My book, Haystack Full of Needles: A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization, is available from Hillside Education.
Here is what people are saying:
Laura Berquist, Director of Mother of Divine Grace Home Study School and author of Designing your Own Classical Curriculum and The Harp and the Laurel Wreath [from the foreword to Haystack Full of Needles]:
I homeschooled my own children for 23 years. I loved those days, and I can honestly say we had a very good time. Nonetheless, I wish I had had this book. It is practical in the very best sense; it gives excellent, concrete suggestions for providing formative social activities for children and adults, and does so in the overarching light of charity. Alice reminds us to be reasonable in our expectations for ourselves and for others. She gives specific suggestions about time and location that I know, from my own experience, will make a real difference in the success of the activities. I have already taken suggestions from her book and passed them on to other mothers, urging them to buy this book as soon as it is available.
Everything in A Haystack Full of Needles is guided by the principle that we must see Christ in all those around us. That is what makes this such a valuable resource. Frankly, I think it is a valuable resource not only for those who are homeschooling, but for all who have school age children or grandchildren. Alice talks throughout the book about her good friends and she does it in such a way that she, and they, become our friends, too. They become the very best kind of friends, those united in the pursuit of virtue and the love of God.
I love this book and I don't say that lightly. It is truly wonderful. I am honored to write the foreword.
Danielle Bean, Senior Editor of Faith and Family Magazine and author of My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom and Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living:
Haystack Full of Needles calls itself "A Catholic Home Educator's guide to Socialization" but in reality it is much more than that. This book is exactly what we need in our modern world where so many have lost all sense of the value of community. Gunther speaks from a mother's heart, recognizing the human need for community and for social support, especially among Catholic homeschooling families where feelings of isolation and "not fitting in" can be demoralizing and discouraging. Haystack Full of Needles not only notes the importance of family social interactions, it also enumerates easy, natural ways to seek out social opportunities, foster friendships, build community with other families. We all need this kind encouragement and support -- Haystack Full of Needles is truly a gem of a book for Catholic and Christian families of all kinds!
Melissa Wiley, my best friend and author of the Little House in the Highlands series and Little House by the Boston Bay series:
Have you ever had a friend so wise, so creative, so full of good ideas, such a gift to your circle of friends, that you've found yourself repeatedly telling her, "You know, you should really write a book"? Alice Gunther is that friend, and at long last, she has written that book. Even as she was writing it, her ideas were bearing fruit in my own home and homeschooling circle: inspired by her Shakespeare chapter, I organized a Shakespeare Club for my children and their friends. I've never been a natural hostess, but Alice makes it seem easy.
What makes Haystack Full of Needles so compelling is that it is much more than an explosion of the myth that homeschoolers lack "proper socialization"âit is a vivid, lively, and detailed account of how homeschooling families can build community and friendship. The perfect blend of personal narrative and practical advice, Haystack Full of Needles is an inspiring heartwarming chronicle of the growth of a lively homeschooling community. At first, readers will wish they could live in Alice's neck of the woods and be a part of all the marvelous events she describes, but by the book's end, they'll be overflowing with excitement to put Alice's ideas to practice in their own homes, parishes, and homeschooling communities.
Please do not miss Lissa's beautiful post on the book: Gorgeousness.
Haystack Full of Needles is such a pleasure to read. It will speak to you with the voice of a wise and loving friend, a woman you just know will overlook your most glaring faults, forgive your annoying traits, and peer straight into your heart to find the good in you. And you just know, deep down, that she does that with everyone, because she lives the faith she talks about.
And Haystack Full of Needles is everything from practical to inspirational. It offers homeschooling mothers many creative, concrete ideas for finding and/or starting support groups. It acknowledges the fear that is every new homeschooling mother's unwelcome companion and it doesn't shy away from the reality that children are individuals, and that sometimes there are individual problems and challenges. And, Alice deals with every, single "socialization question" I've ever encountered, and she does so with love, grace and humor.
For more of Karen's review, please click here.
Mary Alice, dear local friend and mother of five. She has not even read the book yet, but her words mean a tremendous amount to me, because she speaks about our local circle of friends and all we have come to mean to one another here on Long Island. Please do not miss her post from Building Cathedrals (a blog by a marvelous group of Princeton-educated young mothers): Thank you, Alice.
