Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gryphon House: The Homegrown Preschooler (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Gryphon House

When we first started homeschooling, Jude was a preschooler.   I got a bunch of ides gathered from Pinterest and we dove in.  This time around with Damien I wanted to not feel so much like we're diving in the deep end without a scuba tank.  I was very interested in reading The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live (softcover, $29.95 plus shipping)   published by Gryphon House.       

The Homegrown Preschooler book

This book is based somewhere between a Montessori and unschooling approach.  There are a number of hands-on ideas of things to do with your preschooler without having him feel like he was in "school."  Authors Kathy H. Lee and Lesli Richards had a great concept.  The book itself is gorgeous - bright colors, glossy paper, and lots of pictures.   However, I wasn't particularly impressed with the execution.

First, I really was hoping for more on special needs children.   When I'm not sure exactly what I was looking for, but this wasn't it.  I know that sounds an unfair judgement.  But less than two pages of banal "push for answers, you know your child, Early Intervention is critical," etc.  is important general parenting a special needs child information, but it's not so helpful for teaching a special needs child.  I think I was hoping for more tips on adapting things for a SN child - pencil grips and triangle crayons, how to help a child who learns "unevenly" (for example, Jude is above grade level for math but still can't figure out "b says buh"),  etc. 

The layout of the book frustrated me.  There were recipes interspersed throughout the book, and I thought they were a bit jarring.  I would have preferred a cookbook section.  In addition, there were so many pictures (sometimes as much as two-thirds of a page) that the text felt choppy.  The photographs were gorgeous, but interrupted the flow of reading.  For example, on pages 16-17, as you read along you are suddenly stopped short by a soup recipe and photo in the middle the story.

inside view of The Homegrown Preschooler book

On this page, much of the text is broken by extra stuff:

preview pages  The Homegrown Preschooler book

 I am a very visual person, and I like explanations with photos.  However, there were hardly two consecutive pages with just chapter text!  I got frustrated because I was so frequently getting sidetracked by the recipes. Forget If You Give a Dog a Donut (one of Jude's favorite books from preschool).   It was "If you give mom a recipe..." While the photographs are fantastic, it was too much!  It almost felt like they needed to bulk up the page count, so they added photos that would displace text and make it longer. 

We aren't home much of the time. Our reality (because of three SN homeschoolers) is we spend at least two days each week on the road for various therapies.  There was so many "things to do at home" suggestions, but not much that could be taken "on the road."  (Sure, sorting laundry is a great way for Damien to practice his colors, but I can't do laundry and be at duPont at the same time!)    I would have liked some more suggestions for things that could be done as a busy bag.  This book seemed to assume you were an at-home homeschooler versus a family who attended co-ops or regularly did field trip activities.

This book could be a good resource if you're looking for suggestions on how to categorize them.  For example, if you wanted to be sure you were doing a "math" activity, a "literacy" activity and a "motor skills" activity daily, the book's categorizations could be helpful.  However, I feel like a lot of the activity ideas are ones I have found on Pinterest, so I really didn't find anything new to do with Damien.  I also have my boards arranged by subject, so I can pull "one from here, two from there" when setting up our schedule for the week.  I think if you're looking for a basic "how to start homeschooling" book, this could be valuable. However, it doesn't stand out to me as a "must read" because between Pinterest and Google I could have found most of what the book contains.  

 In addition to The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live, the Crew also reviewed Gryphon House's Global Art: Activities, Projects, and Inventions from Around the World.  Click through to read reviews for both books!   

Schoolhouse Review Crew linkup

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