This week I had the occasion to dig this book out of the back corner of one of my shelves, where it should not be because it is so useful. The Complete Home Learning Source Book by Rebecca Rupp is an older book, but fortunately still in print. How I wish for a revision! But a revision of this mammoth book would be a mammoth undertaking, I'm sure.
I like this book for many reasons -- and not only for the lists of resources (books, games, science kits) that cover every subject imaginable. (As the subtitle reads, "every subject from arithmetic to zoology".) Because the book is now about 12 years old, many of the resources have gone out of print or production. But the lists are still useful as a place to start, particularly if you're hunting through your library, used book stores, or garage sales. Each listing is accompanied by a brief review written in Rupp's friendly, enthusiastic, and humorous style.
And that's really what I like most about the book. I like that it's not just a listing of resources, but a giant book that you can also read cover to cover. Rebecca Rupp's reviews are funny and helpful, as she has actually used many of the resources with her three boys. (Another reason to like this book is its boy-friendliness. Lots of explosive, slimy science kits. Lots of hands-on suggestions.) As an introduction to each new subject, she also includes excerpts from her homeschool journals... which, to me, as a beginning homeschooler way back when, were probably even more valuable than the resource listings. Rupp and her boys (who are now all grown, I'm sure) pursued an interest-led/unit study/project-ish sort of learning in their home, and reading her journal excerpts I always think that I want to be her when I grow up. I want to make home-made workbooks for projects that involve trying to lift eggshells by heating the air beneath them like the ancient Chinese supposedly did 2000 years ago and use Jello to demonstrate optics principles and rig pulleys from my living room ceiling beams (I don't have any) for physics experiments. I want to celebrate Tycho Brahe's birthday with aluminum foil noses and sword duels.
Actually, what I think I want is to have done school at Rebecca Rupp's house.
So this book is somewhat nostalgic for me. It was one of the very first books I ever read about homeschooling after we pulled Gareth out of preschool, because it sat on the shelf somewhat near The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child's Classroom, which was the first book about homeschooling that caught my eye, and the book that convinced me that even I (disorganized me) could homeschool my children. I remember having just been reading some of Rebecca Rupp's journal entries when a neighbor called me to try to convince me that I'd need to buy a packaged curriculum if I was going to homeschool Gareth and that it would be hard work. Having just been immersed in Rupp's joyful descriptions of her messy, learning-filled days, I answered confidently, "No, I think we are going to do this on our own."
If I had only known where that innocent comment would lead us!
"Homeschooling, as it turns out, is not at all the same as school at home. Randy, my husband, and I had envisioned, when we first set out into uncharted educational territory, a learning process not unlike the one we had both experienced in our many years of public school: a logical and well-rounded progression from counting games and basal readers to higher mathematics and English literature. What we got were disorderly obsessions with Baroque music, glassblowing, particle physics, Egyptian archaeology, rocket models, telescopes, submarines, Shakespeare, and ant farms. One kid refused to learn the multiplication tables. One balked at geography, another at cursive handwriting. One spent months reading nothing but The Encyclopedia of Fish. Our sons, Josh, Ethan, and Caleb, all vociferously opinionated from day one, have always had distinctive educational agendas of their own. Homeschooling, for all of us, has been a learning process."
--from The Complete Home Learning Source Book by Rebecca Rupp, p. 2
(No, I didn't draw the rainbows. I think that was Farmerboy, many years ago.)
Paging through the book now -- looking for interesting things to do with physics -- is a bit like excavating our educational past. We have certainly had our own share of "disorderly obsessions" -- from garbage trucks, clocks and sailing ships to paleontology, birds, science fiction, and medieval history. I can go to the Botany section and remember all the books about plants that Gareth demanded when he was five years old and how he ran into the plant sale at the botanical gardens with his arms open wide, shouting, "Solidago!" when he saw the goldenrod, and the open mouths of the workers as they watched him. I can remember the temper tantrum in the art museum because the Impressionist exhibit was closed, and all the glitter glue, and the poems we wrote for the Japanese star festival in July one year, and how we assumed that Katydid was going to be an entomologist when she grew up because she was fascinated with insects for so long, only to watch her switch her passions to birding... which is where she happens to be this morning as I write this, happily attending the local arboretum's annual Early Morning Bird Walk with her father.
It's a messy, not always easy (but always interesting) journey we're on. It's always nice to find a companion on the way. That's how I feel about Rebecca Rupp's book. It's become an old and trusted friend, the repository of many memories.