Leticia Velasquez, freelance writer and and dear friend from my local homeschooling group:
Ask a mother who home educates her children, ask which question she encounters most frequently and she will undoubtedly respond, “What about socialization?” In the decade since I began teaching my three daughters at home, this question has remained, even as other questions like, “Is that legal?” and “are you qualified to teach?” have vanished due to the increasing prominence of home instruction. Now, thanks to the experience and literary gifts of home educator and author, Alice Gunther we have not only an eloquent answer to this question, but an inspiring guide on how to help our children find friendship and acceptance outside the domestic church. “A Haystack Full of Needles” is the book we have been waiting for, the book we may give as a gift to questioning family members, but one we will also keep close as we seek opportunities to help our children develop socially.
Alice, like so many of our family members had concerns about a home educating mother’s ability to meet her children’s need for social interaction. She takes us back to the days when she thought home educators were doing the impossible, to her early attempts at finding companions for herself and her young daughters, to the successful support group she is at the center of on Long Island. She inspires the mother who feels alone in her decision to home educate with her fond anecdotes and down to earth suggestions on how to find other Catholic home educating families, how to build community, how to run a successful social event, and how to support one another in good times and bad.
“Home-educating mothers share a unique cultural experience. We understand one another, and a large part of "socialization" should be geared toward nurturing friendship for mothers who choose this narrow, but incredibly rewarding, path."
Haystack is far more engaging than a dry how-to manual, however. Alice, whose childhood involved many trips to family in the Emerald Isle has inherited the legendary Irish facility with language gives her prose a poetic lilt which leads to such picturesque images as,
“The truth is homeschooling groups are not founded—they trickle together gradually, like a barrel filling up with rain. Still, there are ways we can help the process along, fastening the hoops around the staves of the barrel, lest we lose a precious drop.”
The secret to the success of Alice’s home schooling groups is her heartfelt compassion for the struggles of the home educating mother and her natural generosity in reaching out to meet their needs. “Socialization for homeschoolers is every bit as much about friendship for mothers as it is for the children. Many best friends have been made around the kitchen table.”
For more of Leticia's review, please click here.
I love this book, it is, hands down, one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. Haystack is not only inspirational but also very practical. Alice creates an entire plan for home educating families to bring faith, beauty, music, poetry and joy into their lives in the most pleasant ways possible. She encourages mothers to seek out opportunities to enrich their child's lives with long lasting friendships and worthwhile experiences. This will be the go-to book for socialization for every Catholic homeschooler who wants the best possible social situations for their children.
Margaret, the legendary Minnesota Mom:
Her new book, Haystack Full of Needles, is every bit as good as you've been hearing. I read it all the way home and will have a review posted in a week or so. For now and as a teaser, I will just say that it is one of the best books I have read on homeschooling. Period. I have been thinking about her words nonstop.
To read Margaret's kind words in context, please click here.
I am reading. . . Haystack Full of Needles by the fabulously talented Alice Gunther. This is the book every home educating mother needs to read. This book isn’t just about socialization, it’s so much more. It’s about love and community and nourishing relationships and the idea that as a Church we really are family. I have so much more to say about this book but I want to write about it separately so I’ll stop there for now.
[Yes, I know Michele hasn't written her review yet, but how can I possibly resist posting a blurb calling me "fabulously talented"??? That's not something I see in print every day!]
I just read the new book out by Catholic homeschooling mom-author Alice Gunther, Haystack Full of Needles: A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization, and I loved it. I found it very inspiring and encouraging.
. . . .
Alice's book drew me in first with her account of how she began reluctantly to consider homeschooling. Then she recounts her own personal experience with finding kindred-spirit friends in the early days of homeschooling her girls. (One of her earliest friends had a daughter who developed leukemia - I spent a little stretch having a good cry over the photo of that mom with her bald little girl, who looked just like my own little Jonathan looks now - and then seeing the photos and reading later in the book how the little girl and her family made it through. Somehow it made me feel a little less alone in trying to keep a home education going and find friends in a basically new place with a child undergoing cancer treatment...but THAT TOO is a blog entry for another day...)
After the first few chapters, Alice begins sharing her tidbits - which turn into really meaty suggestions - hundreds of them! - on helping moms like me, reluctant moms, scared moms, introverted moms, moms with children with special needs, find faithful Catholic friends for her home educated children. Far from being a pie-in-the-sky, here-let's-do-something-major-and-elaborate kind of plan, Alice's plan starts with the simplest advice.
Pray. Pray for God to send the gift of kindred spirit families to you - even just one. Then pray for the needs of the homeschooling mothers specifically in your circle. As an introvert, I can do that. In fact, I started anew on this last night!
Then she launches into a huge host of eminently manageable and practical suggestions for gradually building relationships and encouraging social activities. The thought that kept occuring to me as I read was...I could do that. I could do that. I couldn't do THAT yet, but maybe in a year or so....
To read Pamela's very kind and encouraging review in its entirety, please click here.