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Summer Reading - books for all ages.
Featured Resource

Homeschooling the Challenging Child


Homeschooling the Challenging Child

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Publisher: Broadman and Holman Publishers

Author: Christine M. Field

List Price: $14.99

Ages: Adult

Reviewed By: Jean Hall

I thought I had one of those - a "challenging child," that is. As it turns out, I have three, in varying degrees. It all comes from judging a book by the title. (Not the children, I mean. They all come from another process entirely.) I picked up this book thinking it would have an answer to homeschooling my bright, high-strung, strong-willed child. As it turns out, there was also information and advice for educating our struggling learner, and for the one who has trouble saying her "s," "sh," and "th" sounds, as well as trouble sitting still, though a lot of that might just be her age. I don't think children her age are supposed to sit still for any length of time, though I might be wrong.

Christine Field has "been there" and "done that." She writes from the perspective of a mom who had two compliant children who seemed to learn things easily, a mom who thought she had all the answers, only to be blessed with a third child who didn't fit the mold. "Wired differently" is one way of putting it. She writes about learning styles and disabilities, attention disorders, and personality clashes in a clear and concrete style, with plenty of word pictures and examples to light the way.

Her personal example is sobering. Thinking that her third child was simply resisting her efforts, she disciplined and punished. How often do we as parents see disability as disobedience?

Here's an anecdote from our own past: Our eldest, as a preschooler, was a "difficult" child. Her pediatrician recommended (in an undertone, after closing the door to her office and warning me not to speak of it to the other doctors in the clinic lest she be laughed out of there) that we take our daughter off all forms of sugar, including fruit and juice, and exclude all artificial flavors and colors. To tell the truth, the resulting change was so gradual that we didn't notice. Until one day...

We were out shopping, and I hadn't packed a lunch. Things took longer than I'd anticipated, and my three-year-old was "starving!" We stopped at a pizza place. Cheese pizza seemed fairly safe. Yes, and lemon-lime soda to drink. After all, that didn't have any artificial colors or flavors. I read the label. It was essentially sugar water.

Within minutes, my child was literally bouncing off the walls, running around the tables, despite my best efforts to keep her sitting down. I caught her mid-flight, scolded her, and her desperate response floored me. "I want to sit down, Mama! I want to obey, but I can't!" Looking into her eyes, somehow I knew she was telling the absolute truth. Half a glass of soda pop had turned her into this out-of-control little brat... who didn't want to be a brat.

Diet does matter, despite the myriad studies out there that say it doesn't. Learning styles are important, too, especially as they fit with teaching styles. Personality types have an impact - if you're constantly butting heads with your student, that ought to be a clue that some other approach might work better. There are coping mechanisms for dealing with various disabilities and disorders. And there are ways to discipline a challenging child that might work better than "traditional" methods.

Mrs. Field explores various options for action, including getting help from government schools. The book concludes with more than thirty pages of resources: organizations, websites, books, and more, but there is plenty of practical advice right here, from defining various problems to designing a program for your specific challenging learner. Another important chapter in the book covers stresses on the parents and siblings of a challenging child, and how to deal with these.

All in all, I found this an eye-opening book to read, and a good resource for any homeschooler who is finding home education a daunting task. There may be a reason things are so hard; you may be trying to drive with your parking brake on, in a manner of speaking. It's time to find a way to take the brake off.

Of course, if your homeschooling journey is going smoothly, and your well-behaved children seem to learn without visible effort, I both commend you for your efforts, and ask you to be understanding of those who have been given a slightly different pair of shoes for the walk. We might have a few more mountains to climb, following the route laid out for us, and it may take us longer to get to where we're going. But the journey, for all that, is worthwhile.

In closing, let me thank authors like Christine Field who are a little further along on the way, for calling back words of encouragement that keep us keepin' on.
More Information
Available From: Broadman and Holman Publishers
Address: Nashville, TN
Other Notes:
Purchase Now From the Eclectic Homeschool Resource Center
Jean Hall
Jean Hall, a Christian home educator with three daughters, enjoys writing stories and music. Her family's interests include reading together, art, gardening, volkswalking and pets: two cats and a Giant Schnauzer.
Copyright © 2006 Eclectic Homeschool Association
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