll be picking and choosing.

A large part of the first half is dedicated to the history of education from the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans . . . and on through history. I found this all very interesting and educational. And can't help wondering why educators haven't noticed the parallels between the Greek education model & modern education's model, and the fact that the Greek nation failed . . .hmmm . . .

I really enjoyed this section and, while I'm not sure I'd pay the full price for the ebook, much less that real book, just for this historic information, since I got it on sale, I feel like that information alone was worth the price I paid. I feel she did a really good job of showing the pagan influences on modern education (and Christianity) and how the Hebrew model for education (and worldview) is more in keeping with God's will.

The main premise of the HOW approach (and the Hebrew model, for that matter) is that God/Bible/Religion should be at the heart of all study, not just one of many subjects studied. It was this aspect that attracted me to the book/approach. As I read through the book, the overall feel I kept getting was "you're talking about older kids." Though later on she does offer suggestions for younger kids that are more in line with the ways I was planning to adapt the suggestions for our family.

With adaptations for children's ages, I really like the suggestions for Bible Study as the first and most important part of "school" each day. We've been having our Bible time first all along, and I have things planned for most of the rest of this year (not sure how long things will take) but I plan to implement the HOW approach for Bible study next fall.

The recommended approach to teaching the "3 R's" to young kids, didn't appeal as much to me (from what I could tell (lots of recommendations of other books) it's more "school like" and very little mention is made of adapting THAT aspect of education to the child's learning style or readiness.

The history unit studies, based on the information provided, sound like, while it might be possible to adapt them down to the 1st thru 4th grade level, it would be a challenge, and not something I see any reason to attempt with oldest children (I can see the argument for using the approach for all children and adapting it to the different ages in a family with older children). However, the concept of teaching ancient and middle age history from a more predominantly Hebrew/Christian worldview (focusing on the role the Hebrews and early Christians played through the ages) appeals to me mightily (not only for teaching my kids, but I suspect I'll learn a LOT going through these unit studies as well). My current thought is to utilize the Bible study techniques for now but revisit the idea of using the history unit studies starting around 5th grade. That would still allow us to go through the 4 year cycle twice if we're so inclined, assuming we stay "on track" I haven't gotten a feel for how much time is expected to be spent on each unit study each day/week to get through at the speed suggested.

The science unit studies, again, might be a great, creation-based, science resource. I don't see any particular benefit of studying science in creation order (my kids KNOW the order of creation, even now, and I see more benefit in studying science in the "order" of things that catch my kids' interest, but will keep these unit studies in mind to get if/when the various topics are at the top of my kids' interest list.

Notebooking - some good ideas

Scheduling - again, didn't feel she was talking to "me" but rather to a "school at home" homeschooler. Emphasis on praying about your schedule and having faith in God, being flexible.

1 comment:

Ann@His Grace To Me said...

Great review! Thanks for going into detail! I'm also attracted to teaching history from a Hebrew/Christian world view. We read through all of the Bible Story books years ago, and I considered that both our Bible lesson and ancient history.