A few months ago I promised a review of The Heart Of Wisdom Teaching Approach by Robin Sampson, and I am finally keeping that promise – better late than never, I suppose! As I said before, this book is packed with information and resources, being over 500 pages in length. I was very interested in reading it to learn how she suggests going about an in-depth study of the Bible with our little ones (or bigger ones). This method is a combination of Charlotte Mason’s teachings, unit studies, Delight Directed Learning, what she calls the Hebraic Model of education (though I do have some differences of opinion here) and the four step process of learning. If you love Charlotte Mason’s methods and want to study the Bible more but desire direction in how to integrate these, you would probably love this book! In fact, Robin offers a free 70 page excerpt from the book to help you determine if it is what you’re looking for. She’s set the book up like a cookbook, to allow each family to choose the recipes and ingredients that best suit their needs and desires in education.
The book is divided up into five sections: 1. Lessons From Exodus (in which the author compares her journey into homeschooling to that of Israel leaving Egypt); 2. Rethinking Christian Education (which includes the author’s conclusions regarding Hebraic, Greek and Christian education); 3. Heart of Wisdom Methods; 4. Heart of Wisdom Directions; 5. Resources.
Although our "journey" towards homeschooling was very different from the author’s, I was very encouraged as I read through the first section of this book, and appreciated her open heart to share their struggles and story. I found this section to be an excellent reminder that we must seek to "number our days aright that we might gain a heart of wisdom" which is the best foundation for any educational method we choose to employ in our families.
Matt and I have come to some very different conclusions than the author regarding the information in the second section of the book and I will admit I found myself struggling through these chapters. There are a couple of other resources we found on the subject which we felt handled it more accurately. However there was still quite a bit of interesting and helpful information contained within this section, and certainly even without it the book contains so much great content that I still think it would be a worthy purchase for any who seek to educate their children in these methods.
The third section in the book, regarding the methods used by Heart of Wisdom is full of information! Here we read about the four styles of learners to help us understand our individual childrens’ needs better. These styles are Innovative, Analytical, Common Sense and Dynamic. She has included many descriptions and examples to help figure out where your children fall. Robin also shares what she has termed the four steps of learning: Excite, Examine, Expand and Excel with much emphasis on NOT skipping the first step of exciting in our children a true interest in what we want to teach before we dive in. She takes us through (by explanation and example) each of the four steps and what they look like in a homeschool setting, with the ultimate goal of the student being able to teach/share what they have learned. In this section, we also receive a good overview of Delight-Directed Studies, Unit Studies, Charlotte Mason’s Educational Philosophies, Writing To Learn, and Critical Thinking and Logic making it somewhat like several homeschool method books rolled into one.
The fourth section is the nitty-gritty of actually putting her plan into action, which starts with an overview of what it will look like. She basically divides the school time into two parts: studying God’s Word and studying God’s world. What I do love about her method is the total worldview focus upon God. I fully agree that everything we study, learn, do or seek to do should be done in the understanding of how it is part of God’s kingdom, and I so appreciate that focus throughout her planning. I also was very impressed with her description of how to spend literally half of our schooling studying God’s Word. Honestly, this was probably the biggest thing I was looking for information on when I decided to look into this book, and she certainly provides many details and resources for how to study the Bible in-depth together with our children. I found that as my children are much younger, it is more in the "future planning" category for me, but I have especially enjoyed reading *how she does it* (Bible study) with her kids. One other thing I appreciate about how she’s set up the instructions here is that it’s fairly easy to tailor to your needs – for example, she refers to studying through the entire Bible each year, while I think it would be fairly easy to use her methods and ideas while studying through the Bible every three years, which would probably be more realistic for me at this point (or the point at which I actually have time for in-depth study of anything again!). There is also a lot of instruction in how to create your own unit studies (here and in the last section) around any theme, how to create Notebooks for learning, and much encouragement and help in scheduling by faith.
The last section is probably the one that I would find myself coming back to the most, and that is because it is a huge collection of books and resources. Robin goes through her own Heart of Wisdom Unit Studies as well as her recommended resources on the subjects of Bible, History, Science, Life Skills, Biographies and Classics (and many sub-categories) for all the grade levels and it is a long list to peruse! While I wouldn’t call it comprehensive, especially because as individual families we will have individual needs and desires for what we study with our children, I think it would be a very helpful list even for those who don’t necessarily plan to use Robin’s methods in their school. It’s a great place to start if you’re thinking: "Hmm, I wonder what books on botany would be good for my nine year old. . . ." or something of the sort.
All in all, while I’m sure our educational journey will still be somewhat eclectic and probably more classical and trivium-based as our children get older, I was very thankful to Robin for sending me her book to review and I hope I was able to do so in a way that might be helpful to some of you. The thing that stands out to me the most about her book is her heart to seek God in and through every aspect of their schooling, to know His Word and to love it above all other learning – these, I think, are some of the best and highest goals to which we could attain (regardless of the exact "methods" we use to work toward them) and I appreciate Robin sharing her years of experience to help others in seeking to implement these goals in home education.