Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: The Self-Propelled Advantage

Back in February I said that "next week" I would write some book reviews. I guess life had other plans.

But, here I am.  I now present myself refreshed and inspired after attending the Midwest Homeschool Convention where I got to browse new items, shop for our next year, and heard some great talks by talented  people in the homeschool community.  One of those speakers was Joanne Calderwood of  I am now a great fan of hers.  I think she may have restored a little sanity back to my days!

Mrs. Calderwood has written a book entitled The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent's Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence.  Whew!  That's quite a title!

This book is about teaching our kids about self-mastery and, ultimately, self-learning.  The idea of self-mastery is largely about discipline and teaching our kids character that includes trustworthiness, self control, and the desire to continually work toward excellence.  These then can be utilized to get our kids into the mode of self-learning; the child can learn independently and at their own pace continuing to strive for excellence.  Mrs. Calderwood gives many personal examples of how this technique works in her own home and how it has come to produce some very successful young people.

Now, the whole "self-learning" or "self-teaching" thing does sound a little fishy.  Is she just trying to wriggle her way out of her homeschool mom responsibilities?  No.  Really, what I got out of her book was that through the model of self-learning that she uses, she has managed to "teach", if you will, things like time management, responsibility, accountability, excellence, and the all important concepts of being able to learn independent of a teacher and be self-motivated. As the studuent learns how to self-teach, the role of the homeschool mom will evolve from teacher in the young years, to tutor, and eventually to guidance counselor/ manager.  At least, that's my take on what she's communicating. And, note that the term "self-learning" should not imply that the student is left on their own, sink or swim.  Rather, they get to the point that they can be on their own and they flourish.

In my own home, my kids are already partly independent in their daily lessons.  Today, there are still some subjects that we come together on and I teach.  What seems to be missing in my home is my kids "owning" their education and being motivated toward excellence.  I came away from The Self-Propelled Advantage with some great tips on getting on the right track.

Mrs. Calderwood explains her method very thoroughly.  One section, the self-mastery section, deals a lot with child discipline.  This is because self-mastery is such an important part to the method.  But, as I've read quite a few parenting books, this section got a bit long for me.  What I did find most helpful were the sections where she outlined how she approaches self-learning and why she does things the way she does.  Later in the book she goes over the high school years including testing, looking for colleges, and some tips on applying for scholarships.  I found that very helpful as I will be entering that phase of our homeschool in the next few years. I was also very interested to hear about what she feels are the benefits of this homeschooling technique; the results go far beyond grades and test scores.

The Self-Propelled Advantage was really a very helpful book for me to read through.  Already I am instituting some suggestions from the book and am looking forward to finding ways to incorporate even more of her ideas for next year.  I take comfort in the idea that if I get my kids on to self-learning now, it will make high school that much easier to implement when the time comes.  I am also looking forward to what my kids will accomplish when I get to the point where I can let go (notice the analogy with the mother teaching the child to ride a bike on the front cover).


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