Book Review

Book Review: The Convivial Homeschool by Mystie Winckler

The subtitle of this book is Gospel Encouragement for Keeping Your Sanity while Living and Learning Alongside Your Kids.  That’s the whole book in a sentence fragment.  It’s all about encouraging homeschool parents — mainly moms, though homeschool dads would certainly benefit from it too.  Again and again, it points the reader back to the Gospel to remind them where to turn for help.

The book is broken up into thirty topical chapters.  Those are further divided into three sections: Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude.  You could use this book as a Bible study, or you could just read through it many chapters at a time, which is what I did.  There are questions for reflection at the end of each chapter.

There’s lots and lots of encouragement in this book for people who are new to homeschooling, or who are simply considering it.  It’s clear-eyed encouragement that doesn’t pretend that teaching your own children will be easy, but highlights how God makes it possible.  But it’s also great reassurance for those of us who have been homeschooling for years already.  For instance:

Tears are a normal response to difficulty.  However, we don’t want to shelter our children from encountering difficulty.  Experiencing and overcoming hard work and natural consequences at home is a vital training ground for adult life when they will not have a mom smoothing their path for them (p. 22).

That has absolutely been my experience.  Once in a while, my kids still cry over schoolwork.  I sometimes cry over their schoolwork myself.  There are difficult days.  But we all learn from them, including me.

I love that this book reassures readers that no parent will ever be “patient enough” to homeschool.  No parent could be, because all parents are sinful human beings, and all children are too.  Conflict will erupt.  Trouble will occur.  Repentance and forgiveness will be needed by and for everyone.  I try to assure people I meet of this, the ones who want to homeschool but think they can’t because they lack patience.  I am not patient enough either.  No one is.

Winckler is not a Lutheran, but her thoughts on Christian vocation are generally on point, and those were what encouraged me the most, personally.  Here’s a sample of what she has to say about that:

Sometimes homeschooling becomes not just our pet project but the core of our identity, causing us to take situations personally.  As Christians, our real identity is in Christ… Homeschooling is one way we serve God; it is not a part of who we are as people (p. 42).

I know I can fall into that trap.  Who am I?  I’m a homeschool mom!  Um, no, I’m a child of God, and mothering and homeschooling are what I DO.  It’s so easy to wrap our identities up in our vocations, but that way sadness lies. 

Although the bulk of this book is Biblically based, there is a little false theology to watch out for.  Most if it is in chapter 11, titled “Gospel,” where she talks asking Jesus into her heart.  I would recommend simply skipping that chapter if you don’t want to weed out the false teachings.

I’ll leave you with this last quotation that really sums out Winckler’s attitude toward parenting and homeschooling:

Most of what we, as mothers, do all day is mundane: read a book, correct a child, make a meal, sweep a floor, change a diaper.  Our days are full of small tasks, but their smallness does not mean they are insignificant.  It is in these ways that we faithfully love our families; by loving them, we also faithfully love and glorify and enjoy God (p. 183).

I might have to print that up and tape it to my coffeemaker.


Rachel Kovaciny
Rachel Kovaciny was homeschooled K-12, graduated from Bethany Lutheran College with a BA in Liberal Arts, and promptly married her college sweetheart. She now lives in Virginia with her husband and their three homeschooled children. Rachel writes a monthly history column for the newspaper Prairie Times and bi-monthly articles for the online magazine Femnista.  She also blogs about books at The Edge of the Precipice and about movies, writing, and life at Hamlette’s Soliloquy.  Rachel is writing a series of fairy tales retold as non-magical westerns, and the first three books are now available in paperback and e-book.  To learn more about Rachel and her writing, visit www.rachelkovaciny.com.

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