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Review: Schoolproof by Mary Pride

school proof

This little gem, over a quarter century old, fell into my hands many years ago and shaped my idea of what homeschooling can and should be.  I have just read it again and have, once again, come to the same conclusion:  This is one of the few books that every Christian homeschooler should read.

Although there are many books on homeschooling philosophies and methods, Schoolproof is the only one that covers the everyday possibilities simply and from a completely practical viewpoint, in a comprehensive way, and with a solid Christian basis.

Mary Pride, a mom of many who was among the pioneers of the homeschooling movement, writes from the viewpoint that “knowledge is complex enough, students are complex enough, without making teaching complicated, too.”  Her goal is to help parents ensure that their kids get a great education and to remind them that it is not as difficult as it sounds.  As such Schoolproof is not only a breath of fresh air but also a comforting guide.

In this book, Pride gives us almost 200 pages of crisp, often humorous encouragement as she discusses

  • What education is,
  • Who kids are (Hint:  not animals to be conditioned, or cogs to fit into society, or little gods to worship),
  • What learning is—a game, built upon self-discipline and wonder,
  • Getting started,
  • Organizing homeschool supplies,
  • 20 ways to present a lesson (simple, concise, and very worthwhile),
  • 20 ways to have students show what they have learned (even more worthwhile),
  • How to teach many students at once,
  • What educational clutter is and how to get rid of it (splendid),
  • The importance of recognizing students’ individuality and learning styles.

It is always difficult to tell where one’s ideas originally come from, but in rereading Schoolproof after all these years, I recognized many of mine, from the goal of our homeschooling—to  equip our children to love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves; to the recognition of educational clutter—activities and projects that provide very little learning (although perhaps a lot of enjoyment) for the time and effort spent.

Rereading Schoolproof has also reminded me of simple facts

  • it’s learning that counts, not the projects on your shelves;
  • narration is an excellent way of consolidating and evaluating learning, even though it may be difficult to assign a grade to;
  • computer learning is very valuable for some subjects and totally unsuitable for others;
  • there is so much interesting material to learn that no student need ever be bored;
  • successful learning is based on both self-discipline and wonder, and we can encourage both of those;
  • true achievement consists of progress at one’s own pace, not getting better grades than others;
  • hands-on learning is effective, but if used too much it can crowd out other learning and be detrimental;
  • we are to see children as God portrays them, sinful but created in God’s image,  and not follow human theories of manipulation, reward, or child goodness.

Since Schoolproof was first published, many people have written about education, but few have done it so incisively and with such clear views of both foundational ideas and practical applications.

For this reason, every homeschooling library should own Schoolproof, and every homeschooling mom should read it at least once, just to think clearly about the goals, meaning, methods, and purely practical aspects of education.  (Actually, Christian schools would benefit from it, too, as a refreshing antidote to so many of the ideas that they are confronted with.)

Unfortunately Schoolproof is out of print, but you can find second hand copies at used homeschool resource sales and at major book sellers.

Other foundational material for homeschoolers:  Cathy Duffy’s Top Pick books, reviewed here and here, and, of course, the Bible (reading tips suggested here).

Disclosure: I have owned this book for many, many years and am not compensated for this review.

For more homeschooling encouragement see Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell it to Me Tuesday, Finishing Strong, and Trivium Tuesdays.

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4 Comments

  1. Anne White says:

    I totally agree! I find much of Charlotte Mason’s common sense in the chapters of Schoolproof.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Yes, Charlotte Mason’s wisdom does pop up regularly in this book. I did not want to draw too much attention to that in my review because I think the book will greatly benefit all kinds of homeschoolers.

  2. Thank you for this. Schoolproof needs to go on my summer reading list.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      You are welcome, Sarah Elisabeth. I think you will find it to be a very helpful book.

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