Book Review: A Haystack Full of Needles

Book Review: A Haystack Full of Needles

Haystack Full of Needles, A Catholic Home Educator’s Guide to Socialization

The one question anyone who has considered home schooling is bound to be faced with is the question of socialization. I’ve seen many people address this question and do it well. But Alice Gunther’s take is a bit different. She doesn’t tell so much as show, doesn’t make an argument so much as demonstrate by copious example how she socializes her children and in doing so demonstrates how well-socialized they and the other homeschooled children in their community are.

And when I say copious examples…. well, I know Alice describes more than a decade of homeschooling experiences, and yet I still felt exhausted merely reading about all the various clubs and activities in which they have participated over the years. Exhausted and yet inspired. I can’t wait, can’t wait until we can implement some of these ideas. And yet with only a two year old and 6 month old, I must continue to mainly live the homeschooling lifestyle vicariously.

This book is not content to merely inspire, it is more than anything a nitty-gritty how-to manual. How to organize activities, how to be a good hostess and a good guest, how not to get burn-out by committing to too much. And above all how to do it all with charity. Most of all this book demonstrates that homeschooling is not merely an educational choice, it is a lifestyle, a culture and a vocation. Always at the core of Alice’s stories and suggestions is the home as the domestic church.

Although this book is aimed at homeschoolers, Catholic parents who make other educational choices will still be inspired with all the ideas for passing on their faith. And non-Catholic homeschoolers will also discover that Alice has much that will be useful to them.

When I started my adventure of researching homeschooling by reading blogs of homeschooling moms, especially of Catholic homeschooling moms, I kept stumbling across various blog entries full of glowing praise for a certain Alice at Cottage Blessings. Could anyone be as wonderful as everyone seemed to think Alice was, I wondered? I wasn’t so excited about all the craft projects. But… time after time I’d click on a link and find myself at her blog, face to face with yet another piece that brought tears to my eyes or made me think. Finally, I gave in and added Cottage Blessings to my blog reader. Chances were that as widely linked as Alice is, I wouldn’t miss any great pieces. Then again, I wouldn’t want to take any chances. Does Alice deserve all the praise she gets? I think so.

The generous spirit and wonderful storytelling that keep me returning to Cottage Blessings also fill the pages of Alice’s book. I read it all in a day and would be reading it again except I needed to pass it on to my home-schooling sister-in-law. Still, this is a book that will find a place in my permanent collection, to be referred to again and again.

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